Is a ChildLine Report a criminal matter in Pennsylvania? No. In PA, child welfare workers are not criminal investigators. However, that does NOT mean you cannot receive criminal charges from the same allegations.
Reports of child abuse in Pennsylvania are investigated with a multidisciplinary team approach. That means that several agencies, including law enforcement, work together to investigate allegations of abuse, assure child safety, and provide social services.
Child Abuse Investigations
When an allegation of abuse is made to ChildLine, Social Services begin their investigation. Sometimes, they contact law enforcement directly for assistance. Law enforcement might also be contacted to participate by another part of the multidisciplinary team.
While a child welfare worker focuses on the child’s safety, law enforcement will investigate to determine if the allegations rise to criminal activity.
Possible Outcomes of a ChildLine Investigation
As mentioned earlier, law enforcement may conduct a criminal investigation at the same time as the ChildLine investigation. One, both, or neither of the reports may be substantiated. For example, the allegations of abuse may be deemed Indicated by ChildLine, but no criminal charges pursued. Conversely, the child abuse allegations may be deemed Unfounded, but criminal charges filed.
Even without the filing of criminal charges, an Indicated or Founded ChildLine report can still:
- Prevent certain types of employment
- Effect a custody case
- Limit volunteer opportunities
Proceed with Caution if You Get a ChildLine Report
If you find yourself the subject of a ChildLine report, you should contact legal counsel to protect your rights. Although you believe the report is unfounded, if the ChildLine investigations results in an Indicated determination, it will affect your future if you do not file an appeal of that determination. If you’re worried that a ChildLine report will affect your future, make sure you know your rights.