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Insights Insights
| 1 minute read

Another Advocate for Due Process in Child Abuse Registries

A county comptroller in Pennsylvania waded into the long-simmering dispute about the lack of due process in child maltreatment determinations and placement on the state's child abuse registry. He proposed a solution that warrants serious consideration: requiring a second medical opinion in cases where a maltreatment diagnosis prompts child protective services to consider removing children from their homes.

The comptroller pointed out that the process of appealing from being placed on the state's child abuse registry is long and stacked against parents. The state DHS hears the appeals against its subordinate DCYF office, and has upheld more than 99% of cases brought before it since 2013. However, the next appeal layer, the state's Bureau of Hearings and Appeals has consistently overturned the vast majority of "indicated" reports, with rates ranging from 91% to 94% in recent years.

This discrepancy between the two reviewing bodies underscores the need for a more robust and impartial system. By the time citizens get to that second level of review, they already have suffered significant costs and loss. The process is its own punishment. By requiring a second opinion in cases where child removal is being considered, the state could avoid potential errors that traumatize both parents and children.

A successful appeal before the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ Office of Children, Youth and Families clears someones’s name from the ChildLine and registry database of suspected abusers, but since 2013 above 99% of cases have been upheld by the panel, the report states. Further recourse, however, that is available before the state department’s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals “has consistently overruled a supermajority of the ‘indicated’ reports” — with 91% of reports overturned in 2021, 94% in 2020 and 91% in 2019, according to Pinsley’s report, ”demonstrating a gross discrepancy between the two reviewing bodies.”


child abuse, ausburn_deborah, youth services law, insights