Child Abuse or Abuse of the System?
By: Gregory P. LaMonaca, Esquire
In Pennsylvania, many laws have been enacted to protect the safety and welfare of children. The Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), 23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6301 et. seq., was designed to protect the interest of children and to encourage individuals who witness abuse to report it. The law was also designed to ensure that the identity of the individual reporting the abuse would be kept confidential.
In addition to everyday citizens being encouraged to report instances of abuse, there are “mandatory reporters” who must report child abuse when it is brought to their attention and/or they believe it has taken place. Mandatory reporters include medical professionals and school faculty, among others.
The Child Protective Services Law was changed recently to continue to make it easier for individuals to report, so as to further protect children.
For the majority of us, it is not difficult to stand firmly behind these laws in support of doing everything possible to keep our children safe. Presumably, the majority of individuals who see someone accused of abuse in the news or on television form split-second decisions as to the guilt of the individual accused. This is likely due to human nature, as we are conditioned to protect victims, especially defenseless children.
While the vast majority of reports of child abuse reflect verifiable instances of abuse, there are cases where false allegations are made. When would this happen? One example, in my experience, is when a divorce or custody matter is taking place. A frivolous, false, or misleading report may be filed with the police or local office of Children and Youth Services, (referred to differently depending on the county) by one parent, a relative, or someone else. An investigation ensues based on the report, and an otherwise innocent parent has had their life turned upside down, has been branded an “abuser,” has, perhaps, temporarily lost all rights to their child(ren), may lose their job, must defend against an investigation by Children and Youth Services, potentially face criminal charges, and are forced to defend their innocence in the Common Pleas Court, thus incurring substantial legal fees. The system, thankfully, provides remedies against individuals who make false claims of child abuse to help offset these costs.
In instances where abuse has actually occurred, the system works to determine the nature and extent of the abuse and to ensure an adequate penalty. In a frivolous matter brought forth to gain an advantage in a divorce or custody matter, the true victim could very well be the parent accused.
In these scenarios, it is imperative that the falsely accused parent immediately obtain qualified legal counsel to represent them and advise them appropriately.
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorney’s, or for further information, call us at LaMonaca Law, at (610) 892-3877 .