In Pennsylvania, a parent can be branded an abuser for spanking a child, and then remain on a state list with pedophiles and felons without the benefit of a court hearing, attorneys say.That last self-serving sentence is very misleading. When my ex-wife made a complaint to CPS, the social worker's "investigation" only consisted of a couple of child interviews. There was no medical evidence or suspect admission. There was no adult confirmation of anything. No expert was consulted and no guidelines were followed. There was no appeal, except that a supervisor read the social worker report and signed off on it.
"The process puts the cart before the horse," said Aaron Martin, a constitutional attorney with a private practice in Kennett Square, Chester County. "You are first declared guilty by the state, and then it is up to you to challenge that indication to assert your innocence."
Under state law, child protective service agencies such as county Children and Youth Services must investigate all reports of child abuse within 24 hours. When a social worker or police officer deems a report to be valid, law requires the immediate — and permanent — placement of the suspect's name on the state child abuse registry, regardless of whether police ever charge the person with a crime. ...
Attorneys advocating on behalf of people who contend they were improperly placed on the registry said their main concern centers on what the state terms "indicated" determinations of child abuse. That's when a social worker — not a law enforcement official or judge — decides an abuse report is valid. Social workers base those decisions on an investigation, which can include medical evidence or a suspect's admission, according to the welfare department.
It understates the problem to say that a parent can be branded an abuser without benefit of a court hearing. The parent is never granted any sort of real hearing, in court or otherwise. Even if the parent is exonerated in court, the parent usually remains on the abuser list.