Thursday, July 10, 2008

child abuse - expungement - founded report - PFA case

Philadelphia DHS v. DPW - Commonwealth Court - July 10, 2008

A PFA order in collateral case finding father sexually abused his child provided a sufficient basis for a "founded report" of abuse, 23 P.S. 6303(a), under the Child Protective Services Law.

"Where only one defendant is charged with abuse in a PFA action, only one person defends those charges, an adjudication finds that such abuse occurred and prohibits further contact between the victim child and that defendant, the PFA order is an adjudication containing a sufficient definitive finding upon which DHS based the Founded Report."

These facts were held to distinguish this case from J.G. v. DPW, 795 A.2d 1089 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002), where the court held that a generalized finding in a dependency case - with no definitive finding that a particular individiual was responsible for the abuse - did not preclude an appeal in a related expungement case.

"A Founded Report may be based upon any judicial adjudication finding that the child who is the subject of the report has been abused, including, but not limited to, criminal charges. The ALJ erred as a matter of law in relying upon J.G. to conclude that the PFA hearing in this case was not, on its own, able to support a Founded Report of abuse. Thus, the DPW did also err in adopting the recommendation of the ALJ and directing that the Founded Report of child abuse against R.G.S. be expunged."