Wednesday, June 06, 2018

child abuse - expungement - reasons for decision - ALJ who wrote decision different from ALJ who conducted hearing

A.G. v. DHS – June 6, 2018 – unreported* memorandum decision – Pa. Cmwlth.

A. G. (Mother) petitions for review of the Order of the Department of Human Services denying Mother’s appeal from an indicated report identifying her as a perpetrator of child abuse on the ChildLine and Abuse Registry (Registry) under the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL).

The Bureau adopted an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) Recommendation, in which the ALJ found that Mother did not rebut, with her testimony, the presumption of abuse in Section 6381(d) of the CPSL, 23 Pa. C.S. § 6381(d). **

Mother argues the ALJ’s findings are not supported by substantial evidence and that the ALJ erred in applying the presumption.

Because the ALJ issuing the Recommendation did not also preside over the hearings at which the witnesses testified, and the bases for the ALJ discrediting Mother’s testimony are unclear, our ability to perform effective appellate review to determine whether the presumption in Section 6381(d) was properly applied is hampered. Accordingly, we vacate the Department’s Order adopting the ALJ’s Recommendation and remand for issuance of a new decision clearly setting forth the reasons for crediting/discrediting the evidence and a new order based upon those credibility determinations.

** Section 6381(d) provides: Prima facie evidence of abuse.--Evidence that a child has suffered child abuse of such a nature as would ordinarily not be sustained or exist except by reason of the acts or omissions of the parent or other person responsible for the welfare of the child shall be prima facie evidence of child abuse by the parent or other person responsible for the welfare of the child. 23 Pa. C.S. § 6381(d).


*An unreported Commonwealth Court case may not be cited binding precedent but can be cited for its persuasive value.  See 210 Pa. Code § 69.414(b) and Pa. R.A.P.  3716