Appeal from the Order of the Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Department of Public Welfare, in case of Appeal of: L.R., III, File No. 21-84-31, dated December 10, 1984.
Malcolm J. Gross, for petitioner.
W. Thomas Anthony, Jr., for respondent, Louis Reitbauer.
Judges MacPhail and Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri. Judge Colins dissents. Judge Palladino did not participate in this case.
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 492]
The Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services (OCYS) appeals here the final administrative action of the Department of Public Welfare's (DPW) Office of Hearings and Appeals adopting the recommendation of the hearing officer that the OCYS be directed to expunge any and all records of child abuse maintained pursuant to the Child Protective Services Law*fn1 implicating L.R.
The Child Protective Services Law (Law) establishes a procedure for maintenance of a central state-wide registry which contains record of all "founded"*fn2 and "indicated"*fn3 reports of child abuse. L.R., father of C.R.,
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 493]
had been implicated in an "indicated report" of sexual abuse involving C.R. filed by the OCYS. L.R., as subject of the report, requested the Secretary of DPW, in accordance with Section 15(d) of the Law, 11 P.S. § 2215(d), to expunge the report on the grounds the report was inaccurate. See J.H. v. Department of Public Welfare, 73 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 369, 457 A.2d 1346 (1983). When the Secretary refused to expunge the report, L.R. requested a fair hearing at which L.R., B.R., his ex-wife who reported the suspected child abuse to the OCYS, and the OCYS caseworker appeared and testified.
The hearing officer, in her adjudication issued subsequent to the hearing, recited the contentions of each party. L.R. argued that there was no support for the indicated report except for the caseworker's hearsay testimony regarding C.R.'s response during doll therapy, employed by the caseworker in interviews with C.R. to determine whether a report should be filed. The hearing officer agreed stating that, because there was no corroborating first hand testimony or medical evidence to support the caseworker's conclusions, and because she found L.R.'s statements denying the accusations credible, she would recommend that L.R.'s appeal be sustained and that the report be expunged. The Office of Hearings and Appeals accepted the hearing officer's recommendation and OCYS has appealed.
On appeal OCYS argues that the hearing officer's determination that the caseworker's conclusion is unsupported due to the lack of corroborating eyewitness accounts or medical reports is erroneous and contrary to the intent of the Act. Pointing to Section 2203 which
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 494]
defines "indicated report," OCYS argues that the Law intends that a caseworker's investigation may stand on its own as substantial evidence of sexual abuse without corroborating evidence ...