The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rochelle S. Friedman, Senior Judge
BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge
HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge
OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE FRIEDMAN
J.W., K.W. and S.W. (Petitioners) petition for review of the February 26, 2010, order of the Department of Public Welfare's (DPW) Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (Bureau), which denied Petitioners' challenge to the filing of indicated reports of child abuse against them with the ChildLine Registry. We reverse.
J.W. is the maternal grandmother of N.W., a female child born on February 18, 2007. K.W. is the child's father, and S.W. is the paramour of K.W. (Findings of Fact, Nos. 1-4.) K.W. received full custody of his daughter on October 30, 2008, and, thereafter, regularly bathed his daughter and changed her diapers. On November 8, 2008, J.W. cared for her grandchild, including changing her diapers. (Findings of Fact, Nos. 22, 24-26, 28.)
On November 20, 2008, K.W. took his daughter to Einstein Medical Center for a well-baby visit. That same day, Philadelphia County Child Protective Services (County) received an oral report of suspected child abuse from Einstein Medical Center. The County assigned Social Worker Kita Scott to investigate. (Findings of Fact, Nos. 7, 9.)
On November 21, 2008, the child was transferred to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. Maria McColgan, M.D., who is director of the hospital's child protective services program, examined the child. The child had a burn mark on her left thigh and back, a cut lip, lesions on the inside of her mouth, two rib fractures, and bruises on her left rib area, stomach, forehead, right cheek, left cheek and chest. The amount of bruising was abnormal, and the rib fractures occurred approximately ten to fourteen days before the child was brought to the hospital. Rib fractures are unusual in a one-year-old child and are not typical of accidental trauma. It would have taken a significant amount of bending force to fracture the child's ribs. (Findings of Fact, Nos. 8, 14-20; R.R. at 108a.)
In conducting her investigation, Scott interviewed Dr. McColgan, two doctors who saw the child at Einstein Medical Center, Petitioners and the child's mother. In addition, Scott was present when a photograph was taken of the child's rib area on November 20, 2008. Scott took other photographs of the child on November 21, 2008. (Findings of Fact, Nos. 10-12.)
On December 19, 2008, the County filed indicated reports of child abuse against Petitioners. DPW notified Petitioners, who filed appeals, requesting hearings and the expunction of their names from the ChildLine Registry. (Findings of Fact, Nos. 35-47.)
At a consolidated hearing, the County presented the testimony of Scott and Dr. McColgan. K.W. testified on behalf of himself and S.W., but J.W. did not testify. After considering the evidence, the Bureau's Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) rejected the testimony of K.W. and accepted the testimony of Dr. McColgan and Scott. Based on the credible testimony, the ALJ found that the child's injuries were not accidental and that the child suffered severe pain as a result of her injuries. The ALJ then denied the appeals based on section 6381(d) of the Child Protective Services Law (Law), which states:
(d) 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). The ALJ reasoned as follows:
While there is very little case law on this point, it would appear that the purpose of 23 Pa. C.S. §6381(d) is to prevent multiple caregivers from "circling the wagons." While [Petitioners] in this case may have chosen to "circle the wagons" so that the identity of the abuser(s) could not be determined, none of them offered any credible evidence to rebut the presumption. The intent of the presumption is to shift the burden to the caregivers to offer substantial countervailing evidence that would rebut the presumption. The presumption is not conclusive proof the ...