J.F. v. Dep’t of Human Servs.

After J.F. was arrested and charged with two counts of child endangerment, the county agency filed two identical indicated reports (CPS reports) identifying J.F. as a perpetrator of abuse of her twin children. J.F. then requested a review hearing. While her administrative appeal of the CPS reports was pending, J.F. entered into ARD for both criminal counts of child endangerment. As a result of J.F.’s entry into ARD, the county agency changed the status of the CPS reports from  “indicated” to “founded”, then filed a motion to dismiss J.F.’s administrative appeal. The administrative law judge (ALJ) granted the county agency’s motion to dismiss J.F.’s appeal without a hearing. The DHS Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (Bureau) adopted the ALJ’s recommendation. J.F. petitioned for review before the Commonwealth Court, which reversed the Bureau’s dismissal of J.F.’s request and concluded she was entitled to an administrative hearing. In J.F. v. Dep’t of Human Servs., the PA Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether a perpetrator of child abuse entitled to an administrative hearing on the facts of a founded report after she entered into ARD when the perpetrator admits that the factual circumstances leading to the criminal charges match those on which the founded report was based. The Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court. First, the Supreme Court ruled that a founded report of child abuse is an “adjudication of a Commonwealth agency” per 2 Pa.C.S. § 504. Second, because the ARD judicial proceeding did not provide an opportunity to challenge, on the record, the factual underpinnings of the founded report, the requisite “opportunity to be heard” mandated by the Administrative Agency Law was not met. As a result, the founded report could not be considered a valid adjudication without further process, i.e., the opportunity to challenge the founded reports of child abuse in an administrative hearing before the Bureau.

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