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Administrative Appeals of Justified (Valid) Child Protection Investigations
Under Louisiana law, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) notifies individuals that they have been identified as responsible for a valid incident of child abuse or neglect, and are entitled to appeal the accuracy of the decision to an impartial decision maker.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens when I am validated as a perpetrator of a child abuse and/or neglect investigation?
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) maintains a repository of all reports of child abuse and/or neglect. This repository includes all reports made to DCFS of suspected child abuse and/or neglect, along with investigative findings of Justified (herein thereafter to be referred to as valid), Invalid, Inconclusive, Unable to Locate, Client Non-Cooperative and False Reports. When an investigation is complete, notification is provided to you that includes how long the information will remain in the repository.
DCFS also maintains a State Central Registry (SCR), which is a listing of individuals who are found to be a perpetrator of certain valid allegations of child abuse and/or neglect. Whether or not an individual is placed on the (SCR), and the length that they will remain on the registry, is determined by the nature and severity of the allegations.
DCFS maintains the confidentiality of investigative information, and will only release information in very limited circumstances as allowed or mandated by law. In most cases, such as requests for agency clearances for employment purposes, DCFS will not release your name as a perpetrator of a valid case of child abuse and/or neglect, until your administrative appeal rights have been exhausted.
What is an Administrative Appeal?
DCFS is mandated by State law to investigate abuse or neglect of children pursuant to LA Children’s Code 609, et seq. Under Louisiana law, individuals receiving letters from DCFS notifying them that they have been found, as a perpetrator, of a valid incident of child abuse or neglect, and are entitled to appeal the accuracy of the decision to an impartial decision maker. The Division of Administrative Law (DAL) is the agency responsible for conducting administrative appeals for DCFS. When DCFS notifies a client of a valid investigation, they will receive a listing of all prior valid child abuse and/or neglect finding(s) associated with their case identification number(s) in our data system. The letter will also notify the client whether they are able to appeal these prior investigations, or if their appeal rights have already been exhausted.
Who will preside over the hearing?
The DAL is staffed with impartial Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who conduct the appeal hearings. Once the appeal is conducted the ALJ issues a written decision based on evidence presented.
Who is eligible for an appeal?
Any client who receives a valid finding after July 1, 2018 has 30 calendar days from the date of their written notification letter from DCFS to request an administrative appeal. Once 30 calendar days have passed the client is no longer eligible for an administrative appeal.
If a client received a valid finding before July 1, 2018 and they are eligible for an administrative appeal, in order to do so they must contact DCFS, in-person, at their nearest local Child Welfare office, to obtain a copy of their written notification. They have 30 calendar days from the date of the written notice to request an administrative appeal. If an administrative appeal is not requested within 30 calendars days from the date of their written notice, then the client has exhausted their appeal rights. A listing of all DCFS Child Welfare Offices can be found via the DCFS website at: http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=directory&tmp=home&nid=247&pnid=0&pid=0
How do I request an appeal?
An administrative appeal can be requested through the Division of Administrative Law (DAL) on their website at http://adminlaw.state.la.us/index.htm, via U.S. mail at P.O. Box 44033 Baton Rouge, La 70802, or through facsimile at 225-219-9820 attention DCFS appeals. , it should be noted that request(s) received after 5:00 pm or on a state holiday that falls on a business day will be stamped and received for the next business day. Submitting a request via the DAL website is the preferred appeal method. In order to request an administrative appeal the client will need to complete the request for an Administrative Appeal form under the Children and Family Services cases section on the DAL website. The notification of the valid finding will be required in order to submit the appeal through the DAL website.
What happens after I submit my appeal to DAL?
When a client submits an appeal request to DAL, they will receive notice from DAL that the appeal has been received along with further information regarding the appeal process. The DCFS Protective Services Review Team (PSRT), a state level working group, will review the case decision and a departmental decision will be made regarding the validity decision. If the validity decision is changed by DCFS, the client will be notified in writing. If the appeal process continues, the DAL will proceed with scheduling a hearing where both the client, and DCFS staff, share information about the reasons for the valid finding of abuse and/or neglect.
Will the hearing be in-person?
All administrative appeals for DCFS will be held in-person in the DCFS region or parish where the valid finding occurred or in a location designated and agreed upon by all parties and DAL for convenience and accessibility, or as ordered by DAL.
Who has the burden of proof?
The DCFS will bear the burden of proof and must prove that it is more likely than not that the finding of valid should be upheld. Once a Motion of Discovery is signed by the ALJ the Department will release any relevant records and/or reports to individuals, their counsel, or other legal representation. The Department will not release any information that is considered confidential pursuant to LA R.S. 46:56 which include information concerning the reporter.
May I call witnesses?
Yes, the client may call witnesses, or they may subpoena witnesses who they believe provide relevant information to their case. DCFS will request that subpoenas be issued to witnesses who can assist the department with proving their case. These forms can be located under forms at http://adminlaw.state.la.us/index.htm
Who can receive an expedited appeal?
An individual is eligible for an expedited appeal in the following situations:
- When DCFS receives a request for an SCR clearance on an individual who is a prospective or current employee in a licensed/registered child care setting by the Louisiana Department of Education;
- a current or prospective employee of an Office of Juvenile Justice juvenile facility;
- a current or prospective employee in a specialized provider, juvenile detention facility provider licensed by DCFS; or,
- a current or prospective employee of DCFS in a position whose duties include the investigation of child abuse or neglect, supervisory or disciplinary authority over children, direct care of a child, or performance of licensing surveys; they may request an expedited appeal.
How many days do I have to request an expedited Administrative appeal?
A request for an expedited appeal must be submitted to DAL within 14 calendar days of the date of the written notification of a justified (valid) finding. If the appeal is not submitted within 14 days, the client has 30 calendar days from the date of the written notification to request a non-expedited appeal.
Is a Fair Hearing and an Administrative Appeal the same thing?
Yes, throughout the DAL website you may see references to “Fair Hearing”, however, DCFS considers these hearings to be administrative appeal hearings.
Can I request an Administrative Appeal through DCFS?
No, all appeal request must be submitted through DAL. If a client has concerns as to if they have an appealable valid investigative finding, or they do not have their written notification, they will need to contact the local DCFS Child Welfare office and follow the process outlined above to obtain a copy of their written notification to begin their appeal.
What happens if the decision is upheld, or overturned?
If DAL finds that it is more likely than not, the preponderance of evidence, that the information supports the decision of the valid finding, the valid decision will be maintained. If not, DAL will modify the valid investigative finding(s), and provide written notification to all parties. If DAL modifies the case finding to invalid, DCFS records will be changed to reflect that decision. Both the client and DCFS have the right to request a judicial review of the DAL decision.