When a hotline call is made about suspected child abuse, many actions can be set into motion. A criminal case could be initiated which would result in the alleged offender being arrested. A juvenile court case could be opened which could result in the child(ren) potentially being removed from the home. And a third, and many times overlooked, process could be set in motion - a child maltreatment proceeding. It is this final process I want to focus on.
Child abuse hotline calls in Arkansas are screened initially when taken. If it is determined that a report should be investigated then in Arkansas it will be turned over to the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD), which is under the umbrella of the Arkansas State Police. The family for the child, as well as the alleged offender, will be contacted and interviewed. Sometimes the CACD investigator will have the local police interview the alleged offender. Either way, if you are named as an alleged offender you will want to consult with an attorney before speaking with anyone about the allegations.
After interviews, and an investigation of any other relevant information, the CACD will either make a finding of “True” or “Unsubstantiated”. “True” means that the investigator has determined that there is enough evidence present to find that it is likely the alleged offender is guilty of maltreatment of a child. “Unsubstantiated” means that the investigator determined there is not enough evidence to proceed - and the matter is concluded and closed at that point.
If the report is found as true against you then you will receive a letter in the mail advising you of that fact. It will also advise you that you have 30 days to appeal the decision. You will want to appeal the decision because many times, with the help of an attorney familiar with these types of cases, you can have the determination overturned and your name cleared.
I can not stress enough the importance of getting an attorney involved to assist you with these cases. Many times people come to our office and they waited too long to take any action. If the 30 days pass without any action on your part, then you will go on the maltreatment list and there is little you can do about it. There is also little we can do to help you.
If you have received a child maltreatment letter in the mail or been notified that you are being investigated, please do not hesitate to give our office a call. We are experienced in these cases and can provide expert legal assistance to you to help clear your name.