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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2021 09:40 AM
From: Representative Abby Major
To: All House members
Subject: Revisiting Entry into ARD as Basis for Founded Child Abuse Report
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to discontinue acceptance into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program (commonly known as ARD) as a basis for designating a report of suspected child abuse report as “founded.” For the reasons that follow, I believe this will better ensure fairness and administrative due process.
By way of background, a child abuse report that is substantiated is designated either as “indicated” or “founded,” with the difference essentially being that, in a founded report, there was either a guilty plea in a criminal proceeding or the facts supporting the finding of abuse were previously adjudicated. Because the perpetrator was already given notice of and to be heard in the prior proceeding, as well as the right to appeal the underlying adjudication, the Child Protective Services Law does not provide for an administrative appeal from a founded report.
The problem is that ARD is not an adjudication, nor is it an admission of guilt. Acceptance into ARD is a non-final deferment of an adjudication, which the court makes in its discretion without a record hearing and without any factual determinations on the merits. It is for these reasons, in combination with the requirements of the Administrative Agency Law, that the PA Supreme Court held earlier this year* that “a named perpetrator in a report designated as ‘founded’ based upon the perpetrator's voluntary entry into [ARD] is entitled to an administrative hearing.”
Under my legislation, reports substantiated based upon acceptance into ARD will instead be designated as “indicated.” This will ensure that the perpetrator is listed on the statewide database, but will also confer the appeal rights set forth in the CPSL, as required by the Supreme Court. I invite you to join me in sponsoring this important legislation.
* J.F. v. Dep't of Hum. Servs., 245 A.3d 658 (Pa. 2021)

Introduced as HB2174