What are DNA Actions?
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, "Dependent, Neglected, or Abused" (DNA) actions comprise of cases involving child abuse or child neglect petitioned in family courts across the state. The purpose of a DNA action is to provide adequate protection and care for a child who may be at risk for abuse or neglect, including sexual victimization and physical or emotional neglect.
What Does CPS Do When They Receive a Claim of DNA?
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) or Child Protective Services will get involved with a family when someone makes a report of possible neglect or abuse to the state's child abuse hotline. Such reports can be made by anyone, including a family member, neighbor, child care worker, teacher, or doctor.
Upon receiving a report, the DHS officials will conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine:
- Whether the report is true
- Whether everything is okay with the family
- Whether the child is currently safe at their home
- Whether the family needs help to care for the child properly.
During this period, the child may be removed from your home temporarily. If the investigation yields substantial evidence that the child faces present and immediate threats in your home, the removal may be extended. In the event that your child is removed from your home, you need to make reasonable efforts to get him or her back.
How Do I Get My Child Back?
Child Protective Services in Pennsylvania is only allowed to remove children from their homes under specific circumstances. Your available option to get your child back include:
- Advocate for your child to be placed in a kinship care relationship, such as with a grandparent, close friend, uncle or aunt, or cousin.
- Appeal the decision of the CPS to remove your child from your home. You will be required to attend a disposition hearing or dependency/adjudication hearing.
- Also, you can work with CPS to craft a feasible family service plan (FSP) which will help improve your home environment and your relationship with your child.
An experienced attorney can review your unique situation, enlighten you about the potential consequences, and determine the best way to get your child back.
Possible Criminal Penalties
If convicted, the possible criminal penalties for endangering the welfare of a child (child abuse) in Pennsylvania include:
Child Endangerment or Child Abuse: This is a first-degree misdemeanor, and it is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Failure to Report or False Reporting
- First Offense: This is a third-degree misdemeanor, and it is punishable by 6 months to 1 year in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500.
- Second and Subsequent Offenses: This is a second-degree misdemeanor, and it is punishable by 1 to 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
A skilled attorney can evaluate all the facts of your case and fight diligently to advocate for your legal rights.
Work With a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney
Trying to defend your child neglect or abuse allegations may expose you to the risks of suffering the maximum punishment. If convicted, you could face a lengthy prison sentence, huge fines, a protective order, loss of parenting privileges, possible deportation, and other devastating, life-long consequences. Hiring an aggressive criminal defense attorney is crucial to protect your rights.
At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire, and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I have the resources and experience to represent clients in their domestic violence cases, including child abuse and neglect. As your legal counsel, I will evaluate your case and determine the best defense strategy that fits your unique situation. Using my extensive understanding of Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services laws, I will help you navigate the often complex legal proceedings.