Many accusations will start with a hotline call. A hotline call is a call to the Missouri Children’s Division, which is a subdivision of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Often, the hotline call is made by a mandated reporter. A mandated reporter is a “person with responsibility for the care of children[.]” RSMo Section 210.115. Such mandated reporters include but are not limited to doctors, dentists, day care center workers, teachers, and social workers. When a mandated reporter “has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse . . . that person shall immediately report” to the Children’s D]ivision. RSMo Section 210.115.
After a Children’s Division employee receives a report of abuse or neglect, the employee investigates the report by interviewing various people such as the person who made the report, the child, the accused perpetrator, and other people who have contact with the child. Occasionally the Children’s Division investigator will interview acquaintances of the accused, and attempt to find other claims in order to establish a pattern. Law enforcement will also occasionally get involved in these investigations. Cantin Mynarich is often hired at this stage to advise the accused on whether to give an interview because answers given during the interview can later be used against them in a criminal case or civil proceeding.
If the Children’s Division investigator concludes their investigation and believes that the accused has neglected or abused a child, the investigator will “substantiate” the claim. This means that the investigator makes a finding that a preponderance of the evidence shows that the accused perpetrator has neglected or abused the child. Preponderance of the evidence in a civil matter is different than beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal matter. This means the investigator decides whether the evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the neglect or abuse occurred. At this stage, the investigator is essentially the investigator and the judge.
The Children’s Division investigator will then consult with their supervisor who will decide if they agree that the claim is substantiated. If the supervisor concurs, the Children’s Division will notify the accused by letter that the accused is going to be placed on the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry.
Unless the accused appeals the finding and gets that finding reversed, the accused is placed on the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. The Child Abuse and Neglect Registry is used by the Missouri Department of Social Services as a record for people who were found to have abused or neglected a child. If the accused is put on this registry, there is the possibility they could be denied employment, and could miss several other opportunities because of the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. However, these findings can be appealed and reversed. Cantin Mynarich often handle such appeals to the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board (CANRB).
The CANRB provides an independent review of child abuse and neglect determinations in instances in which the alleged perpetrator is aggrieved by the decision of the Children’s Division. The CANRB typically hosts 12 meetings per year to review cases. It’s important to take your case and appeal to the CANRB, so the board can hear your side of the story, and your attorney can defend you. Depending on the type of case, there are two different ways an appeal could go.
If the allegation is found to be unsubstantiated by the board, the finding will be reversed and the name of the accused will be removed from the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. Unfortunately, even if a finding is reversed in civil proceedings, there is still a chance there will be criminal charges against the accused. This is because the prosecutor in a county decides whether to file criminal charges based on allegations of abuse or neglect.
If the allegation is substantiated by the CANRB, the name of the accused will stay on the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry unless the accused further appeals. At that point, the accused can file for a trial de novo with the circuit court, asking the court to reverse the CANRB. In that de novo review proceeding, the alleged perpetrator is afforded the opportunity for a full hearing and the trial court determines “whether a preponderance of the evidence shows that the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.” Barr v. Missouri State Dep’t of Soc. Servs., WD81340. If the accused wins in the circuit court, the accused will be removed from the registry. If the accused loses in the circuit court, the accused can appeal to the Court of Appeals. But success there is very unlikely.
Child abuse allegations can be difficult and confusing to contend with. It can become a source of tension with family, friends, and coworkers. If you are put in an uncomfortable situation like this, it’s important to find someone who knows what they’re doing, how to navigate allegations, and how to help you put your life back on track.
If you are accused of neglecting or abusing a child, you should contact Cantin Mynarich to help you face the potential severe civil and criminal penalties. We know how to navigate both civil and criminal systems, and we are here to help.