A Utah “Notice of Agency Action” is mandatory letter that indicates a Utah agency is taking action against you to determine the legal rights, duties, privileges, immunities, or other legal interests of an identifiable person.
Notice of Agency Actions can come from a nearly any Utah agency. Office of Licensing and Background Checks, Division of Child and Family Services, Utah Insurance Department and many, many more.
This blog is about when you receive a Notice of Agency Action from the Division of Child and Family Services regarding child abuse, the CIM and LIS databases and how you can challenge it.
DCFS is housed under the Utah Department of Human Services. In short—DCFS investigates child abuse and protects children.
When DCFS has investigated you for child abuse they will do the following depending on the circumstances and their own internal operating procedures:
(1). Remove Kids. Remove the children from harm and file a child welfare case in the juvenile court. Called a removal case.
(2). Not Remove Kids. Not remove the children from the harm, but still file a child welfare case asking the juvenile court to impose court ordered protective services. Called a protective services case.
(3). Investigation Only. When there is soley an investigation, but that investigation doesn’t result in a fild child welfare case, whether protective services or a removal case. This third type of DCFS case you often don’t even know that DCFS child abuse investigation is occurring.
(1). Supported. “Supported” means a finding by the division based on the evidence available at the completion of an investigation that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that abuse, neglect, or dependency occurred. Each allegation made or identified during the course of the investigation shall be considered separately in determining whether there should be a finding of “supported.” Utah Code 62A-4a-101(41) (2018).
(2). Unsupported. “Unsupported” means a finding at the completion of an investigation that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that abuse, neglect, or dependency occurred. However, a finding of “unsupported” means also that the division worker did not conclude that the allegation was without merit. Utah Code Ann. 62A-4a-101(45) (2018).
(3). Without Merit. “Without merit” means a finding at the completion of an investigation by the division, or a judicial finding, that the alleged abuse, neglect, or dependency did not occur, or that the alleged perpetrator was not responsible for the abuse, neglect, or dependency. Utah Code Ann. 62A-4a-101(46) (2018).
(4). Unsubstantiated. Unsubstantiated means a judicial finding that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that abuse, neglect, or dependency occurred. This happens when you challenge the DCFS finding to the juvenile court and the juvenile judge finds the case to be unsubstantiated.
(5). Substantiated. You administratively challenged the DCFS finding and the ultimately after a juvenile court hearing the child abuse findings against you are substantiated. Meaning the judge found them valid. As of 01/015/2023 substantiated findings are NEVER expungeable under Utah administrative rule R512-76-1(5)(b).
(6). Unable to Locate. Unable to locate findings against you are never expungeable under the administrative rule R512-76-1. Unable to locate means that you failed or refused to participate in the investigation and they were unable to locate you, or complete their investigation.
The Notice of Agency Action will tell you when you must file your appear or forever lose your rights to challenge the findings.
The appeal period is normally a 30 day or 1 year period to file your appeal and challenge the DCFS findings.
You can never appeal a DCFS finding where a criminal conviction occurred or the matter was adjudicated in a juvenile court, whether that be a juvenile delinquency matter, a child welfare matter or a substantiation hearing.
Severe or more severe are not technical legal terms in the law, but generally DCFS is putting findings in chronic/severe or non-severe and different appeal rights and expungement rights apply accordantly.
More Severe Findings. For more severe child abuse findings you can directly challenge the DCFS finding by filing for judicial review in a Utah Juvenile Court. Or you can file for an agency review first, then file for judicial review in the juvenile court if you are not satisfied.
Less Severe Findings. For less severe child abuse findings you must first file for agency review with an administrative law judge. Only after exhausting the administrative law judge can you file for judicial review in the juvenile court.
The Notice of Agency Action will indicate your appeal option, whether directly to the juvenile court or first appealing with the administrative law judge.
Substantiated DCFS Findings by a Juvenile Court
Until around 2020 you could never expunge your DCFS findings against you. The problem with challenging a DCFS finding is that once it is substantiated by a juvenile court they can never be expunged. That is the danger of appealing a DCFS finding is that if you lose they are never expungeable and you will always and forever be on the CIM and LIS databases.
See this blog post on expunging DCFS findings from their database.
Utah Utah administrative rule R512-76-4 sets out the criteria for expunging a DCFS finding against you. Note R512-76-4(5)(b). Findings substantiated by a juvenile court are never eligible for expungement.
One big deal about being on the DCFS supported finding list is your inclusion on the Central Information System and Listening Information Database. Both are federally mandated private governmental databases that collect child abuse information. The CIS and LIS is no the same as the sex offender registry which is public.
Central Information System. The key statute to read on the CIM is:
80-2-1001. Management Information System — Contents — Classification of records — Access.]
Licensing Information System. The key statute to rad on the LIS is:
80-2-1001. Management Information System — Contents — Classification of records — Access.
The CIS and LIS can effect licensing through Utah, or other states. This can include teacher’s license, child care industry, adoption and other human services jobs. The exact extend of being listed on the CIS and LIS is unknown.