PA: PC needed for a child protection home inspection

The Department of Human Services needs probable cause for a child protection home inspection. In re Y.W.-B., 2021 Pa. LEXIS 4353 (Dec. 23, 2021):

A child protection home inspection order like the one at issue here is neither a dragnet search nor a search of an individual with a reduced expectation of privacy. It is not a dragnet-type search because it does not involve home visits of all homes in an area for a limited purpose as in Camara to inspect wiring. Home visits by DHS are in no sense “routine and periodic,” but rather must be based upon credible allegations of evidence of neglect occurring in the specified home. Mother likewise has no reduced expectation of privacy in the sanctity of her home based upon any suspicion of potential wrongdoing (like with, e.g., probationers and parolees), and DHS does not rely on the Griffin or Samson line of cases. As a result, while home visits in the child neglect context are conducted by civil government officials rather than members of law enforcement, they do not fit within the two categories of “administrative searches” entitled to reduced Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 8 protections.

Moreover, DHS’s entry into Mother’s home cannot remotely be characterized as a “minimally intrusive” spot check. DHS argued in its brief filed with this Court that the trial court informed Mother that DHS would only check for working utilities, windows, a stove, food and beds. DHS’s Brief at 26. Although it is hard to fathom how the operability of windows could be determined without entering every room to determine the existence of a window, in its order granting DHS permission to enter Mother’s home, the trial court imposed no limitations and provided only that the search would “assess the home to verify if mother’s home is safe and appropriate.” Petitions to Compel Cooperation Order, 6/11/2019. The order thus placed no limitations on the scope of the search, leaving it entirely in DHS’s discretion as to the thoroughness of the search, including, if it so chose, a general rummaging of all of the home’s rooms and the family’s belongings.

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