In 1973, New York State enacted the Child Protective Services Act, creating a system for the receipt and investigation of reports of suspected abuse or maltreatment of children. The statutory scheme for the child protective services program in New York is set forth in Title 6 of Article 6 of the Social Services Law (“SSL”). In that “[a]bused and maltreated children in this state are in urgent need of an effective child protective service to prevent them from suffering further injury and impairment.” SSL § 411.
The New York Statewide Central Register (SCR)
A component of the Child Protective Services Act is the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (“SCR”), which is operated by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). The SCR receives reports of suspected child abuse and maltreatment and transmits such reports to the child protective service agency (“CPS agency”) of the local social services district where the child is located.
In the five boroughs of New York City, the CPS agency is the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”).
The SCR receives telephone calls twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week alleging child abuse or maltreatment. When any allegations contained in such telephone calls could reasonably constitute a report of child abuse or maltreatment, such allegations and any previous reports to the central registry involving the subject of such report or children named in such report, including any previous report containing allegations of child abuse and maltreatment alleged to have occurred in other counties and districts in New York State shall be immediately transmitted orally or electronically by OCFS to the appropriate local child protective service for investigation.
When an SCR staff member receives a telephone call, he/she interviews the caller to determine if the allegations constitute possible child abuse or maltreatment. If so, the staff member creates an Intake Report in CONNECTIONS, the child welfare computer system used by the SCR that allows for documentation of information about families and children and assigns the matter a case identification number.
The CPS Investigation
When any allegations contained in such telephone calls could reasonably constitute a report of child abuse or maltreatment, such allegations are immediately transmitted by the SCR to the appropriate CPS agency for investigation. The CPS agency must then commence an investigation within 24 hours of its receipt of the report. Such investigation must include an evaluation of the environment of the child named in the report as well as a determination of the risks to such child and all other children in the household.
Also, the CPS agency must notify in writing the subject(s) of the report and any other person named in the report of the existence of the report and their respective rights regarding the report. SSL § 424(6)(a).
All reports to the SCR and information related to those reports “shall be confidential and shall only be made available to” specified persons or entities.
The CPS agency that investigates the allegation must determine within sixty days whether the report is “indicated” or “unfounded.”
If it is determined that no credible evidence of child abuse or maltreatment exists, then the report is “unfounded.” If it is determined that there is credible evidence of child abuse or maltreatment the report is “indicated.” The determination must be reviewed and approved by a supervisor of the CPS agency.
Who reported me to CPS?
Anyone can call the CPS hotline in New York State. In some situations, a family member might make a false accusation out of anger following a domestic dispute.
Also, there are mandatory reporters in New York, such as school officials, doctors and therapists who may overreact or jump to conclusions about suspected child abuse or neglect. Mandatory reporters may interpret a child’s complaints about a parent as allegations of abuse. Children can also easily be led by adults. This reporting can also lead law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys to draft a criminal complaint against a parent.
Do I need an attorney during a CPS investigation?
If you are being investigated by CPS or ACS in New York one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself is to contact an experienced CPS defense attorney familiar with both family law and criminal law.
Caseworkers are often vague about the nature of the complaint and do not explain the details of the investigation or the process. An attorney will clearly explain the process and your rights.
When is the best time to call a CPS attorney for help?
The best time to call a CPS defense attorney is as soon as you are contacted by a CPS agent. It is not recommended that you cooperate without first contacting counsel. CPS is not your friend.
If you or a loved one has been contacted by CPS in New York State, call our Westchester County CPS defense attorneys for an immediate consultation. Our offices are in White Plains and Peekskill, New York.