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Child Abuse, Neglect or Maltreatment

CHILD ABUSE, NEGLECT, OR MALTREATMENT

In New York, child abuse/neglect cases are civil proceedings meaning they are prosecuted in Family Court by the local child welfare agency—in New York City that is The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). While it is true that separate criminal charges may stem from the same underlying facts that led to a child abuse/neglect investigation, Family Court focuses on what measures should be put in place to protect a child, ameliorating the risk of harm or danger that existed, rehabilitating a parent(s) through appropriate services (e.g., drug or mental health treatment) that address the reasons why a case was filed, and reunifying the family.

While a criminal record is not generated because of a finding of abuse or neglect in Family Court, a record is created and maintained in New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) system that considerably affects your ability to adopt, become a foster parent, and gain employment in child-related fields.

Child protective agencies are tasked with investigating child abuse/neglect allegations. Investigations start after a report is received by the New York State Central Register (SCR). These reports may be called in by mandated reporters such as schoolteachers, daycare providers, and law enforcement personnel to un-mandated reporters such as a neighbor, bystander, friend, family member, or even an anonymous individual.

After a report is received, ACS or the designated local social service child welfare agency will commence a child protective investigation to 

determine whether sufficient evidence of abuse and/or neglect/maltreatment exists. It has up to 60 days to determine this. The investigation will include an assigned ACS Child Protective Specialist (CPS) contacting the source(s) of the report, contacting you, visiting your child’s school to speak with them and/or staff, and speaking with medical professionals, social workers, first responders, and any other individual who may have information regarding the allegations or family dynamic such as your landlord, neighbor, family doctor, etc.

During the investigation, ACS may ask to come into your home to ensure it is hazard-free, there are adequate food and provisions, and suitable sleeping arrangements, for you to produce your child for an examination at a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) or ACS field office, or give you directives such as keeping your child away from an individual pending the investigation (e.g., a significant other in domestic violence cases). In the event you refuse, ACS can go to court and, assuming certain legal requirements are complied with, obtain a search warrant, a court order for you to produce your child or be held in contempt for failing to do so, and/or a temporary order of protection. ACS can even ask a judge to temporarily remove your child from your care during the investigation without even filing a formal neglect or abuse petition.

ACS may invite you to attend an Initial Child Safety Conference where ACS will discuss the allegations, determine whether to file a case in court or handle the matter out-of-court, offer services such as parenting, anger management, drug or mental health treatment, etc., and discuss other related topics such as safety planning.

Parents and significant others who find themselves as subjects of an ACS investigation DO NOT have the right to counsel before a case is filed in court so are often left in the dark regarding what rights they have or what they should do. This is a huge disadvantage. Not only can anything you say be used against you—even if you think you’ve said nothing wrong—you may feel pressured and obligated to comply with everything ACS “or else”. After a neglect/abuse case is filed in court, there are various decisions you must make. Should you comply with ACS’ service plan? Should you comply with a random drug test? Should you look for services on your own or wait for ACS referrals? Should you go to trial? If your child has been removed from you, should you make a motion to have them returned home immediately or later at a specific period in the case? There are many factors to consider in making decisions. There is no one size fits all approach. Every family is different. Every case is different. Every approach is different. Court cases can take years to resolve and under certain circumstances, ACS or a foster care agency can even file to terminate your parental rights. Even if ACS elects not to file a case in court, it still may indicate the investigation—finding enough evidence of abuse and/or neglect/maltreatment—and thus giving you an OCFS record.

What can The Dross Law Firm Do For You

The thought of your child in foster care is terrifying—yet alone the thought of losing rights to your child—and navigating the complexities of the child welfare system is cumbersome. That’s why you need real experience—both in and out of the courtroom. “As a former foster child, former kinship foster parent, former ACS prosecutor, and current parent, I offer clients something most attorneys simply cannot: insight. As a child, I’ve been to many places where ACS houses children including ACS’ Children’s Center, various foster homes, group homes, a residential treatment center, and even several kinship homes. As a therapeutic foster parent, I completed parenting and various child-rearing classes, and complied with home visits and foster care agency directives. As an ACS prosecutor, I’ve been on the inside, assessing cases of abuse or neglect, reviewing evidence and determining what is sufficient or needed, advising CPS and foster care agency case planners on what steps to take, and expending hundreds of hours preparing and presenting cases to the court. At The Dross Law Firm, we can actually relate to our clients, thereby enabling us to provide practical solution-based representation on a different level. Our clients matter, their family matters, and therefore lived experience matters.” – Arique Dross III, Managing Attorney.