Reports of suspected child abuse or maltreatment should be made immediately -- at any time of the day and on any day of the week -- by telephone to the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (sometimes referred to as the State Central Register or SCR). The telephone numbers are:
Child Abuse Hotline Number:
The Child Protective Specialist who answers your call will ask you for as much information as you can provide about both the suspected abuse or maltreatment and the family about which you are calling. Below are examples of some questions the Child Protective Specialist might ask you when you call. Even if you have very little information available to you, please call the SCR. The specialists will analyze the information you do have and determine if it is sufficient to register a report.
- What is the nature and extent of the child's injuries, or the risk of harm to the child?
- Have there been any prior suspicious injuries to this child or his/ her siblings?
- What is the child's name, home address, and age?
- What is the name and address of the parent or other person legally responsible who caused the injury, or created the risk of harm to the child?
- What are the names and addresses of the child's siblings and parents if different from the information provided above?
- Do you have any information regarding treatment of the child, or the child's current whereabouts?
There are two bodies of law in New York State that deal with child abuse and maltreatment in a familial context. They are the Social Services Law (SSL) and the Family Court Act (FCA). Further, some acts of child abuse and maltreatment are also crimes. For more information on the crimes associated with child abuse and maltreatment, you should contact your local police or district attorney's office or refer to the Penal Law.
Title Six of Article Six of the Social Services Law, specifically Sections 411-428, define child abuse and maltreatment. The law also outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and Local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) regarding investigations, outcomes and records related to such.
Article 10 of the Family Court Act, specifically section 1012 of the FCA, further defines child abuse, maltreatment and other key terms commonly used in investigations and reports.
Both these sections of law can be found at the New York State Legislature website. Choose the link "Laws of New York," and scroll down to the "S" section for Social Services Law. Then look for Title Six of Article Six.
A similar process will allow you to find the relevant sections of the Family Court Act.
New York State and the New York State Child Protective System recognize certain professionals as holding the important role of mandated reporter of child abuse or maltreatment. These professionals can be held liable by both the civil and criminal legal systems for intentionally failing to make a report. Professions include:
- Social Worker
- Licensed Creative Arts Therapist
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- Licensed Psychoanalyst
- Dental Hygienist
- Medical Examiner
- Registered Nurse
- Registered Physician's Assistant
- Mental Health Professional
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Alcoholism Counselor
- Peace Officer
- District Attorney, or Assistant District Attorney
- Police Officer
- Investigator employed in the Office of the District Attorney or other law enforcement official
- School Official
- Social Services Worker
- Christian Science Practitioner
- Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of persons
- Any employee or volunteer in a residential care program for youth, or any other child care or foster care worker
- Day Care Center Worker
- Provider of Family or Group Family Day Care
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
Please be aware that there may have been changes to this list since this Web page was last updated. The current list is at Section 413 of the New York State Social Services Law.
Mandated reporters are required to report instances of suspected child abuse or maltreatment only when they are presented with reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment in their professional roles.
The Child Protective Service (CPS) unit of the local department of social services is required to begin an investigation of each report within 24 hours. The investigation should include an evaluation of the safety of the child named in the report and any other children in the home, and a determination of the risk to the children if they continue to remain in the home.
CPS may take a child into protective custody if it is necessary for the protection from further abuse or maltreatment. Based upon an assessment of the circumstances, CPS may offer the family appropriate services. The CPS caseworker has the obligation and authority to petition the Family Court to mandate services when they are necessary for the care and protection of a child.
CPS has 60 days after receiving the report to determine whether the report is "indicated" or "unfounded". The law requires CPS to provide written notice to the parents or other subjects of the report concerning the rights accorded to them by the New York State Social Services Law. The CPS investigator will also inform the SCR of the determination of the investigation.
If you are the alleged subject of a report, your county Child Protective Services (CPS) office is required by law to notify you of the report in writing. You are entitled to a copy of the report, however any information pertaining to the identity of the source will be redacted as will any information about those who assisted in the investigation if the release of that information might reasonably jeopardize the safety of such person. You can request a copy of the record of the SCR by writing to:
State Central Register
P.O. Box 4480
Albany, NY 12204
The determination of the investigation will be either that the report is unfounded or indicated. If the report is unfounded, you will receive written notification from the Statewide Central Register. If the report is indicated, you will receive written notification from the local CPS (or investigative agency). This notice will also inform you of any right to appeal the decision of the investigative agency to indicate the report.
Persons who are subjects of child abuse or maltreatment reports are entitled to copies of information concerning themselves on file with the Statewide Central Register (SCR). Write to:
State Central Register
P.O. Box 4480
Albany, NY 12204
Please give your full name, date of birth, your children's names and dates of birth, and the address where you lived at the time you believe you may have been reported. If you know the case I.D., please include this information in your letter.
Depending on the circumstances, you may still have the legal right to request that the report be amended or expunged (destroyed). Make your request in writing, and the reasons therefore, to the SCR, at the post office box listed above.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services takes false reports of child abuse and maltreatment very seriously. Both the taking of the false report and the ensuing investigation are a misuse of valuable resources intended for the care and protection of New York State's vulnerable or at-risk children.
According to Section 240.50 of the New York State Penal Law, falsely reporting an incident to the State Central Register is a Class A misdemeanor. If you are the victim of a false report, you should contact your local police department or District Attorney's office (dependent on your jurisdiction) to discuss what options are available.
OCFS is often asked questions regarding the appropriate age to leave a child alone, or what age is appropriate to allow a child to begin babysitting. There are no straightforward answers to these questions. All children develop at their own rate, and with their own special needs and abilities. Some children are responsible, intelligent, and independent enough to be left alone at 12 or 13 years of age. Likewise, there are some teenagers who are too irresponsible or who have special needs that limit their ability to be safe if they are left alone. Parents and guardians need to make intelligent, reasoned decisions regarding these matters.
- Consider the child: How mature is the child? How comfortable is the child with the circumstances? What has the child done in the past to show you he/she is able to take on this kind of responsibility?
- Consider the child's knowledge and ability: Does the child know how and when to contact emergency help? Is the child able to prepare food for him/herself? Are there hazards to the child in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, a stove or oven?
- Consider the circumstances: Where will the child be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone?
These same questions should be asked when considering whether a child is old enough to baby-sit. However, when considering a child as an adequate baby sitter, you must evaluate these factors for both the potential baby sitter as well as the needs of the child or children who will be cared for by the baby sitter. A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.
Section 72 of the New York State Domestic Relations Law (DRL) provides that when either or both parents of a minor child residing in New York dies or "… where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene…" a grandparent or grandparents can apply to the New York Supreme Court for visitation rights with the child. Section 651 of the Family Court Act (FCA) also permits a grandparent to file a petition in the county Family Court for visitation with a minor child, under the same circumstances as those provided in Section 72 of the DRL.
Please note that the law does not provide an absolute right of visitation with a grandchild. It merely provides methods by which a grandparent can make an application for visitation. The court can only order such visitation when it determines that it is in the best interests of the child. Such a determination is made on a case-by-case basis. However, the wishes of the parents must be given deference by the court (Hertz v. Hertz, 738 NYS2d 62).
Since the ultimate determination by the court is dependent upon the factual circumstances of the particular case, it is recommended that a grandparent who is considering filing a petition for visitation consult with an attorney beforehand.