If you have concerns about the safety and well-being of a child or youth 17 years old or younger in your community, you can learn the definitions of “child abuse” and “neglect,” how to make a report, and what happens when a report is made.
Deciding to get involved in a situation where a child/youth may be in danger can be difficult. But your anonymous report may provide needed help to a family in crisis or even save a life. Find out more below:
- Child physical abuse occurs when a parent or caretaker inflicts or allows someone to inflict serious physical injury other than by accidental means.
- This includes, but is not limited to, shaking, beating, biting, kicking, punching, and burning. It is also considered abuse if a parent/caretaker creates a condition or allows the condition to be created, that leads to a child or youth becoming the victim of serious physical injury.
- Child sexual abuse includes incest, rape, obscene sexual performance, fondling a child’s or youth’s genitals, intercourse, sodomy, and any other contact such as exposing them to sexual activity, or commercial sexual exploitation such as prostitution of a minor or production of pornographic materials involving a minor.
Neglect is defined as the failure of a parent or caretaker to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Some examples include:
- Failure to support a child’s educational needs either by keeping a child home from school for unexcused reasons or not following up with a child’s educational needs despite the school’s outreach to the parent or caretaker.
- Failure to provide adequate food, clothing, or shelter.
- Failure to provide medical or mental health care (including drug abuse services).
- Leaving a child alone who is not developmentally able to be left alone without adequate supervision.
- Leaving a child with someone without establishing a plan for the provision for food, clothing, education, or medical care.
- Leaving a child with someone that does not have the ability to appropriately supervise or protect the child.
- Subjecting a child to humiliation, fear, verbal terror, or extreme criticism.
- Using corporal punishment beyond what is objectionably reasonable and it results in the physical or emotional harm of a child.
- Exposing a child to family violence.
- Parent or caretaker using drugs to the point of not being able to adequately take care of a child/youth.
- Keeping, manufacturing, or selling drugs in the presence of a child, or giving drugs to a child/youth.
Anyone can make an anonymous report when they are concerned about the safety and well-being of a child or youth.
If the child/youth is in immediate danger, call or text 911. Otherwise, call 311 in NYC or the New York State Central Register (SCR) directly at 1-800-342-3720.
When making a report, you will be asked for as much information as you can provide to help identify and locate the child/youth or parents/persons legally responsible for child, such as:
- Name and address of the child/youth and family members.
- Child's/youth’s age, sex, and primary language.
- Nature and extent of the child’s/youth’s injuries.
- Type of abuse or neglect, including knowledge of prior history of abuse or neglect of the child/youth or siblings.
- Any additional information that may be helpful.
Calling in a report does not automatically result in the removal of a child/youth.
The Child Protective Specialist will partner with the family to assess services needed to support the safety and well-being of the child/youth, which can include counseling, in-home services, mental health and alcohol/drug abuse services or more. In severe situations, it may be necessary to temporarily place a child in out-of-home foster care.
An investigation conducted by a Child Protective Specialist (CPS) will:
- Have 24 hours to gather more information from the reporting person, if known.
- Make an unannounced visit to the child’s/youth’s home within 24 – 48 hours of the report. The CPS must see and speak to all children living in the home or with other caretakers, as well as all children/youth that are present in the home during the investigation.
- Speak to all adults or caretakers living in the home.
- Give the home a letter called a Notice of Existence, informing adults in the home that they have an open investigation of abuse or maltreatment. If an adult is not home, the CPS will leave a Notice of Home Visit letter informing residents of the visit.
- Check to make sure the home is free of hazards, has adequate food, safe sleeping arrangements, etc.
- Go to the child’s/youth’s school, talk to family members and other people who may know the child/youth, like a neighbor, building superintendent, teacher, doctor, nurse, NYPD, etc.
- During the investigation, if it is determined that services are required, ACS will refer adults in the home to services and work with them to help receive those services.
- The CPS may offer the family Preventive Services (including mental health, substance use and other programs) or ask them to attend an Initial Child Safety Conference as a result of concerns noted during the investigation.
Making a Determination:
Within 60 days or fewer, the Administration for Children’s Services will make a determination of whether or not the report is considered “Indicated” or “Unfounded.”
“Indicated” means that:
- A CPS found enough evidence to support the claim that a child/youth has been abused or neglected.
- Adults in the home will receive a letter from a CPS called a “Notice of Indication,” telling them that the report was indicated. The letter will also notify them of their right to ask for a review of that decision, which must be done within 60 days of the receipt of the letter.
“Unfounded” means that:
- A CPS did not find enough evidence to support the claim that a child/youth has been abused or neglected.
- Adults in the home will receive a letter from the New York State Central Register that the report was unfounded.
- Adults in the home may still be offered preventive services (including counseling for substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, etc.) to help support their family.
Outcomes of Child Protective Investigation:
The case is:
- Closed with ACS, no services are needed.
- Referred to a community-based organization and closed with ACS.
- Referred to a ACS contacted preventive provider in the family’s community, CPS closes its investigation.
- When there are heighted concerns but the child/youth will remain in the community with their parent/caretakers, the family can be referred to family court for court ordered supervision. The family court could mandate the parent/caretaker to participate in services and for heightened oversight.
- When a child/youth cannot remain safely in the community with their parent/caretakers a child may be temporarily placed in out-of-home care.