New York: Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect for Mandated Reporters (348)Page 7 of 16

6. Legal Protections

The more training mandated reporters receive, the more confident they feel in making good decisions about their duties to report suspected child maltreatment. While most states have penalties for failure to report, they are often minor and/or rarely imposed (Krase, 2024).

A mandated reporter who fails to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000) and subject to criminal penalties. Additionally, mandated reporters can be sued in a civil court for monetary damages for any harm caused by the mandated reporter's failure to make a report to the SCR (NYSOFCS, 2024 April).

CPS is required by law to refer to the appropriate law enforcement agency or district attorney any case where CPS suspects the reporter knowingly made a false report of child abuse or maltreatment. Any person making a child abuse or maltreatment report who knows the information reported to be false or baseless may be guilty of a class A misdemeanor (NYSOCFS, 2023).

6.1 Immunity from Liability

NY Social Services Law (SSL §419) provides immunity from liability for mandated reporters who report to the Statewide Central Register. If the report was made in good faith, a mandated reporter is immune from any criminal or civil liability. The good faith of a mandated reporter is presumed. Thus, if someone accuses you of making a false report in bad faith, they must prove gross negligence or willful misconduct on your part.

6.2 Source Confidentiality

Social Services Law provides confidentiality for mandated reporters and all sources of child abuse and maltreatment reports. OCFS and local CPS units are not permitted to release to the subject of the report any data that would identify the source of a report unless the source has given written permission for them to do so. Information regarding the source of the report may be shared with court officials, police, and district attorneys, but only in certain circumstances (NYSOFCS, 2024 April).

6.3 Protection from Retaliatory Personnel Action

Section 413 of the Social Services Law specifies that no medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency shall take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee who made a report to the Statewide Central Register. Furthermore, no school, school official, childcare provider, foster care provider, or mental health facility provider shall impose any conditions, including prior approval or prior notification, upon a member of their staff mandated to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment (NYSOFCS, 2024 April).

6.4 Mandated Reporter Records

Upon request, CPS may obtain from the mandated reporter any records that are essential to a full investigation of alleged child abuse and maltreatment. The mandated reporter must determine which records are essential to the full investigation and provide those records to CPS when requested to do so. Within 60 days of initiating the investigation, CPS will determine whether the report is indicated or unfounded. Mandated reporters may ask to be informed of the outcome of the report (NYSOFCS, 2024 April).

Written reports from mandated reporters are admissible in evidence in any proceedings relating to child abuse or maltreatment. It is important to be aware that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations state that HIPAA privacy rules do not apply to reporting of child abuse. Exceptions stipulate that healthcare providers suspecting child abuse or maltreatment must make a report and provide material in accordance with state law (NYSOCFS, 2023).

The mandated reporter makes the first determination of what information being sought by CPS is essential to its investigation. If CPS is requesting additional information that the reporter is unwilling to release, CPS should clearly explain how the records are pertinent. If the reporter still does not produce the reports, CPS can provide an appropriate authorization or release, or obtain a court order requiring the records be produced (NYSOCFS, 2023).

6.5 The Abandoned Infant Protection Act

New York State’s Abandoned Infant Protection Act (AIPA) allows a person who abandons an infant to avoid criminal liability. The person must, however, act in a safe manner that will not result in physical harm to the infant.

In 2010, the law removed criminal liability for the crimes of Abandonment of a Child and Endangering Welfare of a Child when a parent, guardian, or other legally responsible person abandons an infant under the following conditions:

  1. The abandoned infant is no more than 30 days old;
  2. The person who abandons the infant intends that the infant will be safe from physical injury and appropriately cared for;
  3. The person leaves the infant with an appropriate person or leaves the baby in a suitable location and immediately notifies an appropriate person of the infant’s location; and
  4. The person must intend to wholly abandon the infant by relinquishing responsibility for and rights to the care and custody of the infant (NYSOCFS, 2016).

AIPA does not affect the responsibilities of a mandated reporter, amend the law regarding mandated reporters, nor does it change or lessen a reporter’s obligations. Mandated reporters who learn of an abandoned infant, even if they do not know the name of the person leaving the child, must make a report to the SCR (NYSOCFS, 2016).