This course meets the continuing education recommendation for coursework in Child Abuse and Maltreatment for New York mandated reporters.
Certificate of Completion: Upon completion you will receive a general certificate of completion. We will send you, via U.S. mail, a second “Certificate of Completion” form required by the NY State Education Department. You must complete that form, submit the original to the Department of Education, then return a copy to us.
Defines child abuse, maltreatment, and neglect, plus mandated reporters and requirements for reporting as defined by New York State. Presents indicators of possible mistreatment, including both physical and behavioral signs.
The following information applies to occupational therapy professionals:
Criteria for Successful Completion
80% or higher on the post test, a completed evaluation form, and payment where required. No partial credit will be awarded.
Objectives: When you finish this course you will be able to:
Underreporting of suspected child abuse has long been a problem, and while every state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories mandate reporting by certain individuals (US DHHS, 2018; CDC, 2014, 2014a; Peterson et al., 2014), and most require training for those reporters, the problem remains. Reasons cited for not reporting include confusion or misunderstanding about how and what to report and lack of knowledge about the signs of mistreatment, but research has demonstrated that the reasons are often more complex and can involve personal concerns, system concerns, social constraints, and conflicting loyalties (Guttman, 2015; Hudson, 2017; Krase, 2018; Wolfe, 2012).
Research has also found that the more training mandated reporters receive the more confident they feel in making good decisions about their duties to report suspected child maltreatment (Lusk, 2014; Wolfe, 2012). While most states have penalties for failure to report, they are often minor and/or rarely imposed (Hudson, 2017; Krase, 2018; Steffen, 2016; Wolfe, 2012).
The recognition of child abuse in its multiple forms—physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect—came to the fore in the twentieth century and remains a considerable social and public health problem throughout the world as well as in the United States. The national estimate of children who received a child protective services (CPS) investigation response or alternative response increased 9.5% from 2012 (3,172,000) to 2016 (3,472,000).
The number and rate of victims have fluctuated during the past 5 years but the national estimate over that period shows an increase of 3% in the number of victims, from 656,000 in 2012 to 676,000 in 2016. Of these 2016 victims, it is estimated that 1,750 children died of abuse and neglect (DHHS, 2018). Over that same period, New York has experienced a 3.8% decline in the number of children receiving an investigation or alternative response, a 4.8% decline in the number of child victims, and a slight decrease in the number of child fatalities, which although they had risen in 2013 and 2014 were lower in 2016 than in 2012 (DHHS, 2018).
That said, any amount of child abuse and neglect is too much. And, as noted above, it is believed that these numbers likely underestimate how many children are affected by maltreatment because many cases go unreported or undetected. A non-CPS study has estimated that 25% of U.S. children experience some form of child maltreatment in their lifetimes (CDC, 2017; 2014).
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion (CDC, 2014b). In addition, survivors of child abuse can be left with physical and emotional scars that last a lifetime. Children who have experienced abuse and neglect are at increased risk of adverse health outcomes and risky health behaviors in adolescence and adulthood. Child maltreatment has been linked to higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, smoking, multiple sexual partners, suicide, and chronic disease (CDC, 2014b).
The most recent data for New York State (calendar year 2016) show that for every 1000 children in the state 43.8 were named as an alleged victim of abuse/maltreatment in at least one CPS report, and for 14.5 of every 1000 children the allegations were substantiated. There were totals of 191,769 alleged victims and 63,578 substantiated victims (NYOCFS, 2017a).
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that, nationwide, neglect represents the largest percentage of cases of child maltreatment, and the same holds true in New York State.
Types of Maltreatment, 2016
Type of maltreatment
New York State
Federal legislation provides guidance to states by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:
This definition of child abuse and neglect refers specifically to parents and other caregivers. A “child” under this definition generally means a person who is younger than age 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.
While CAPTA provides definitions for sexual abuse and the special cases of neglect related to withholding or failing to provide medically indicated treatment, it does not provide specific definitions for other types of maltreatment such as physical abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. Although federal legislation sets minimum standards for states that accept CAPTA funding, each state provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes (DHHS, 2018).
Guided by the minimum standards set by federal law, individual states have their own definitions of child abuse and neglect, and in addition each state has mandatory reporting laws that require certain professionals and institutions to report suspected child maltreatment to a child protective services (CPS) agency. These people are called mandated reporters (DHHS, 2018). As mandated reporters, healthcare professionals are in a unique position to recognize and report abuse that is perpetrated on these helpless victims.
In the 1973 Child Protective Services Act: New York, in order to protect children who are victims of abuse or maltreatment, created a child protective system in statute with five fundamental components:
Today the laws that guide New York CPS services are Article 6, Title 6 of the Social Services Law and Article 10 of the Family Court Act. The entirety of both can be found online through the New York State Legislature's Website (http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/navigate.cgi). [Laws/Laws of New York/Social Services (SOS)/Article 6/Title 6 AND Laws/Laws of New York/scroll down to Court Acts and choose FCT/Article 10.]
Article 6, Title 6. CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES includes the following sections:
411 - Findings and purpose.
412 - General definitions.
413 - Persons and officials required to report cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment.
414 - Any person permitted to report.
415 - Reporting procedure.
416 - Obligations of persons required to report.
417 - Taking a child into protective custody.
418 - Mandatory reporting to and post-mortem investigation of deaths by medical examiner or coroner.
419 - Immunity from liability.
420 - Penalties for failure to report.
421 - Responsibility of the office.
422 - Statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment.
422-A - Child abuse and neglect investigations; disclosure.
422-B - Local and regional fatality review teams.
422-C - Establishment of the child abuse medical provider program (CHAMP).
423 - Child protective service responsibilities and organization; purchase of service and reimbursement of cost; local plan.
423-A - Child advocacy centers established.
424 - Duties of the child protective service concerning reports of abuse or maltreatment.
424-A - Access to information contained in the statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment.
424-B - Children in the care of certain public and private agencies.
425 - Cooperation of other agencies.
426 - Annual reports.
427 - Regulations of the commissioner.
427-A - Differential response programs for child protection assessments or investigations.
428 - Separability.
New York State recognizes that certain professionals are specially equipped to perform the important role of mandated reporter of child abuse or maltreatment. These include:
This list is periodically revised and updated through legislation.
In addition, since January 1, 1989 the New York State Education Law has required certain individuals, when initially applying for licensure or a limited permit, to show that they have completed the required training in the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment. Periodically since 1989 the list of covered professions and specific requirements has been expanded. Complete information can be obtained from the NYS Education Department (NYSED, 2017a).
A mandated reporter is required in the state of New York to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment when they are presented with a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment in a situation where a child, parent, or other person legally responsible for the child is before the mandated reporter when the mandated reporter is acting in his or her official or professional capacity (SSL §413; NYSOCFS, 2016).
While anyone may make a report of suspected abuse, reports made by mandated reporters are more likely to be registered—accepted by the SCR for further investigation. It seems likely that this is due, at least in part, to better reporting based on training and professional awareness (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Numerous pieces of legislation related to mandatory reporters and reporting have been introduced in the New York legislature in recent years. The only one enacted occurred in 2014 when New York began requiring school athletic directors and school personnel or other persons required to hold a temporary coaching license or professional coaching certificate to report cases of suspected child abuse (NCSL, 2012–2015). However, as of April 2018, there is a bill pending in the New York State Legislature (Senate Bill S2158A) that would “require mandated reporters to report to law enforcement suspected child abuse involving a person in a position of authority or a position of trust” (NY State Senate, 2018).
Did You Know . . .
Any other person who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or maltreated may also report (SS Law § 414).
[This section is taken directly from NYS SSL §413.]
A mandated reporter’s role is, while acting in their professional or official capacity, to:
Report suspected incidents of child abuse or maltreatment/neglect.
Make the report to the SCR immediately upon the development of reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment.
New York’s Social Services Law §413 requires reports when:
The law also states that (1) whenever a mandated reporter is required to report as a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency, he or she shall make the report as required—reports must contain the names of all other staff persons with direct knowledge of the allegations—but the law does not require more than one report from the agency for a single incident; and, (2) no retaliatory personnel action is allowed (SSL §413; NYSOCFS, 2016).
Social service workers only are additionally required to report or cause a report to be made when any person comes before them in their professional or official capacity with information from personal knowledge that causes them to have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is an abused or maltreated child [SSL §413(1)(d)].
All other mandated reporters are required to report or cause a report to be made only when confronted with a child who they suspect to be abused or maltreated or when a parent, guardian, custodian or other person legally responsible for a child provides information which, if true, would mean that child was abused or maltreated [SSL §413(1)(a)]. Further, any person is permitted to report any reasonable suspicion of abuse or maltreatment no matter how that information is brought to their attention [SSL §414], and OCFS encourages such reporting (NYSOCFS, 2017, Chapter 2, page A‑2).
Institutional Reporting Paradigm
Source: NYSOCFS, 2017.
If a person is acting within the scope of their employment or carrying out functions as part of the duties and responsibilities of their profession, they are acting in a professional capacity (NYSOCFS, 2016).
For example, healthcare providers examining a child in their practice who have a reasonable suspicion of abuse must report the concern. However, if the same person witnesses child abuse while playing tennis at a local park, he or she is not mandated to report that abuse. Mandated reporters’ legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment ceases when they stop practicing their profession. As noted above, however, anyone may report any suspected abuse or maltreatment at any time (NYSOCFS, 2016).
The Social Service Law provides immunity from liability for mandated reporters who report to the SCR, and this can be especially important for a reporter concerned about legal obligations as a reporter and legal obligations to client or patient confidentiality. 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 (SSL §419, NYSOCFS, 2017, 2016, 2011).
New York’s Social Service Law provides confidentiality to those who make a report. OCFS and local CPS 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 them written permission to do so. Information regarding the source of the report may be shared with certain individuals (eg, courts, police, district attorney), but only as provided by law (SSL §422(4)(A), NYSOCFS, 2016).
Section 413 of the Social Services Law, which defines mandated reporters, also specifies that no medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency shall take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee who makes a report to the SCR. Furthermore, no school, school official, childcare provider, foster care provider, residential care facility provider, hospital, medical institution 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 (SSL §413, NYSOCFS, 2016).
Anytime mandated reporters suspect child abuse or maltreatment—and fail to report it—they can be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This misdemeanor can result in a penalty of up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. In addition, a mandated reporter who fails to make a required report to the SCR can be sued in civil court for monetary damages for any harm caused by the failure to report, including wrongful death (NYSOCFS, 2017, 2016).
The New York Social Services Law contains a provision (§422.14) by which suspected cases of false reporting of child abuse to the SCR can be referred to an appropriate law enforcement agency or district attorney. Such false reports are a violation of the Penal Law (Section 240.50(4).
Section 415 of the Social Services Law requires mandated reporters who make a report to the SCR that results in an investigation of an allegation of child abuse or maltreatment to comply with all requests made by CPS for records relating to that report. This includes information that may be covered by privileges stipulated in state law (eg, psychologist-client privilege) and any other law to the contrary (SSL §415, NYSOCFS, 2017).
Records available to CPS include:
The purpose for requesting these records is to facilitate a full investigation of allegations of child abuse or maltreatment. Disclosure of substance abuse treatment records, however, is regulated by federal law and must follow that law’s standards and procedures (NYSOCFS, 2017).
Written reports from mandated reporters shall be admissible in evidence in any proceedings relating to child abuse or maltreatment. It is important to be aware that “federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations [45 CFR 160.203(c)] state that HIPAA privacy rules do not apply to reporting of child abuse.” Exceptions stipulate that healthcare providers suspecting child abuse or maltreatment must report it and provide material in accordance with state law (NYSOCFS, 2017).
The mandated reporter, as the owner of the records, makes the first determination of what information being sought by CPS is essential to its investigation. If CPS is requesting additional information essential to the report 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, 2017).
Did You Know . . .
Disclosure of substance abuse treatment records is regulated by federal law.
Under New York law, children are defined as individuals from birth up to 18 years of age. Thus, one cannot report prenatal abuse, but if a child is born with neonatal drug withdrawal a report can be made. In addition, youth no more than 21 years of age who have handicapping conditions and are in residential care in certain New York schools for the blind or deaf or in private residential schools for special education services may also be reported to the SCR (NYSOCFS, 2011).
If you suspect child abuse and maltreatment, first consider the child. Carefully review what has happened to the child to make you believe there is harm or risk of harm. Consider how the parent or other legally responsible person may be culpable for this condition. In other words, always start with the child and his or her condition and then examine the involvement of the parent or person legally responsible for the child’s care (NYSOCFS, 2011).
In order to determine if there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse or maltreatment, it is important to understand the relevant legal definitions. Generally, maltreatment involves the quality of care a child receives, while abuse reflects the seriousness of the injury. There needs to be a connection between the harm or substantial likelihood of harm and the actions or inactions of the person responsible for the child. You do not need to know if the incident is abuse or maltreatment in order to make a report. That determination will be made by the SCR or by the local CPS during its investigation (NY ACS, 2018; NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011; Monroe County, 2003).
Use the following definitions as guidelines to help you determine if there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse or maltreatment. In addition, refer to the Family Court Act §1012 (e).
Subject inflicts or allows to be inflicted on a child serious physical injury [such as burns, fractures, head trauma, and internal injuries] by other than accidental means
Such action causes or creates a substantial risk of death or serious or protracted disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health or impairment of the function of any bodily organ
Subject creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury to the child by other than accidental means
Such action causes or creates a substantial risk of death or serious or protracted disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health or or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ
Subject commits or allows to be committed a sex offense as described in Article 130 of the Penal Law:
Subject permits or encourages the child to engage in any act described in Sec. 230.25, 230.30, or 230.32 of the Penal Law (promoting prostitution)
Subject commits any acts described in Sec. 255.25, 255.26, or 255.27 of the Penal Law (incest)
Subject allows child to engage in acts described in Article 263 of the Penal Law:
Subject permits or encourages such child to engage in any act or commits or allows to be committed against such child any offense that would render such child either a victim of sex trafficking or a victim of severe forms of trafficking in persons pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 7102 as enacted by public. law 106-386 or any successor federal statute.
Source: NYSOCFS, 2016.
The terms maltreatment and neglect are often used interchangeably. Both terms have legal foundation in the CPS system. Maltreatment is the term used in the Social Services Law and neglect is used in the Family Court Act.
Maltreatment, as defined in the Social Services Law, includes:
A child whose physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired or placed in imminent danger of impairment
There is a causal connection between the child’s condition and the subject’s failure to exercise a minimum degree of care
The parent has abandoned the child by demonstrating an intent to forego his or her parental rights and obligations by failing to visit the child or communicate with the child though able to do so
Source: NYSOCFS, n.d.-f
Types of neglect
Source: NYSOCFS, n.d.-f.
New York State allows reasonable physical correction of a child but excessive corporal punishment is an indicator of neglect (see list above). Defining excessive corporal punishment is always a case-by-case consideration and you do not have to be able to define it in order to make a report to the SCR (NYSOCFS, 2011). [See Family Court Act §1012 (c)(i) and Penal Law §35:10(1).]
When evaluating a situation involving potential excessive corporal punishment it may help to ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered yes to any of these questions it may indicate the punishment was excessive (NYSOCFS, 2011).
The connection between corporal punishment and child abuse or maltreatment has proven to be a sticky problem across the country for state legislatures, courts, and child protective services. Decisions turn on definitions in statutes and a variety of larger legal arguments (Coleman et al., 2010; Gundersen, 2018).
In addition to other factors, determinations about excessive corporal punishment may consider whether it was inflicted using devices (cords, brushes, wooden spoons, or other implements) and to a part of the body that is more vulnerable (eg, head, face, abdomen) especially if it results in identifiable markings as a result (“pattern injuries,” eg, ligature marks, cord marks, brush patterns, burns, bite marks).
As with any report to the New York State hotline, use the guidance in this course to evaluate a situation and if you have reasonable cause to suspect child maltreatment, make the report. Trained personnel will then investigate and make the appropriate determination.
When evaluating a situation to determine if there is reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment/neglect based on injuries to the child, keep in mind the following points:
Accidental childhood injuries usually involve bony areas such as shins, elbows, and knees. Toddlers learning to walk will fall and skin or bruise these areas, just as slightly older children may do the same thing while learning to ride a bicycle. Suspicious injuries usually occur in areas that are not susceptible to accidental injuries, given the age of the child, and may include the back, buttocks, and backs of thighs or calves (NYSOCFS, 2017, 2011).
Finally, if an injury was serious but appropriate treatment was delayed or omitted, especially in a case where the mechanism of injury does not match the injuries as seen, there may be reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment/neglect.
New York State’s Abandoned Infant Protection Act (AIPA) is intended to save the lives of unwanted newborns by allowing 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 (NYSOCFS, 2016a, 2015, n.d.-c).
This law first went into effect in July 2000 and was amended in August 2010. The amendments 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:
For more information on the Abandoned Infant Protection Act, call 866 505-SAFE (7233).
It is important to note that AIPA does not affect the responsibilities of a mandated reporter. AIPA does not amend the law regarding mandated reporters, nor does it change or lessen their 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, 2016a, 2015).
Indicators, or signs, of child abuse or maltreatment are alerts or warnings that you need to give more attention to a situation (CWIG, 2013a; NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011, n.d.; Monroe County, 2003).
The three types of indicators to consider are:
Sometimes a situation will be straightforward. For example, a baby born with a positive toxicology, a child with the handprint of a slap showing on their face, or a direct disclosure made by a child give clear support for reasonable cause to suspect. However, more often the situation will require that you pull together several indicators or clusters of indicators. The lists that follow identify many common indicators of possible abuse or maltreatment, but these should not be considered in isolation from the child’s current condition or circumstances (how they look and act). In addition, signs may sometimes appear contradictory (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Consider each of your unique experiences with children when you are assessing a situation. Sometimes you will have had regular interactions with a child and other times you will see a child only once. Consider what you know of the child and appropriate age and developmental norms. Keep in mind that children are individuals and will not necessarily react in the same way to a given situation (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Also, be aware of the parent or other legally responsible individual’s behavior. If the information you are getting suggests abuse or maltreatment, ask yourself the following questions: Is this explanation plausible? Is the person repeating gossip or speaking from personal knowledge? What specifically are they saying about the child’s condition or behavior? (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Never assume abuse or maltreatment. Conversely, many abused and maltreated children may not show any of these indicators (NYSOCFS, n.d.).
Child’s physical indicators
Unexplained lacerations or abrasions
Child’s behavioral indicators
Parent’s behavioral indicators
Frequent partner changes
Child’s physical indicators
Child’s behavioral indicators
Parent’s behavioral indicators
Child’s physical indicators
Child’s behavioral indicators
Parent’s behavioral indicators
Child’s Physical Indicators
Child’s behavioral indicators
Parent’s behavioral indicators
Most of the time suspicions of child abuse and maltreatment will develop from things that you observe about a child’s physical condition or behavior or in the behavior of the child’s parent or other legally responsible person. However, sometimes a child will say something to reveal that he or she is possibly being abused or maltreated and you want to be prepared to act in a supportive way without frightening the child or promising something you can’t follow through on. Stress that the child is not at fault for the situation or for others’ actions (NYSOCFS, 2011; RAINN, 2018).
Many healthcare and social services professionals receive training in talking to children and that knowledge can be applied when dealing with children who are possible victims of abuse or maltreatment. However, always keep in mind that your responsibility is to assess for reasonable cause to suspect and make the necessary report, not to investigate or interrogate (NYSOCFS, 2011; RAINN, 2018).
There are specific guidelines for cases where sexual abuse is suspected, so once a child reveals information that makes suspect such abuse you need to avoid talking in detail with the child about the incident. Specially trained CPS and law enforcement professionals will often work together to interview a child at the same time and it will be a traumatic experience for the child to relive. As a mandated reporter you want to minimize discussion of the incident with the child (NYSOCFS, 2011; RAINN, 2018).
You are not legally required to inform the parents or other person legally responsible for the child that you are making a report to the SCR. Do not assume the parent will be supportive of the child. It is always possible that informing the parent will further jeopardize the child’s situation and risk more harm. If you have questions or concerns about informing the parents contact your local CPS (NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
Knowing who has caused harm to a child is a significant factor in determining how to proceed (NYSOCFS, 2011). The person legally responsible may be a:
The SCR only registers reports against a parent, guardian, or other person eighteen years of age or older who is legally responsible for the child (SSL §412.4; NY State Assembly 2014; NYSOCFS, 2011).
According to the Family Court Act, persons legally responsible include the child's custodian, guardian, or any other person 18 years old or older responsible for the child's care at the relevant time. This includes any person continually or at regular intervals found in the same household as the child when the conduct of such person causes or contributes to the abuse or maltreatment of the child (Fam. Ct. Act §1012(g); NYSOCFS, 2011).
Once the SCR registers a report, the person named as causing the harm to the child becomes the subject of the report. Additional information and definitions may be found in the Social Services Law §412 (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Teachers in most public or private schools do not qualify as subjects of reports when they are acting as teachers. They may be subjects when the incident involves their own child or a child for whom they have legal responsibility outside their role as a teacher (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Reasonable cause to suspect means that, based on what you have observed or been told, combined with your training and experience, you feel that harm or imminent danger of harm to the child could be the result of an act or omission by the person legally responsible for the child (NY State Assembly 2014; NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
Distrust or doubt is enough; inconsistent explanations that do not match your observations or knowledge may be the cause of reasonable suspicion. You do not have to be positive nor do you have to have proof the abuse or maltreatment is occurring or has occurred. When you have reasonable cause to suspect, it is your duty as a mandated reporter to call the SCR immediately and make a report (NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
Your duty is not relieved because another agency or individual has filed or may have filed a report. You must file a report as well. The sooner an incident is reported, the sooner protection for the child and assistance to the family can be provided. In addition, what you observe may be different from what others report and all the information together is relevant for the SCR to make a determination about registering a report (NYSOCFS, 2011). However, keep in mind the instructions noted above for reporting in an institutional setting.
Remember: Crimes committed against children should be directly reported to law enforcement. If you are not certain if an action is criminal, you can contact the SCR anyway, as they are trained to make the appropriate distinctions and can make a Law Enforcement Referral (LER). In cases of imminent danger, it may be necessary to contact law enforcement.
Imminent danger means that the child is placed at immediate risk or substantial risk of harm (NYSOCFS, 2011; Monroe County, 2003).
Imminent danger measures the distance between a child and the harm created by a parent’s (or other person legally responsible) actions or failure to act. The danger to the child must be immediate or nearly immediate. One must apply the standard of reasonableness: Ask yourself, “Is it reasonable to believe an intervening factor could occur?” If the answer is yes, then there is no immediate danger. If the answer is no then it is reasonable to assume that harm could occur and there is imminent danger (NYSOCFS, 2011).
For example, if a parent swings an object at a child’s head and misses, the danger is imminent. The only additional thing needed for injury would have been for the parent to succeed rather than miss and it is reasonable to believe this could have happened (NYSOCFS, 2011).
If a child is imminent danger, call 911 or the police department first, and then call the SCR. Scenarios in which such action might be appropriate could include a parent who arrives to pick up their child from an appointment but is driving their own car, smells of alcohol, and has clearly been drinking; or a home visit reveals several young children fighting while in the care of a 12-year-old sibling who cannot control them and has no idea where the parents are.
Any time you need to analyze a situation for reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment, you can use the following four questions to organize your thinking:
What indicators are present?
Is there reasonable cause to suspect abuse or maltreatment?
Is there a person responsible for the suspected abuse or maltreatment?
What are your next steps?
What indicators are present?
Is there reasonable cause to suspect abuse or maltreatment?
Is there a person responsible for the suspected abuse or maltreatment?
What are your next steps?
As soon as a mandated reporter suspects abuse or maltreatment, an oral report must be made by calling the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). The SCR is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to receive calls (NYSOCFS, 2016).
Mandated Reporter Express Line:
800 635 1522
Note: This number is for mandated reporters only and should not be given to anyone else.
One county has its own localized hotline that may be used instead of the SCR hotline for reports involving children living in that county:
Onondaga County: 315 422 9701
For reporting abuse by Institutional Staff:
855 373 2122
For non-mandated reporters, or those not acting in a professional capacity, the number to call is:
800 342 3720
The Protection of People with Special Needs Act (Act) requires persons who are Mandated Reporters under that Act to report Abuse, Neglect and Significant Incidents involving vulnerable persons to the Vulnerable Persons’ Central Register (VPCR) operated by the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (http://www.justicecenter.ny.gov/).
Under the Act, persons who are mandated reporters to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment are also mandated reporters to the VPCR, with the exception of day care providers and staff. Day care providers and staff are mandated reporters to the SCR, but not to the VPCR.
Effective June 30, 2013, persons who are Mandated Reporters under the Act have a legal duty to:
855 373 2122.
Note: If you are confused about where to call, the trained professionals at either location can help you get to the right place. The most important thing is to make the call!
Your call will be answered by a CPS specialist trained to help you through the process of making a report. You need to be prepared to articulate your concerns clearly and concisely, and to provide as much information as you can to help the CPS specialist make a determination.
You may find that using the LDSS-2221A form (which you will eventually have to submit if your call is registered) will help you organize your thoughts and gather the information you have in preparation for making the call. While at this point the child’s welfare is your priority rather than completing the form, the CPS specialist is going to ask you many of the same questions that appear on the form (NYSOCFS, 2016, 2016a, 2014, 2011, n.d.-d, -e).
In order to gather information to make a report you should ask yourself the following questions:
The CPS specialist will want to know your suspicions and concerns relative to the child and if the child has been subjected to harm and why. If you have close and consistent contact with a child this may give you an advantage in assessing the situation. In addition, you will need to provide some identifying information so the local CPS agency will be able to locate the child (SSL §415; New York State Assembly, 2014; NYSOCFS, 2011).
Did You Know . . .
When registering a report, you may ask to be contacted directly by the local CPS agency that is assigned to the report.
Just because you are calling as a mandated reporter does not mean your report will automatically be registered. If your report is not registered, the reason should be clearly explained to you and you should be offered the opportunity to speak with a supervisor. Supervisors are on duty all the time and if you are not satisfied with the result of your interview with the CPS specialist, you should ask to speak with one. Some reports are not registered because CPS intervention is not the appropriate response. In those cases, preventive services may be needed and you can call the local CPS directly to obtain a referral for the family (NYSOCFS, 2011).
If your report is registered, be sure to ask for and write down the call identification number assigned to your report and the full name of the CPS specialist who took your report. You can also request a “Summary of Findings”: a brief report made by the local agency after the investigation and its outcome are complete (NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
If your call to the SCR indicates an immediate threat to a child’s health or safety—or a crime—but the report is not registerable, the SCR staff will send the information to the New York State Police Information Network, or to the New York City Police Department for necessary action. These types of calls are referred to as Law Enforcement Referrals (LERs). They are not registered SCR reports and are not assigned a call identification number. If you are a mandated reporter in an LER situation you do not need to file the LDSS-2221-A form (NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
If your report is registered you will be given a call identification number, which you will need to note in the space marked at the upper right corner of the form LDSS-2221A. Two copies of this form must be forwarded to the local CPS agency within 48 hours of your oral report. The LDSS-2221A form and contact information for local CPS agencies are available from the OCFS website at www.ocfs.state.ny.us and from local social services departments (New York State Assembly, 2014; NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011, n.d.-d).
As soon as you complete your call to the SCR you must immediately notify the person in charge (or their designated agent) at your institution, school, facility, or agency and give them the information you reported to the SCR, including the names of other persons identified as having direct knowledge of the alleged abuse or maltreatment and other mandated reporters identified as having reasonable cause to suspect. Once people in charge (or their agents) has been notified of the report to the SCR, they become responsible for all subsequent administration concerning the report, including preparation and submission of the form LDSS-2221A (see earlier section on institutional reporting paradigm).
The flowchart below shows the life cycle of a report called in to the SCR. Once a call report is made, the CPS specialist determines if it is registered or not registered. If it is not registered but there is a crime or imminent danger to a child they will make an LER (NYSOCFS, 2011).
If a report is registered it is immediately transmitted to the local CPS agency, which must begin an investigation within 24 hours. Some reports may require emergency action but these are often difficult decisions and the local caseworker will usually consult with their supervisor and the source of the report in order to make such a decision (NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
The local CPS has 60 days to conduct the investigation, which will encompass two interrelated and simultaneous processes:
During its investigation caseworkers, in addition to visiting the family, may call or visit relatives, schools, doctors, hospitals, police and any other service provider or agency that might have information about the child. The local CPS must assess the safety, risk, and well-being of the child identified in the report and any other children living in the home. After evaluating all information collected, caseworkers make a determination (New York State Assembly, 2014; NYSOCFS, 2016, 2011).
If a report is determined to be unfounded—no credible evidence was found—it is sealed and will be expunged ten years after receipt. In some situations, unfounded cases may be referred for community services (New York State Assembly, 2014; NYSOCFS, 2011).
If the investigation reveals credible evidence—evidence “worthy of belief”—the report remains on file at the agency. If a service plan was developed, provision of the services is monitored, and once services are no longer needed, the case is closed (New York State Assembly, 2014; NYSOCFS, 2011).
Child abuse and maltreatment or neglect are serious problems that affect people from all walks of life all across the country. “During 2014, the [New York] SCR hotline received 294,356 calls, which resulted in 156,515 reports being electronically transmitted to LDSSs [local departments of social services] for further action. The SCR handled 262,000 Database Check Clearance requests, 8,000 Administrative Review requests and received 12,000 Requests for Information” (NYOCFS, 2014).
The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral, or societal consequences; in reality, however, it is impossible to separate them completely. Physical consequences such as damage to a child’s growing brain can have psychological implications such as cognitive delays or emotional difficulties. Psychological problems often manifest as high-risk behavior. Depression and anxiety may make a person more likely to smoke, abuse drugs or alcohol, or overeat. High-risk behaviors, in turn, can lead to long-term physical health problems such as sexually transmitted infections, cancer, or obesity. Furthermore, children who are abused are at increased risk of abusing their own children (CWIG, 2013).
The State of New York requires that certain professionals intercede on behalf of the helpless victims of child abuse by making an official report when they have reasonable cause to suspect that such abuse may be taking place. These professionals, called mandated reporters, are in a unique position to help interrupt the complex and damaging cycle of violence that results from child abuse and maltreatment/neglect.
52 Washington Street
Rensselaer, New York 12144-2834
To report abuse or neglect
800 342 3720
TDD/TTY: 800 638 5163
855 373 2122
4 Global View
Troy, NY 12180
Phone: 518 880 3592
Fax: 518 880 3566
Parent Helpline: 1-800-CHILDREN (800 244 5373) (9am–10pm daily)
Provides information and resources for kids, parents, and concerned citizens.
Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Topics: Child Abuse and Neglect, Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect, Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017). Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. Retrieved March 25, 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/index.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014). Understanding Child Maltreatment: Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/CM-FactSheet-a.pdf.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014a). Child Maltreatment: Facts at a Glance. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/childmaltreatment-facts-at-a-glance.pdf.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014b). Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect Rival Other Major Public Health Problems. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/EconomicCost.html.
Coleman DL, Dodge KA, Campbell SK. (2010). Where and how to draw the line between reasonable corporal punishment and abuse. Law and Contemporary Problems 73:107–65. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1568&context=lcp, or from: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol73/iss2/6/.
Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). (2015). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS), Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau.
Child Welfare Information Gateway CWIG). Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: State Statutes Current through August 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2018 from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/manda.pdf.
Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). (2013). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS), Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Fact sheet. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/long_term_consequences.pdf.
Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). (2013a). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS), Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. What Is Child Abuse and Neglect? Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved March 20, 2018 from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/whatiscan.pdf.
Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). (n.d.). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS), Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect in Federal Law. Retrieved March 25, 2018 from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/defining/federal/.
Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline. (2018). Retrieved March 28, 2018 from http://www.gundersenhealth.org/ncptc/center-for-effective-discipline/.
Guttman A. (2015). Why staff fail to report suspected child abuse: Strategies to ensure consistent reporting. Early childhood investigations. Retrieved March 30, 2018 from https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Slides-Why-Staff-Fail-to-Report-Suspected-Child-Abuse_Alan-Guttman_4-15-2015-1.pdf.
Hudson M. (2017). Four educators plead no contest for failure to report suspected child abuse. ABC57 News (WBND, South Bend, IN) Nov 16, 2017. Retrieved March 29, 2018 from http://www.abc57.com/news/four-teachers-accused-of-failing-to-report-suspected-child-abuse-plead-guilty.
Krase K. (2018). Social workers as mandated reporters: What If I don't report? Part VIII. The New Social Worker. Retrieved March 28, 2018 from http://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/practice/social-workers-as-mandated-reporters-what-if-i-dont-report/.
Lusk VL, Zibulsky J, Viezel K. (2015). Child maltreatment identification and reporting behavior of school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools 52(1). Retrieved March 26, 2018 from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/pits.21810.
Monroe County [New York] Department of Health and Human Services (NY DHHS). (2003). Child Abuse Reporting / Do Right By Kids. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from http://www.dorightbykids.org/. [Although this site’s given copyright date is old, most of the material is up to date and the discussions around definitions/terminology and ambiguous or nuanced situations can be illuminating.]
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (2016). Child Welfare Enacted Legislation Database, 2012–2016. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/2012-child-welfare-enacted-legislation-database.aspx.
New York City Administration for Children’s Services (NY ACS). (2018). Mandated Reporters. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://www1.nyc.gov/site/acs/child-welfare/mandated-reporters.page.
New York State Assembly. (2014). A Guide to New York's Child Protective Services System, 2014 revised edition. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Children/20140128/index.pdf.
New York State Education Department, Office of the Professions (NYSED). (2017). Mandated Training Related to Child Abuse. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from http://www.op.nysed.gov/training/camemo.htm.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2017a). Child Protective Services Manual. Retrieved March 15, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/cps_manual.asp. [The CPS Manual contains 15 chapters and each is dated according to its most recent update. All were most recently updated December 2017. Each chapter may be downloaded separately from the website.] [See also PowerPoint presentation available here: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/assets/2018Jan18-NYS-CPS-Manual-Presentation.pdf.]
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2017b). 2016 Bright Spots Data Package. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cfsr/data/brightspots/2016-Bright-Spots-Complete.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2016). Summary Guide for Mandated Reporters in New York State. Pub. 1159, rev. Feb 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/publications/Pub1159.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2016a). The Abandoned Infant Protection Act: Guidelines for Health and Safety Professionals. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from: http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/publications/Pub4749.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2016b). Report of Suspected Child Abuse or Maltreatment. For LDSS-2221A (Rev. 09/2016). Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/Forms/cps/LDSS-2221A.dot.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2015). Scared? Pregnant? Need Help? Retrieved April 1, 2018 from: http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/publications/Pub4745.pdf. Additional related information appears here: http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/publications/Pub4745text.asp.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2015a). Annual Report 2015. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/reports/2015%20OCFS%20Annual%20Report.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2014). Annual Report 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/reports/OCFS%20Annual%20Report%202014.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (2011). Mandated Reporter Trainer’s Resource Guide: Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect. Buffalo, NY: Research Foundation for SUNY/BSC/CDHS.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.) Signs of Child Abuse or Maltreatment. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/signs.asp.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.-a). Definitions of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/critical.asp.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.-b). Mandated Reporter Training: Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/ohrd/materials/58451.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.-c). Abandoned Infant Protection Act. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/safe/info.asp.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.-d). Mandated Reporter SCR Call Tip Sheet. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from http://www.nysmandatedreporter.org/files/Mandated%20Reporter%20SCR%20Call%20Tip%20Sheet.pdf.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.-e). Child Protective Services. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/faqs.asp.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). (n.d.-f). Family Court Act X 1012 Definitions (extraction). Retrieved April 2, 2018 from https://www.nysmandatedreporter.org/files/Family%20Court%20Act.pdf.
New York State Senate. (2018). Senate Bill S2158A. Retrieved March 31, 2018 from https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s2158/amendment/a.
Petersen AC, Joseph J, Feit M, et al. (2014). New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved March 25, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK195985/.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). (2018). If You Suspect A Child Is Being Harmed. Retrieved April 2, 2018 from https://www.rainn.org/articles/if-you-suspect-child-being-harmed.
Steffen J. (2016). Few punishments for those who fail to report abuse. The Denver Post, April 26, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2018 from https://www.denverpost.com/2014/07/04/few-punishments-for-those-who-fail-to-report-abuse/.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). (2018). Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2018). Child Maltreatment 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2018 from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2016.pdf.
Wolfe DS. (2012). Revisiting child abuse reporting laws. Social Work Today 12(2). Retrieved March 31, 2018 from http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/031912p14.shtml.