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Continuing Education for Health Professionals

NY: Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect for Mandated Reporters

Module 4

Defining Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect

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).

Definitions

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).

Physical Abuse

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

AND

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

OR

Subject creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury to the child by other than accidental means

AND

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

OR

Subject commits or allows to be committed a sex offense as described in Article 130 of the Penal Law:

  • Sexual misconduct
  • Rape
  • Criminal sexual act
  • Forcible touching
  • Persistent sexual abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Course of sexual conduct against a child
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance

OR

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)

OR

Subject commits any acts described in Sec. 255.25, 255.26, or 255.27 of the Penal Law (incest)

OR

Subject allows child to engage in acts described in Article 263 of the Penal Law:

  • Use of a child in a sexual performance
  • Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing a sexual performance by a child

OR

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.

 

Abuse

  • Inflicts or allows to be inflicted serious physical injury
  • Creates or allows to be created substantial risk of serious physical injury
  • Commits or allows to be committed sexual abuse

Source: NYSOCFS, 2016.

 

Maltreatment/Neglect

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

AND

  • The subject failed to exercise a minimum degree of care:
  • In supplying adequate food, clothing, shelter, or
  • In supplying adequate education, or
  • In supplying medical or dental care though financially able to do so, or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so, or
  • In providing proper supervision or guardianship, or
  • By inflicting excessive corporal punishment, or
  • By misuse of drugs or alcohol

AND

There is a causal connection between the child’s condition and the subject’s failure to exercise a minimum degree of care

OR

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

 

Maltreatment/Neglect

  • A child whose physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired or is at imminent danger of becoming impaired
  • A parent’s or custodian’s failure to provide a minimum degree of care

Source: NYSOCFS, n.d.-f

Types of neglect

  • Fails to provide:
    • Adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care
    • Proper supervision or guardianship

OR

  • Inflicts/allows to be inflicted harm, including the infliction of excessive corporal punishment
  • Misuses alcohol or other drugs
  • Abandonment

Source: NYSOCFS, n.d.-f.

 

Excessive Corporal Punishment

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:

  • Does the child have the capacity to understand the corrective quality of the discipline? Consider age, maturity, and the child’s physical and mental condition.
  • Is a less severe means of punishment available and likely to be effective?
  • Is the punishment unnecessarily degrading?
  • Was the punishment inflicted for gratification of parental rage?
  • Was the punishment brutal?
  • Did the punishment last for such a time that it surpassed a child’s power of endurance?

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.

Injury Locations

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:

  • Know the likely areas for normal versus suspicious injuries.
  • Consider the size and shape of the injury.
  • Consider the child’s developmental stage and related likely injuries.
  • If an explanation seems plausible, consider the child’s age and the location of the injury.

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.

The Abandoned Infant Protection Act

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:

  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 cared for appropriately;
  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, 2016a, 2015, n.d.-c).

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).

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