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).