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NEW YORK CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT – PART 7: ANY PERSON MAY REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE, NELGECT AND/OR MALTREATMENT

In addition to the mandatory reporters I previously discussed, the Social Services Law specifically authorizes “any person” to make a report of suspected abuse or maltreatment when they have reasonable cause to believe a child is the victim of abuse or maltreatment. (Soc. Ser. Law § 414). While seemingly supported by good intentions, the ability of anyone to make a purely anonymous report of abuse or maltreatment poses a tremendous problem because New York treats any complaint, whether from a known source or a purely anonymous caller, the same. Each triggers what can probably be described as the most intrusive, humiliating, frightening and, far too often, constitutionally improper investigations into the inner most private workings of a family. And to repeat, this can all be triggered by a purely anonymous “tip”.
It is because New York treats anonymous reports the same as reports from known mandatory reporters; the nosey neighbor, the angry neighbor, the spurned ex-lover, the “do-gooder” we all can’t stand, the disgruntled parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt or any variety of wackos can throw one’s life into turmoil with a simple anonymous report to an abuse hotline. There have been cases where families have gone through entire investigations and hearings because a passing motorist saw a child “unattended” in the driveway of a home. Imagine you are watching your child from the porch, just 10 feet away, and because some passing motorist sees only your child, you become the subject of an abuse or neglect investigation.
If the allegations contained in the report, whether anonymous or from a know source, “could reasonably constitute a report of child abuse or maltreatment”, or “if true would constitute child abuse or maltreatment”, the report must be transmitted to the appropriate local child protective agency for investigation (Social Services Law § 422[2][a], [b] ). Therefore, as long as the false report made by an anonymous ex-boyfriend, disgruntled ex-spouse, nosey neighbor or whomever, makes out a plausible claim of abuse or maltreatment, you will be investigated. I have personally handled cases where a single parent has been the subject of repeated false anonymous reports all of which resulted in an investigation.
If you have been notified that you are the subject of a child abuse, neglect or maltreatment investigation by a child protective services agency or by the police, you have rights and you must know them. Contact Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-877-377-8666 for a free consultation or visit www.tilemandcampbell.com.

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One response to “NEW YORK CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT – PART 7: ANY PERSON MAY REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE, NELGECT AND/OR MALTREATMENT”

  1. Karen says:

    It seems to me that these investigations are generally violative of people’s constitutional rights (requiring them to let strangers into their homes, reveal personal information and provide access to medical records, etc. — and if they are not “cooperative,” they risk having their children taken away!). Most importantly, these investigations are all too often NOT in the best interests of the children involved. CPS appears to be a plague upon society, rather than a protective shield for children. As we see time and time again, the children who really need CPS are almost never helped. By contrast, frequently, innocent families are bombarded with improper investigations resulting from either nosey neighbors or schools simply looking to protect themselves from “potential” litigation down the line if they do not report every minor scratch a child suffers from. And mandatory reporters are heavily protected in the law, so that, even if their calls are triggered by something that no reasonable person would believe should trigger such an intrusive investigation, they will not be subject to any review — much like the anonymous caller. What is this world coming to?