TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the social services law and the mental hygiene law, in
relation to reports of abuse or neglect in residential facilities or
Relates to reports of abuse or neglect of children in residential facil-
ities or programs.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1. Amends section 424-c of the social services law to provide
that the Commissioner of Children and Family Services give telephone
notice and immediately forward a copy of statutorily required reports
detailing delineated acts of sexual of physical abuse of a child to
appropriate law enforcement. Provides a local law enforcement agency may
afford the office of children and family services an opportunity to
conduct any resulting investigation jointly. Provides that law enforce-
ment may request in writing that there be additional reports for speci-
fied allegations. Clarifies that nothing prohibits the office of chil-
dren and family services from consulting with local law enforcement on
any child abuse or maltreatment report.
Section 2. Amends section 45.07 of the mental hygiene law to provide
that the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with
Disabilities give telephone notice and immediately forward a copy of
statutorily required reports detailing delineated acts of sexual of
physical abuse of a child to appropriate law enforcement. Provides a
local law enforcement agency may afford the office of children and fami-
ly services an opportunity to conduct any resulting investigation joint-
ly. Provides that law enforcement may request in writing that there be
additional reports for specified allegations. Clarifies that nothing
prohibits the office of children and family services from consulting
with local law enforcement on any child abuse or maltreatment report.
Section 3. Effective Date.
When children are placed in residential care throughout our state we
entrust the State to safeguard their interests and welfare. Children can
be placed in residential care for a number of reasons, including but not
limited to, placement through the foster care system or as a result of
significant mental health, substance abuse or juvenile delinquency
issues. As such, these children should be considered to be some of our
more vulnerable youth, particularly with respect to their care and
treatment. It is critically important that we ensure that the children
in residential facilities receive the same attention and response to
reports of abuse as those in home settings.
Under current law, when there is a reported case of child abuse and
neglect in the home, local child protective services are required under
Social Services Law § 424(5-a) to immediately forward suspected cases of
physical injury, sexual abuse, or the death of a child to appropriate
law enforcement. These cases are traditionally investigated by multi-
disciplinary teams within participating counties. Multi-disciplinary
teams can include representatives from child protective services, law
enforcement, a district attorney's office, a physician or medical
provider trained in forensic pediatrics, mental health professionals,
victim advocacy personnel and, if one exists, a child advocacy center.
As a result, an alleged case of physical or sexual abuse of a child in
the home is immediately addressed by a comprehensive team of law
enforcement and providers that can appropriately investigate the alleged
case as well as see to the needs of the child.
In contrast, when there is a reported case of child abuse or neglect of
a child in placement it is transmitted from the state registry to "the
agency responsible for investigating the report," rather than a law
enforcement entity. NY. Soc. Serv. Law § 415. The Commissioner of the
Office of Children and Family Services or the Commission on Quality of
Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQC), depending on the
institution, is then required, if the complaint falls under their juris-
diction, to commence an internal investigation within twenty-four hours
and determine within sixty days, that among other things, "it appears
likely that a crime may have been committed against the child." NY. Soc.
Serv. Law § 424-C; NY. Ment. Hyg. Law § 45.07. While there are
provisions for immediate notification to a District Attorney regarding
the death of a child in residential placement, or any reports that a
District Attorney has made a prior request for, there are no require-
ments for immediate and direct law enforcement notification as they
relate to specific crimes or injuries to a child in residential care.
This procedure gives the unfortunate impression that agencies that have
complaints in their facilities are then empowered to investigate the
complaint rather than law enforcement. By extension, there is a foresee-
able delay in time that can take place in investigations due to an
absence of notification to law enforcement, thereby compromising the
collection of evidence, the result of an investigation, and the ultimate
quality of care that we demand of our residential facilities.
This legislation will amend the relevant duties of the Commissioner of
the Office of Children and Family Services and the board of CQC to
provide that upon receipt of a complaint alleging physical injury or
sexual abuse to a child in residential facility, they must immediately
forward such a report to appropriate law enforcement. It is the intent
that this provision will minor the protections we afford to victims of
alleged abuse and neglect in home settings. The Office of Children and
Family Services will not be prohibited by the legislation from assisting
in the investigation, nor will it abrogate their duty to conduct an
internal investigation as required by Social Services Law, however, it
will clarify that in cases alleging serious crimes, an immediate inves-
tigation will be conducted by independent law enforcement entities.
LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:
This act shall take effect immediately.