Governor Spitzer announced today that he has signed legislation that strengthens reporting requirements in instances of suspected child abuse to better protect New York’s children from violence and neglect.
The new legislation, known as "Xctasy’s Law," requires social service workers to refer all instances of suspected child abuse to the New York State Child Abuse Hotline – an action which immediately triggers an official investigation. Under current law, social service workers are only mandated to report suspected child abuse cases that they either personally observe or learn about from contact with a child’s parents or guardian. There was previously no requirement for social service workers to refer incidents that they were informed about by a third party.
"It is unconscionable that our system could allow any instance of child abuse to go unreported," said Governor Spitzer. "With this reform today, we will help ensure that every case of suspected child abuse and neglect is fully investigated and dealt with appropriately."
Senator Hugh Farley, sponsor of the legislation, said: "This new law is a common sense approach to strengthening our child abuse reporting system. Schenectady County has already implemented this reform at the local level, and Governor Spitzer's action in signing my bill will help to protect children all across the State."
Assemblyman William Scarborough, chairman the Assembly Committee on Children and Families said: "Child abuse and neglect remain abhorrent, despicable crimes that penetrate every segment of society. The Assembly has led a series of statewide investigations into the child protective practices throughout New York. This law is one of many that we have strongly advocated to ensure that abused children receive needed protection through the child welfare system. Far too many children have died needlessly. The agencies responsible for protecting children must ensure no more children fall through the cracks."
The legislation is named for four-year-old Xctasy Garcia, a Schenectady child whose case spurred action on this important issue. In late May, a patron at the Twins Motor Inn, where Xctasy was staying with her parents, heard screams and loud noises coming from an adjoining room. He reported this to the manager of the motel, saying that he believed a "man might be harming a child." The manager twice called the Schenectady County Department of Social Service to report these concerns, but there was no follow-up investigation.
Two weeks later, parishioners at a nearby church found Xctasy severely beaten and badly burned with bleach. They quickly rushed her to a local hospital. Only then did a child abuse investigation begin.
The law will take effect on October 14, 2007.