Changes Proposed for a System that Stigmatizes Parents Accused of Child Neglect

Originally published in WNYC on June 12, 2019.

When parents are accused of child neglect or abuse in New York, they face an investigation by child protective workers, a potential case in family court and even the possibility of having their children removed from their care.

The process can involve many months of home visits and parents may be required, or strongly encouraged, to comply with various social services, all with the aim of ensuring that children are safe at home.  

And beyond the interventions on the ground, a report of child neglect etches parents into a state registry — many argue for an arbitrarily long time, even for cases dismissed by a family court judge.

That registry is officially called the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. It’s easy to get on, difficult to get off and it can restrict parents’ employment opportunities for up to 28 years.

Legislation proposed by Senator Velmanette Montgomery would amend rules governing the registry for neglect cases only. In addition to raising the standard of proof to get on the registry in the first place, the legislation would seal parents' records after five years for the purposes of employment background checks (the record would still be available to child welfare workers and foster care agencies).

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