Loosen this vise on parents, N.Y.: How an unjust state law blocks many capable adults from working with (and properly raising their own) children

Originally published in New York Daily News on August 23, 2019.

I am training director at RISE, an organization that assists parents affected by the child welfare system here in New York City. Here, I work with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and other agencies to improve their practice with families. In that capacity, I not infrequently sit next to top child welfare officials on city and statewide commissions.

Despite my accomplishments, despite my daily work on these issues, I have carried a mark on my record against me for two decades since June 1999, the shadow of an Administration for Children’s Services case opened decades ago. Even though the case has long since been closed, even though my son who was involved is now 22, even though I have successfully raised him and three other children who have never been involved in the system, I continue to be haunted by that record.

I was accused of applying corporal punishment once. That is all. It led to an investigation, and to my placement on something called the State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register (SCR).

Because I’m on that registry, I can’t get a job working with children or be a part of my children’s lives at school. I am not even allowed to be a member of the Parent Association, because it would mean being around children as a chaperone for school events and trips.

To read the full story, visit https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-loosen-this-vise-on-parents-20190823-jcmuvrz7hjcbtbaq7pxq2e2jmu-story.html

Note from Senator Montgomery:

Thank you to Jeanette Vega for her powerful editorial on the New York State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register (SCR) and its impact on her life. I am proud to sponsor legislation to reform the SCR to increase the standard of proof for unfounded and indicated reports of neglect and the admissibility of reports of cases on neglect.  

The bill would ultimately reduce the harsh and disproportionate consequences of having an indicated case on the New York’s Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. A shocking number of parents – over 47,000 thousand – are added to the SCR every year for child neglect. Most of these parents remain on this list for up to 28 years, are barred from numerous jobs as well as participating in activities at their children’s schools. The vast majority of the jobs that affect parents on the SCR are jobs most often performed by women, often-single heads of households, and people of color.