The New York State Senate passed a series of bills this week that continues its longstanding commitment to protecting children from abuse and improving their well-being. The measures – including two that have passed both houses – prevent abuse and maltreatment, increase school safety, and improve children’s welfare.
A bill (S4172) given final passage today and sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma), closes crucial gaps in the communication between and among the agencies responsible for the safety of children in foster care. The bill requires the notification of agencies placing foster children when there are reports of suspected abuse or maltreatment at homes where children have been placed. This would prevent the unwitting placement of additional children in situations that risk subjecting them to abuse or maltreatment. The measure requires that the authorized agency and any social services district charged with the care, custody or guardianship of a child receive a copy of a report of a child’s suspected abuse or maltreatment where the authorized agency is not the social services district in which the home is located.
Senator Gallivan said, “We have a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of all of New York’s children, especially those in foster care. By sharing critical information about suspected abuse or maltreatment, we can better protect these vulnerable children and avoid putting additional youth at risk.”
Another Senate child protection bill will be sent to the Governor for consideration after being passed by the Assembly this week. Bill S3146, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), would help protect the state’s most vulnerable children by establishing workload standards for child protective services (CPS) workers. Full-time CPS workers would have no more than 15 active cases to help further ensure effective investigations of child abuse and maltreatment.
Senator Golden stated, “There is a great and urgent need to place a limit on the number of cases assigned to a child protective service investigator. These caseworkers are charged with protecting our children and when they are overburdened, they cannot be as successful as we need them to be. This legislation must be a priority for the Assembly to pass before the end of session for it will surely better protect our children and save lives.”
These measures build upon other Senate-led efforts to protect children, including during the 2017-18 budget process. The Senate successfully restored $2.2 million in additional funding for Child Advocacy Centers in the enacted budget after it was eliminated in the Executive Budget proposal. Child Advocacy Centers are child-focused, community oriented facilities where youth and their families can receive coordinated intervention related to social services, criminal justice, medical advocacy, and therapeutic services in cases involving allegations of child abuse or maltreatment. The total funding provided for the initiative this year is more than $7.4 million.
Bill S2318A, sponsored by Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst) makes it a crime to knowingly and repeatedly cyberbully a minor. With increasing accessibility to electronic means of communication, bullying has transformed from a predominantly school-based issue to a broader societal problem, going beyond the classroom to bullying on the job, on athletic teams and through the Internet.
Senator Ranzenhofer said, “Bullying has always been a problem among school children, and it now extends beyond the classroom and playground with the advent of social media. This legislation would protect our children by prohibiting cyberbullying. I applaud my Senate colleagues for advancing this measure.”
Creating Safer Schools
Two bills passed today would help protect children from predators.
- · Bill S5207, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R, Syosset), requires the fingerprinting of prospective employees of private special education schools - significantly diminishing the possibility of a person who has a criminal history from gaining employment in a school, while also providing law enforcement with greater flexibility in bringing a person to justice if such person commits a fraud.
· Bill S6211, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island), creates new “Gang Free School Zones” and establishes a class D felony charge for gang members who seek to recruit new members on school grounds. Gang activity in and around schools puts students and staff at risk.
Protecting Children from Sex Offenders
Bills passed today to prevent and increase penalties for the sexual abuse of a child include:
- · Bill S5348, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy (R-C-I, Yorktown) prevents level three sex offenders from being employed within 500 feet of a daycare or school;
· Bill S6548, also sponsored by Senator Murphy, provides that information on a sex offender from another state who has not been assigned a risk level in New York must disclose as if he or she was a level 1 or 2 sex offender;
· Bill S248, sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt (R-C-I, North Tonawanda), prohibits any sex offender from residing within a quarter-mile of any school, playground, park or building in which a day care is provided;
· Bill S5201, sponsored by Senator Tom Croci (R-C-I-Reform, Sayville) allows local governments to adopt laws placing reasonable restrictions on where a sex offender can live in a community. The bill also extends the requirement to register as a sex offender to 30 years from 20 years; and
· Bill S2635, sponsored by Senator Lanza elevates promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child and promoting a sexual performance by a child to become class B felonies.
Helping Homeless Children Succeed in School
A bill (S2106B), sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder (D, Brooklyn), helps ensure homeless children are receiving necessary support in schools to promote educational success by increasing the understanding about educational barriers. The bill allows data collection on the academic performance and educational outcomes of homeless students, and require the state Commissioner of Education to develop homeless education policy in collaboration with
experts from not-for-profit organizations on how to better provide support services to homeless students.
Protecting Infants With Rear-Facing Car Seats
This week the Senate also passed Bill S6523, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach (R-C-I, Rochester), to help protect children in car crashes. The bill would require most children under the age of two to be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system. This is consistent with the America Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that rear-facing car seats help address the risks to a child’s health and safety in the event of a crash.
Investigating Illegally Operating Child Day Care Services
The Senate passed Bill S6450, sponsored by Senator Golden, this week to help reduce the number of illegal or non-compliant child care operators. The bill requires the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to periodically review – at least once a month – child care services that are advertised on the Internet. Currently, there is no affirmative duty for OCFS to investigate without a registered complaint, and this bill will help to identify the number of noncompliant or illegal child care programs operating.
The bills have been sent to the Assembly, with the exception of S4172 and S3146 which will be sent to the Governor.