The purpose of this article is to provide a discussion on how innocent parents can sometimes fall into the net of Child Protective Services’ (hereinafter referred to as “CPS”) and the Administration for Children’s Services (hereinafter referred to as “ACS”) investigations even when they have done nothing wrong.
The laws in the State of New York make many individuals mandatory reporters of potential child abuse or child neglect. These mandatory reporters include police officers, counselors, teachers, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other individuals who work with children. Many of these workers are under the mistaken belief that any possible incident of suspected child abuse or suspected child neglect must be reported. This is not necessarily what the law requires and/or the intent of what the reporting statutes are. Mandatory reporters actually have a choice. Not every skinned knee, skinned elbow, black and blue mark, or bump on a child is an indication a child has been abused or neglected. These minor bruises can be indications the child actually has a fulfilling, playful, athletic life. These bruises can be an indication the child rough houses with his or her friends, or participates in sports, karate, and other activities.
What mandatory reporters do not seem to understand is they have a choice as to whether or not to report an innocuous injury to child protective services.
Powers CPS and ACS Workers Do Not Have
The following is a list of powers that CPS and ACS workers do not have:
- They cannot arrest you.
- They are not law enforcement officers.
- They cannot open up a criminal investigation. CPS and ACS workers are social service employees. They are a branch of social services’ departments. They are not part of the criminal justice system.
CPS and ACS and Your Rights
Even though CPS and ACS workers are not involved with prosecutorial or criminal justice powers, they can initiate a series of events which can lead to investigations by police agencies. It is therefore in your interest should you be contacted by a CPS or ACS worker related to an investigation either concerning child abuse or child neglect that you consult with an attorney experienced in representing individuals subject to CPS and/or ACS investigations. CPS and ACS investigations can lead to decisions that you have committed child abuse or child neglect. This material can be maintained in computers in New York State for a period of up to 28 years and have a negative impact on employment situations involving children.