What to Do if You Are Falsely Accused of Child Abuse or Maltreatment
It is undisputed that child abuse is a serious and pervasive worldwide problem and the need to create effective measures for dealing with this issue is imperative. Overlooked in the wake of this awareness, however, is the sad reality of false allegations of child abuse.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)OCFS maintains a Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR) for such reports.
The SCR, also known as the "Hotline," receives telephone calls alleging child abuse or maltreatment within New York State. The Hotline receives calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from 2 sources: persons who are required by law or mandated to report suspected cases of child abuse and maltreatment; and calls from non-mandated reporters, including the public.
The SCRr relays information from the calls to the local Child Protective Service for investigation, monitors their prompt response, and identifies if there are prior child abuse or maltreatment reports. The local Child Protective Service is mandated to initiate an investigation of the allegation(s) within 24 hours of receiving the report. Protective/Diagnostic Field Unit Supervisor Reviews report and immediately assigns the case to a caseworker for investigation. Protective/Diagnostic Caseworker Discusses report with the Supervisor, initiates an investigation, does a complete assessment and determines whether or not, based on the investigation, some credible evidence has been found to support the report. The local Child Protective Service has up to 60 days to make a determination.
Under New York State's Child Protective scheme, a report of suspected child abuse will be marked "indicated" if the local agency determines, after investigation, that there is "some credible evidence of the alleged abuse" (Social Services Law ?412).
If the report is marked "indicated", an individual who is the subject of the report is listed on the central register. Although this information can be invaluable in preventing future child abuse, central registries may contain false or unsubstantiated accounts of child abuse, implicating innocent individuals. Child care providers or parents who are falsely accused are left to deal with the harsh consequences, such as loss of employment opportunities.
What to Do if Child Abuse Allegations Are Reported Against YouPursuant to the Social Services Law, an individual subject to a report with the SCR has the right to challenge the local agency's determination and request a hearing. YOu should contact OCFS according to the instructions in a letter they sent you advising you of the report. Upon your request, the OCFS will conduct an administrative review of the investigation records and any information provided by you to determine whether there is a fair preponderance of the evidence to substantiate the allegations in the report.
If the administrative review determines that there is not enough evidence, the report will be amended and sealed.
If the administrative review determines that there is enough proof that you abused or maltreated a child, your request for review of the report will be automatically referred to the Bureau of Special Hearings (BSH) for a hearing. You will then be called an Appellant.
Pursuant to the Social Services Law, the hearing decision will determine: (a) whether there is a fair preponderance of the evidence that you committed the abuse alleged; and (b) if so, whether such abuse is currently relevant and reasonably related to employment by a child care agency, to the adoption of a child or to the provision of foster care.
The Agency has the burden of proving at a hearing that abuse occurred. If the Agency meets its burden, the indicated report will not be amended to unfounded and sealed. Its existence is subject to disclosure to licensing and provider agencies making inquiry concerning you pursuant to SSL? 424-a.
Pursuant to SSL? 422(8)(c)(ii), it must then be determined whether the act of abuse cited in the report is relevant and reasonably related to child care issues. If it is so relevant and reasonably related, the Central Register will inform any inquiring licensing or provider agency that you are a subject of an indicated report. If the abuse is found not to be relevant and reasonably related, the Central Register is precluded from making such a disclosure.
If the Agency fails to meet its burden of proving the alleged abuse by a fair preponderance of the evidence, the indicated report must be amended to unfounded and sealed. Its existence will not be disclosed to licensing and provider agencies.
The administrative hearing process is similar to being in court for a trial. The hearing, however, is conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will oversee the hearing; the ruling on the procedure, the evidence which may be presented, and objections.
You will need to retain an attorney to represent you.