Laws

Laws

What are the laws involving children that I should know about?

Well, first of all, there are lots of laws involving children - the question really is how much you need to know? The other question is at what point should you consult an attorney for more specialized help? Some basic laws and information is provided here, but nothing beats contact with an able, local attorney, or review of the appropriate legal materials on the Internet.

In any case, here are some laws to understand and follow:

What exactly are the definitions of child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse occurs when an adult causes one of these things to happen to a child under the age of 18:

  • a substantial risk of death
  • serious or protracted disfigurement
  • protracted impairment of physical or emotional health
  • protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily organ
  • sexual offense of any kind (as defined in NY Penal Law)

Neglect occurs when all of the following apply:

  • A child's physical, mental or emotional condition is impaired or in imminent danger of becoming impaired
  • A child's parent or other legally responsible person failed to exercise a minimum degree of care in their actions
  • That failure must result in the impairment or danger of impairment to the child

These are the common failures that parents may have committed:

  • In supplying adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, medical, dental, optometric or surgical care to a child when financially able to do so, or when offered financial or other reasonable means to do so
  • In providing a child with proper supervision or guardianship
  • By unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm, or a substantial risk of harm, including excessive corporal punishment
  • Misusing a drug or drugs
  • Misusing alcohol to the extent that the parent or other legally responsible person loses self-control of their actions
  • Or by any act of a similarly serious nature that may require the aid of the court, which can include abandonment


OK - but how does this apply with my own children?

Families often ask Ward Halverson whether they are providing an adequate amount of care to their children, and the "official answer" from the state is that, ultimately, a local family court judge would make that final decision. Ward adds, however, that you should be all right as long as you're doing four things:

1. Providing three decent meals every day, and adequate medical care
2. Providing a mattress and bedding in a warm, safe home
3. Providing enough clothes for your child to get through the week
4. Not hurting your child physically or emotionally

Is it OK to spank my child?

Technically, yes. Parents often ask about spanking. Spanking is entirely legal by New York State law and Herkimer County practice. The question to ask, instead, is whether spanking is a good idea? The problem with spanking is that it often occurs because of a parent's tantrum, not just the child's. Because parents are so much stronger and bigger, they sometimes hurt their children when spanking. If a parent leaves a mark or other noticeable injury, Child Protective Services could definitely become involved, to make sure your child isn't being abused; proper spanking isn't abuse, but hurting a child is. The CPS worker speak with you, your child, and anyone else directly involved. If you can justify the action and the context in which the corporal punishment was being conducted, you should be fine. But still - is it a good idea?

Ward recommends, instead, a system of incremental consequencing when children are refusing to follow the rules. There is much more on that system on this web site; click on "Children" then "Defiance" for more details.

As a parent, what are my child's educational rights with regard to a handicapping condition?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law dealing with the education of children with disabilities. Congress first passed IDEA in 1975, recognizing the need to provide a federal law to help ensure that local schools would serve the educational needs of students with disabilities. The law originally passed was titled the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. That first special education law has undergone several updates over the past 30-some years. In 1990, the law got a new name - the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. The most recent version of IDEA was passed by Congress in 2004. It can be referred to as either IDEA 2004 or IDEA. In updating IDEA in 2004, Congress found that the education of students with disabilities has been impeded by "low expectations and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning…." Significant changes to IDEA as well as a close alignment to NCLB are designed to provide students with disabilities access to high expectations and to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible, in order to "meet developmental goals and, to the extent possible, the challenging expectations that have been established for all children…."

Ultimately, the overarching goal of IDEA was: "to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living." In compliance with the Act, all states must:

  • Establish a goal of providing full educational opportunity to all children with disabilities, and a timetable for accomplishing that goal.
  • Identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities residing in the state who are in need of special education and related services.
  • Ensure that all special education teachers are highly qualified.
  • Evaluate every child suspected of having a disability in accordance with the requirements of IDEA.
  • Annually develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each child with a disability.
  • Provide education services in the least restrictive environment - removing children from the regular education environment only when the nature or severity of their disability makes it necessary to do so.
  • Provide all procedural safeguards required by IDEA to children with disabilities and their parents.
  • Establish goals for the performance of children with disabilities that are the same as the state's definition of adequate yearly progress (AYP), and are consistent with any other goals and standards for children established by the state.
  • Include all children with disabilities in all general state and district-wide assessment programs, including those assessments required by NCLB - students must be given appropriate accommodations and alternate assessments as indicated in their IEPs.

The special education provided to children with disabilities must be specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs resulting from the child's disability, and must enable the child to be involved and make progress in the general education curriculum.

Requirements of IDEA are designed to ensure that all schools, school districts, and states provide a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities. IDEA focuses on the individual child - requiring the development of an individualized education program (IEP) outlining the specially designed instruction necessary to allow the child to participate and progress in the same curriculum as all children. However, nothing in IDEA holds schools accountable for the progress and performance of children with disabilities. While IDEA allows parents to challenge the adequacy of special education services, the law does not contain any measures of total school performance for IDEA-eligible students, as is required by NCLB. But together, NCLB (which specifically targets the performance of all students) and IDEA provisions and requirements combine to provide both individualized instruction and school accountability for students with disabilities. The progress and performance of students with disabilities is now a shared responsibility of general and special education teachers.

How does that affect me as a parent in Herkimer County?

Well, it means that your child has a great deal of federally and state-protected rights. You have the right to request a meeting of the Committee for Special Education, for example, and the school must set that up within a reasonable amount of time. You have the right to be there, to speak with the different professionals trying to help your child be successful, and so on. You even have the right to voice your opinion and disagree with what the school is doing for your child.

But is that at good idea?

It's always a good idea to advocate for your child. It's not a good idea, in Ward Halverson's opinion, to make an enemy of the school professionals, of the exact people who are trying to help your child. Your best bet is to work cooperatively and collaboratively with school personnel - it's ultimately better for your child.

If I'm about to be a teenage dad, what is the reality?

Being a teenage tad is no joke. In the words of one professional on the matter:

You and that girl did it. You laid up together and she got pregnant. Now what? Well, let's talk about it. Did you ever think that you'd be a Dad so soon? Did you even WANT to be a Dad? What do you need to know? How much is this going to cost?

First, you have to admit you are the Dad. You have to sign papers in the hospital saying you are the Dad. Once you sign those papers, you can't go back and say that you're not. You know that old saying:

MOMMY'S BABY IS DADDY'S MAYBE

By law, you have only 60 days after the birth of the child to contest Paternity. If you did not acknowledge the baby is yours, the mother can file a petition in court, and either declare you're the father, or the Court may order you to take a Paternity Test. (You might also be ordered to pay for the test) After that, if for whatever reason you feel like you're not the father, like you broke up with the mother or she told you you're not the Dad, guess what……

YOU'RE STILL FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR BABY!

Child Support is more than "Pampers and Milk". It's providing for ALL your child's needs. Here are the facts:

According to the Welfare Reform Act of 1999, all Putative Fathers (that's YOU) are financially responsible for the care and support of your child, from the DAY OF CONCEPTION to the child's Birth Day. That means that, if you don't have insurance (and what teenager has their own insurance) YOU, the Putative Dad will have to pay for the prenatal care (that's all the doctor check-ups, medications and all the tests before the baby is born) right up to the delivery, including all doctor fees, delivery and newborn nursery and post-partum care. And here's the real kick: you will have to pay CHILD SUPPORT for this child until they are age 21!

CHILD SUPPORT IS NO JOKE!

You are responsible for making sure your child doesn't go on welfare. That means YOU will provide for your child's medical needs, including dental and eye care, and you will give to that child's mother the money needed to: SUPPORT THAT BABY!

And...Child Support is based on what YOU earn. According to the Child Support Standards Act, Child Support is based on your GROSS INCOME, minus F.I.C.A. and Medicare. And the percentage of your income can make you cry:

17% - one child; 25% - two children; 28% - three children…..all the way to 35% for five or more children.

Those of you who have more than one child with more than one mother: each child gets their own equal share of the child support. You don't get a break if you have more than one kid. Oh…the formula is based on your GROSS INCOME but taken from your NET INCOME. So that 17% can be as much as 55% of your take home pay!

DO YOU WANT TO BE A PART OF YOUR CHILD'S LIFE?

Did you think that, since you're the DAD you can see your child whenever you want? Did you think you had CUSTODY of your child? Here are some realities you didn't know: Just because you're the father doesn't mean you can "see" the child. You may have to go to court to get permission to see your child. Since you aren't married to the Mother, SHE has the RIGHT to decide who can see her child. After the mother, the person most responsible for you not seeing your child is the child's GRANDMOTHER. She's probably the one raising the child anyway.

And even if you have a Court Order saying you can see the baby, it still doesn't mean you will see your baby.

So you STILL want to be a Teenage Dad?

A CHILD WHO GROWS UP WITHOUT A FATHER:

Has an increased risk of contracting STD's, including AIDS More likely to drop out of school and never finish More likely to commit suicide More likely to die from violence More likely to have a child out of wedlock More likely to become pregnant while in their teens More likely to go to jail

The end result, as far as Ward Halverson is concerned, is that being a teenage father is something to consider extremely carefully.

What about the military and child support laws?

Military service personnel who are activated to face many issues. Don't let child support problems be one of them. If you are being deployed it is vital that you notify your local support unit with all the new payroll information necessary to ensure you do not fall behind in your support. And, if your new income is below what you have been earning, you really need to file for a modification hearing as soon as possible. Most courts will expedite a modification hearing so that your new order will take effect when you become activated. Ward Halverson knows a lot about being deployed and working within the military model, as a former army medical service corps captain and Director of Mental Health for Detainee Operations in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2006.

Notifying the support collection unit of a deployment, incidentally, will suspend any future support actions until you return back from deployment. That means you cannot be taken back to court for any child support issues while you are on active duty and away from the U.S. That's good to know. Remember, however, that falling behind on your support while on active duty can cause a delay in returning to the states if your passport is revoked for having child support arrears. With military support, however, this is unlikely. The lesson is: notify your local support collection unit office as soon as possible when the "balloon goes up".

What are the laws about home schooling - is it educational neglect?

Legal opposition to home schooling takes several forms. One of the scariest is the accusation of "educational neglect," as if parents are out of a VC Andrews' horror novel, locking their children in the attic. What can you do or not do to avoid being accused of educational neglect? It would be wise to start with the definition.

Educational neglect is defined as parents failing to ensure that their children are provided an education consistent with standards adopted by the state. The standards for each state can be found on the Internet or through your school district or state educational office. In New York State, that would be: New York State Education Department, Education Building, Albany, New York, 12234. These documents get printed out and handed to teachers, administrators, and scrounged by publishers anxious to sell textbooks. Parents and students need to look here to find out what the state thinks should be learned ideally at each grade level. Do your local schools attain these standards? Around the Mohawk Valley, they should, and generally do.

Even if they can't attain these standards in their own public schools, some government and school officials are attempting to enforce them as if they were laws rather than ideals. They want to routinely come into a home schooler's house, observe "teaching," and look over curriculum, records of attendance, and even health records. They want the children to come in for testing. They feel they would then know whether or not a family was neglecting their children's education. It is a "guilty until proven innocent" situation in certain instances, and it should have to be that way - home schooling is a perfectly viable means of educating children, as long as it's done effectively.

The National Clearinghouse of Child Abuse and Neglect, interestingly, no longer even carries this definition on their site.

Educational Neglect

Permitted Chronic Truancy Habitual truancy averaging at least 5 days a month was classifiable under this form of maltreatment if the parent/guardian had been informed of the problem and has not attempted to intervene.

Failure to Enroll/Other Truancy Failure to register or enroll a child of mandatory school age, causing the school-aged child to remain at home for non-legitimate reasons (e.g., to work, to care for siblings, etc.) an average of at least 3 days a month.

Inattention to Special Education Need Refusal to allow or failure to obtain recommended remedial educational services, or neglect in obtaining or following through with treatment for a child's diagnosed learning disorder or other special education need without reasonable cause.

In some states, the definition of educational neglect is quietly being changed. Here's an example from some new legislation recently introduced in California, February 24, 1999, AB 804: [Note: this bill has been effectively tabled for now.]

(k) The child is over the age of six years and has suffered educational neglect as a result of the willful or negligent failure of the child's parent or guardian to enroll the child in school or to ensure regular school attendance by the child or the parent's or guardian's willful or negligent interference with the regular school attendance of the child.

New York City's web site defines educational neglect in the following manner, and then goes on to explain how you should officially withdraw your child from the school system in order to home school if it looks like attendance is going to be a big problem:

"Educational neglect includes allowing unexplained absences from school, failure to enroll a school-age child in school, refusal of recommended remedial services without good reason and failure to respond to attendance questions."

One parent asked: "My child is enrolled in a school, but I have decided for safety and educational reasons that I would prefer to educate my child at home. Can I be charged with educational neglect for not sending my child to school?"

The New York City school district answered: "If you remove your child from a school you must officially withdraw the child's name from the school and district office rosters. You must also ensure that you can provide all the proper home school registration materials and curriculum documentation upon request."

The Department of Children and Families in Connecticut defines it in the following statement:

"Educational neglect occurs when a parent of a child , age seven through fifteen, interferes with the ability of the child to receive proper care and attention educationally. Proper care and attention educationally is the consistent receipt of a program of educational services provided by a Local Education Agency (LEA) or by an approved private school or through home instruction in accordance with state Department of Education procedures."

With home schooling, then, what laws apply?

If you're home schooling and don't know the laws, then obviously you should. After all, how else can you tell whether the next government official who tells you that you have to do what he says is lying or misunderstanding the law? Or, do you really want to "comply" with what the government official tells you to do if it is not required by law?

Maybe it doesn't bother you to "comply". Would it bother your neighbor? More importantly, would it bother your children when it is their turn to home school your grandchildren? In a sense, if you "comply" when you are not required to do so, will it become that much easier for the government officials to make your neighbor or your children "comply" when it is their turn? Will you be setting a precedent for everyone else?

It is very important for all parents to know exactly what the law is that allows the parent to home school in the state in which the parent resides. Each state has its own way of doing things. Each state legislature has enacted statutes regarding education, but not all of those statutes from state to state are alike. In some states, in fact, there may be no statutes that directly address the right to home school. The language in the statutes may only address the rights of parents instead of addressing those rights as "home schooling". In still other states, the statutes are many and detailed as to how "home schooling" must take place.

In New York State, according to Part 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education, here's what the laws say:

  • The purpose of Section 100.10 is to provide a basis for an objective determination of substantial equivalence. A home instruction program that adheres to the standards of Section 100.10 at each stage of the process should be deemed substantially equivalent.
  • Students instructed at home are not awarded a high school diploma. A high school diploma may only be awarded to a student enrolled in a registered secondary school who has completed all program requirements set by the Regents, the school or the district.
  • Home-instructed students are not eligible to participate in interscholastic sports. Section 135.4(c)(7) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, which governs interscholastic sports, directs that a participant in interscholastic sports must be enrolled in the school.
  • Districts are not required to loan textbooks to home instructed-students. A student instructed at home is not enrolled in a nonpublic school, and, therefore, the district is not obligated to loan those items which a district is required to provide, by statute, to children attending nonpublic schools. However, a school district may, if it wishes to, provide textbooks and other materials to students instructed at home.
  • Students instructed at home may not participate in the instructional program of the school district (exceptions are listed below). This is because the Legislature has not authorized part-time attendance.
  • A district must offer a home-instructed student with disabilities the special education services, as recommended on the Individualized Education Program (IEP) by the Committee on Special Education.
  • A district may, but is not obligated to, allow home-instructed students to participate in intramural and other school-sponsored club activities.

State law does not require any specific credentials for the person(s) providing home instruction.

" Primary responsibility for determining compliance with Section 100.10 rests with the superintendent of schools of the school district in which a home-instructed student resides. Section 100.10 also provides for parental appeals to the local board of education and the Commissioner of Education.

People who know a lot about home schooling in New York State note that there is yet one more thing that you should do to become fully informed about your rights under state law, and that is to look up any city or town ordinances and local public school board of education policies. It is not likely that there will be any city or town ordinances that are applicable, but you should make sure anyway. There are likely to be local public school board of education policies. The policies are located in the Board of Education offices, possibly also in the city or town clerk's offices, or online. Check the table of contents or index for all ordinances or policies that may apply, read, and obtain copies to keep handy. Keep in mind, however, that board of education policies may or may not be applicable to those who are no longer enrolled in the public school system. Again, whether or not board of education policies apply depends on what is contained in the state statutes about this issue.

What are the laws about child support?

The Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU) is mandated under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, to ensure that legally responsible persons, to the best of their ability, contribute toward the support of their children. The CSEU office is located at 301 North Washington Street in Herkimer (the first floor of the County Office Building) with an intake worker located at the main DSS office four days per week. The CSEU's responsibilities include:

· Locating absent parents and putative fathers · Establishing paternity for children born out-of-wedlock · Establishing a fair and equitable order of support · Collecting, accounting for, and disbursing child support payments · Enforcing support orders should the legally liable parent become delinquent in paying support · Establishing and enforcing medical support obligations · Periodically reviewing and adjusting child support orders to ensure support obligations continue to be fair and equitable

What is the actual law from 2006 about PINS?

PINS, or Persons In Need of Supervision, is a preventative system set up by the New York State family courts to keep children out of the criminal process as much as possible. This county's program is based in Herkimer, in the building above the DMV, and Ward Halverson works very closely with the PINS professionals, who have a number of different jobs and roles. However, there has been noteworthy changes in the PINS law, effective April of 2005. They are as follows [with information for finding more specific information in brackets]:

  • Each county and the City of New York is mandated to provide diversion services to youth at risk of becoming the subject of a Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) petition and their families. [FCA 712 and 735(a)]
  • Each county and the City of New York must designate either the local social services district (LDSS) or probation department as "lead agency" for the provision of PINS diversion services. [FCA 735(a)]
  • Each county and the City of New York must offer PINS diversion services designed to provide an immediate response to families in crisis and must identify and use appropriate alternatives to detention. [FCA 712, 735(d)]
  • LDSS multi-year consolidated plans or integrated county plans ("child and family services plans" as of 2008), as applicable, must include a diversion services portion that will be jointly established and approved by OCFS and the Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (DPCA). LDSS and local probation department must establish cooperative procedures for diversion services. [SSL 34-a (4)(b)]

Social Services Districts/ Probation Departments as Designated Lead Agency

In providing diversion services, the lead agency must:

  • Convene a conference with person(s) seeking to file a PINS petition, the youth (potential respondent), and his/her family concerning diversion services
  • Diligently attempt to prevent the filing of a PINS petition and/or placement as a PINS into foster care
  • Assess whether youth may benefit from residential respite (with consent of parent)
  • Determine whether alternatives to detention are appropriate. [FCA 735 (b)]
  • Determine (and document) whether to continue diversion services or whether there is no substantial likelihood that the youth and his/her family will benefit from further diversion attempts. There is no time limited restriction on diversion services. [FCA 735 (c)]
  • Where a school district or Local Educational Agency (LEA) seeks to file a PINS petition, review efforts made by the school district or LEA to improve the youth's attendance and/or conduct in school, engage school/LEA in further efforts if beneficial to youth. [FCA 735 (d)]
  • Advise the potential petitioner when diversion efforts terminate and whether such efforts were successful. Provide necessary documentation to the Family Court (FCT) and potential petitioner where there is no bar to filing a PINS petition. [FCA 735(g)]
  • Where a PINS petition is filed, report to FCT regarding diversion attempts. FCT may order additional diversion efforts and may order youth and parent to participate. [FCA 742(b)]
  • Lead agency (and any diversion services provider) may not use any statement made by a respondent youth against him/her at a fact-finding hearing or if transferred to a criminal court prior to conviction. [FCA 735(h)]
  • A PINS placed with LDSS post-disposition, may remain in detention for no more than 15 days after disposition (previously was 30 days outside of NYC). OCFS may approve a 15-day extension upon written documentation by LDSS that the youth is in need of specialized treatment and the diligent efforts made by LDSS to locate an appropriate placement. [FCA 756(c), SSL 398(3)(c)]

Peace and Police Officers

  • Peace and police officers may not bring runaways to non-secure detention unless unable to, or if it's unsafe to return the youth home. [FCA 718(b)]
  • Peace and police officers taking a PINS youth into custody may take the youth to FCT only where the officer affirms that he/she attempted and was unable to: (i) release the youth to his/her parents to be produced before the lead agency; (ii) take the youth to lead agency; or (iii) take the youth to an approved runaway program or other respite/crisis program. [FCA 724(b)]

Family Court Judges/Clerks

  • FCT may not order pre-petition detention for an alleged PINS unless the court determines there is no substantial likelihood that the youth and his/her family will continue to benefit from diversion services and all available alternatives to detention are exhausted. [FCA 728(d)]
  • No PINS petition may be filed without documentation by the lead agency that diversion services were terminated because there is no substantial likelihood of further benefit.
  • A parent may not file PINS petition where diversion was terminated as unsuccessful because of the parent's lack of cooperation.
  • Any PINS petition filed by a school district or LEA must include the steps taken by school district or LEA to improve the school attendance or conduct of the respondent [FCA 732(a)] and document provision of diversion services [FCA 732(d) and 735]
  • A PINS respondent may be remanded to non-secure detention only if the FCT determines that there is a substantial probability that he/she will not appear in court on the return date and all available detention alternatives have been exhausted. [FCA 739(a)] Serious risk of committing a crime is no longer grounds or basis to remand a PINS to detention.
  • Where a PINS petition is filed, the lead agency must make a written report to FCT regarding diversion attempts. [FCA 742(a)]
  • FCT may order additional diversion efforts. [FCA 742(b)]
  • FCT may order the youth and parent to participate in additional diversion services. [FCA 742(b)]
  • FCT may include alternative dispute resolution and other services as a condition of a PINS order of protection. [FCA 759(f)]

School Districts and Local Educational Agencies (LEA)

  • Any PINS petition filed by a school district or LEA must include the steps taken by school district or LEA to improve the school attendance or conduct of the respondent. [FCA 732(a)]

Non-Secure Detention Providers

  • Peace and police officers may not bring runaways to non-secure detention unless unable to or it is unsafe to return youth home. [FCA 718(b)]
  • A PINS respondent may be remanded to non-secure detention only where there exists a substantial probability that he/she will not appear in court on the return date and all available detention alternatives have been exhausted. [FCA 739(a)] Serious risk of committing a crime is no longer grounds to remand a PINS to detention.
  • A PINS placed with LDSS may remain in detention for no more than 15 days after placement. OCFS may approve a 15 day extension upon written documentation by LDSS that the youth is in need of specialized treatment and diligent efforts by LDSS to locate an appropriate placement. [FCA 756(c)]

Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs

  • Approved runaway programs and transitional independent living support programs (TILSP) would be permitted to provide crisis intervention and respite services to youth in need of crisis intervention or respite services. Respite services may be provided for up to 21 days. [ExL 532-a (3), (4), (5) and (6)]
  • Increases from 12 to 18 months the maximum period that a youth may stay in a TILSP. [ExL 532-a (6)]
  • Permits a TILSP to continue to provide services to homeless youth not yet 18 but who has reached the 18 month maximum until he/she is 18 or for up to an additional 6 months if the youth is still less than 18. [ExL 532-d (f)]

When do I have to report possible child abuse?

The abuse or maltreatment of children is against the law. Victims need an effective child protective service to prevent them from suffering further injury and impairment.

The purpose of the Child Protective Services Act of 1973 was to encourage more complete reporting of child abuse and maltreatment. The law established a Child Protective Service in each county in New York. Each Child Protective Service is required to investigate child abuse and maltreatment reports, to protect children (under 18 years old) from further abuse or maltreatment, and to provide rehabilitative services to children, parents, and other family members involved.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services maintains a statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment for reports made pursuant to the Social Services Law.

The Central Register, also known as the "Hotline", receives telephone calls alleging child abuse or maltreatment within New York State. The Central Register 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 Hotline receives calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week from two 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.

Among those who are mandated to make reports are:

  • medical and hospital personnel
  • school officials
  • social service workers
  • child care workers
  • residential care workers and volunteers
  • law enforcement personnel.

A signed, written report (LDSS 2221A Report of Suspected Child Abuse or Maltreatment Adobe PDF LDSS 2221A / Microsoft Word LDSS 2221A) must be filed by mandated reporters within forty-eight hours of an oral report. You should submit written reports to the appropriate local child protective service. You may request the address of the investigative district from the child protective specialist at the time you make the oral report to the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

The Summary Guide for Mandated Reporters (Adobe PDF or Text), also available in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, provides mandated reporters with an overview of their obligations and a conceptual framework of the New York State Child Protective Services System (CPS).

Voluntary reporters (neighbors, relatives and concerned citizens) may also use the statewide, toll free number to make reports. If you suspect a child who has been harmed or who is at risk, dial 1-800-342-3720, to report what you have seen or heard.

What are the laws about dealing with foster children issues?

Your County Department of Social Services (DSS) will be able to assist you if you're interested in becoming a foster parent for one or more of New York State's needy children. To find specific addresses and telephone numbers to your local DSS, consult your local telephone directory, but Herkimer's DSS is located in the County Office Building on 301 North Washington Street, Herkimer. The following are some frequently asked questions, and their answers:

I am a parent of a child in foster care and concerned about the quality of services. Who can I call for help?

Your County Department of Social Services would be the best option in this case. If you have already called DSS and still need help, contact your regional office of OCFS.

I am having trouble with my child/life/boyfriend and want to put my child in foster care. How do I go about it?

Contact your County Department of Social Services to discuss services available to help you better care for your child, whether at home or alternatively in foster care. Your County Department of Social Services will be able to assist you to access the services you need to care for your child.

The court ordered my child into foster care, but they didn't listen to my problem. What can I do?

Contact the Department of Social Services in which the child was placed or contact your regional office. If you were represented by an attorney during the court proceeding, contact that attorney for legal advice regarding your options. If you need a referral for an attorney, please contact your local Bar Association. You may also contact the New York State Bar Association at (518) 463-3200 for a referral.

I applied to be a foster parent and have been waiting for a long time to hear back from / been denied by / object to the person doing my home study. What can I do to resolve my dilemma?

If you have received correspondence from the agency to which you applied, they should be able to instruct you on how to proceed (e.g., file for a fair hearing). If not, contact your regional office.

What are the laws concerning child car seats?

Effective March 27, 2005, New York State joined twenty-eight other states to upgrade their child occupant protection laws to address the transportation needs of older children. The new law requires the use of booster seats or other appropriate child restraint systems for four, five and six year olds. A child restraint system is a device that is used in conjunction with safety belts, designed to restrain, seat or position a child in a motor vehicle and meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. These systems may include a child safety seat, harness/vest or booster seat which when used appropriately must meet the child's height, weight, and size recommendations of the manufacturer. A booster seat must be used with a lap AND shoulder belt. Previously, the law required children in this age group to use only adult safety belts placing them at increased risk of injury and death.

Many parents are unaware of the risks of using only safety belts and the need for booster seats when transporting their children. In fact, data collected through the 2003 New York State Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an ongoing statewide telephone survey, indicated that less than half of 4-8 year olds were reported as always using booster seats with use decreasing as a child ages.

Adult lap and shoulder belts will not fit children properly until they are 4'9" tall, which is usually around eight years of age. The lap and shoulder belt should fit properly with the lap portion of the belt low and snug across the upper thighs and the shoulder portion crossing the chest and resting over the middle of the shoulder. The child also should be able to bend his/her knees over the edge of the seat when sitting with his/her back up against the vehicle seat.

Children under age four are required to be restrained in federally approved child safety seats when riding in a motor vehicle. If the child weighs more than 40 pounds and is under age four, the child may be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system, which includes the use of a booster seat. In addition, children age 12 and under should ride properly restrained in the back seat. This position is safest as they are less likely to be injured in a frontal crash or from a deploying air bag. For more information about booster seats, contact the NYSDOH Bureau of Injury Prevention at (518) 473-1143. Additional information can be obtained by visiting the website for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Governor's Traffic Safety Committee at http://www.safeny.com.

What if I have other legal questions having to do with children?

Ward Halverson personally recommends the Herkimer-based attorney Todd Bennett, located at 123 Court Street, telephone: 866-6648. Ward always appreciates other questions and will add their relevant (and hopefully helpful) answers to the web site from time to time.