Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

A child abuse or neglect investigation can be frightful and confusing. This is particularly true if the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has questioned your mental health as it relates to your parenting abilities. ACS may tell you they must get a mental health evaluation and then refer you to a professional with whom the agency has a relationship. Often, ACS provides this medical professional with their side of the story before you ever set foot in the doctor’s office—thereby possibly prejudicing the doctor against you. 

Parents don’t realize they can hire a private psychologist in an ACS case rather than use an ACS-referred doctor. Hiring a medical professional in an ACS case allows you to start your medical evaluation process with a clean slate. Plus, it isn’t difficult to find and hire a doctor in an ACS case.

Below, the Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, describes several instances in an ACS case where ACS may refer a parent to their services. Although ACS may make you feel like you must use your list of services or lose your child, usually, you can choose to hire a private doctor. 

ACS Case in NYC

ACS is the child protective services organization in New York City. ACS investigates all reports of abuse or neglect from the New York State Central Register hotline. 

If there is a report against you, an ACS worker will show up at your door and demand entry to your house. They usually request to question your children and frequently require you to agree to undergo a drug screening or mental health evaluation.

Parents should be careful about what they say to ACS, especially about ongoing mental health issues. If ACS demands a mental health evaluation, you can tell ACS you’d like to speak to a lawyer before you agree.

ACS Investigation and Mental Health Referrals

ACS has 60 days to investigate the case. Upon completion, ACS can find either that the report is “unfounded” or “indicated.” In an “unfounded” report, ACS did not find evidence to support the allegation and will close the case. However, they may still refer a parent to preventive services, including mental health treatment.  

In an “indicated” case, ACS believes there is credible evidence to support the allegation. ACS can then take one of several actions:

  • Refer the case to preventive services;
  • Refer the case to family court with potential court-ordered services; or
  • Remove the child, bring the matter to family court, and require reunification services.

Nearly every single result of an ACS case could require a parent to undergo mental health evaluations and treatment. 

Understandably, it’s difficult for parents to trust the ACS-referred services. If a court or ACS requires mental health treatment, you should speak with your attorneys to decide whether to hire a private psychologist in an ACS case.

ACS Preventive Services and Mental Health Referrals

During the ACS investigation or after ACS completes its investigation, ACS may refer a parent to preventive services. Preventive services are meant to provide support to a family and may include the following:

  • Housing support,
  • Mental health treatment,
  • Substance abuse treatment,
  • Home care services for those too ill to care for their children, and
  • Special needs care for children.

ACS will provide these services in-house or refer you to a contracted medical professional. Often, as a part of the preventive services process, the organization, parent, and ACS have regular contact through family team conferences where they discuss how things are progressing. 

The Reality of ACS Preventive Services

Although preventive services sound great, they may be far from it. Some parents have reported that ACS requires them to use services, like mental health or drug treatment, that don’t apply to their cases. Some complain that ACS’s referrals are useless or outdated. 

Parents’ Rights to Hire an Independent Professional

ACS preventive services are voluntary. Parents can accept or decline them. Before agreeing to any services, especially a mental health evaluation, you should speak with an attorney.

If you believe family or individual counseling could benefit your family, you don’t have to use the ACS referral. Instead, you can hire someone outside the ACS system to bring an independent and more impartial perspective to your family’s situation.  

You should speak with an ACS defense attorney about these options today.

ACS Safety Plan and Mental Health Treatment

If ACS indicates a report, it may require you to do certain things to prevent your child from being removed or to return the child to the home. ACS outlines these requirements in a safety plan, which may include the following:

  • Anger management,
  • Mental health treatment,
  • Parenting classes, and
  • Drug treatment and ongoing screenings.

ACS often refers parents to organizations or professionals with whom they have a contractual relationship. Although these professionals maintain their ethical standards when working with a parent, parents are often concerned that these professionals may already have some negative bias toward them.

Parents’ Rights and a Safety Plan

ACS referrals through a safety plan are voluntary unless court-ordered. You can discuss the safety plan with the ACS worker and your attorney to determine if mental health treatment is appropriate. Then, as stated, you can hire a private psychologist rather than use the ACS services.

Parents’ Rights in Court

If your case is in family court, you should speak with your attorney about hiring a private psychologist rather than using the ACS-referred professional. The attorney can advocate with the judge so that you have the right to seek treatment wherever you feel most comfortable. 

What If the Parent Meets with the ACS-Referred Doctor?

Perhaps you don’t feel comfortable with the treating doctor. Or, maybe, you don’t understand why the referral is relevant to the case. You can change your mind after meeting the ACS-referred professional. If you wish to change your mind, you should discuss this with an attorney.

You can also ask about the doctor’s relationship with ACS. You can ask about the number of cases they’ve worked on with ACS. You can also ask the professional about what ACS has already told them about their case. 

Contact Our Office for Questions About ACS Cases and Medical Referrals

The ACS defense attorney at the Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, has handled numerous cases defending parents against ACS. Plus, we can help you determine whether the ACS referral is appropriate and how to find an independent professional rather than an ACS-related party to deal with your mental health evaluations. You don’t have to powerlessly accept whatever ACS tells you to do. With our help, you can fight to preserve your rights at every turn of an ACS case. Contact us today.