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Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Parent’s Rights against ACS in New York

It can be thoroughly frightening and devastating when the state intervenes in the relationship between you and your child. If the New York Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has contacted you about the welfare of your child, someone reported you or your child’s caregiver to the state for potential child abuse or neglect. You need to react appropriately and quickly if this happens. You also don’t want to face this kind of allegation without the help of a skilled attorney who is a regular advocate for parents’ rights against the ACS. At the Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, George Mark Gilmer is that skilled attorney, and our experienced legal team is here to support you. 

What Can Trigger a Report to the ACS? 

One of the first things we want you to know about ACS reports is what typically constitutes abuse or neglect. Understanding these terms when you face an accusation can help you explain misunderstandings and effectively correct your parenting choices, if necessary. In New York, abuse and neglect can include:

  • Physical abuse, 

  • Physical neglect, 

  • Educational neglect, 

  • Emotional and verbal abuse, 

  • Emotional neglect, 

  • Medical neglect, 

  • Sexual abuse, and

  • Drug and alcohol abuse.

While some instances of alleged abuse or neglect are cut and dry, others can be a matter of nuance or someone’s misinterpretation of a parent’s circumstances.    

ACS Investigation

A report of abuse or neglect starts a timeline that can include an investigation, a possible hearing, and a decision about what happens to your child. If the ACS receives an abuse or neglect report about you, they have to open an investigation to make sure the children are safe. Normally, multiple state agencies participate in this process. During this investigation, Child Protective Services (CPS) must contact the person who reported you within 24 hours. They must also make an unannounced visit to your home within 24 to 48 hours. When CPS visits your home, it has to complete a number of tasks, including:

  • Speaking to all biological children who live with you;

  • Talking to any children who are in your home during the visit;

  • Speaking to all adults and caretakers who live in your home;

  • Checking your home for hazards, safe sleeping areas, and adequate food;

  • Giving you a Notice of Existence letter about the investigation. 

CPS also speaks to others who know you, such as medical professionals, educators, neighbors, friends, and law enforcement. They also visit your child’s school. 

Within 60 days, CPS has to decide if there’s evidence of the reported abuse or neglect. If there isn’t enough evidence to support the report, the report is “unfounded.” The New York State Central Register (SCR) sends you a letter if the report is unfounded. After an unfounded report, you might also receive recommendations for community-based or preventive services for your family. 

If there is enough evidence, the report is “indicated,” and you receive a Notice of Indication letter from CPS. With an indicated report, the state takes additional steps to intervene in your family dynamic. Whether your case is labeled as indicated or unfounded, reports stay on file with SCR until your youngest existing child at the time of the investigation turns 28. 

Neglect and Abuse Hearings

If you have an indicated report of abuse or neglect, CPS can petition the court for help with addressing the allegations. 

Intake Hearing for Immediate Removal of the Child From Your Home

If the state believes your child is in imminent danger, CPS or the police can remove your child from your home without a court order. Instead, the agency seeking to take your child attends a 1027 or “Intake Hearing” on the next court day after a removal and petition. The court then decides if your child should go to another caretaker or be released to you until the court makes a final decision. The state and court don’t have to wait for your attendance to hold this kind of hearing. Also, your child receives their own attorney at this time, and you receive a copy of the state’s petition.

A 1028 Hearing to Challenge Your Child’s Removal 

If CPS or the police remove your child, you can file a “1028” motion to request that your child be released back to your care while the court makes its ultimate decision. This “1028” hearing normally happens within three days of your child’s removal. 

A Fact-Finding Hearing 

After determining where a child will stay while the court makes its decision, there is a fact-finding hearing to decide whether or not there was abuse or neglect. In this hearing, both sides—you and the State—present evidence to the court. If the court finds there was no abuse or neglect, the State can release your child back to you. If the court decides there was abuse or neglect, your case moves on to a dispositional hearing for long-term orders. 

Dispositional Hearing

Long-term decisions about the placement of your child take place at a dispositional hearing. During the dispositional hearing, the court takes testimony and reviews agency reports about your parenting. The court then hands down an order about where your child should be placed, what kinds of programs your family needs (if any), and what boundaries should be placed on your parenting (if any). 

Possible Outcomes of an Abuse or Neglect Report

There can be many stages to resolving an abuse or neglect report. There can also be many outcomes when resolving this kind of report against your family. Possible outcomes include: 

  • Releasing your child back to your care without restrictions;

  • Releasing of your child back to your care with conditions or restrictions (e.g., entering treatment for substance abuse or being subject to state supervision for one year);

  • Placing your child with a relative or suitable adult for one year or less; or

  • Placing your child in a group home, in a foster home, or under authorized agency care.

Parents can admit to neglect or abuse. However, parents who admit to these actions run certain risks. Their child can be placed in foster care for one year or less, and they may lose parental rights if they don’t maintain contact with their child. An admission to abuse or neglect also remains on record with the SCR until the child in question turns 28.  

What Are My Rights if Someone Files an Abuse or Neglect Report? 

Don’t let the ACS or other state agencies withhold services you’re entitled to in an abuse or neglect case. At different stages of your case, you could have multiple, significant rights, such as rights to: 

  • An attorney (for 1028, fact-finding, and dispositional hearings);

  • Copies of any Notice of Indication, Notice of Existence, Notice of Unfounded Reports, and court petitions;

  • A copy of the abuse or neglect report (certain information may be redacted); 

  • Amendment or expungement of the abuse or neglect report if applicable;

  • The names for your child’s caseworker and attorney; 

  • The name and contact information for the foster agency that is housing your child;

  • A request that your relative be your child’s foster parent;

  • A warning that admitting to an abuse or neglect report places you on the SCR until the child involved turns 28; and

  • An appeal, if applicable.

It can be hard to focus on the nuances of family law when you’re fighting to get your child back. An attorney can make sure you are afforded all of your rights after someone files a neglect or abuse report against you. 

Our Legal Team Is Here to Help Keep Your Family Together

The stakes are rarely higher than when the state inserts itself into your relationship with your child. You don’t want to face this circumstance alone. Attorney George Mark Gilmer at Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, has 20 years of experience vehemently fighting for parents’ rights against the ACS. We give top-notch representation, but we don’t charge top-shelf fees. We are passionate about serving families in our community, and we offer affordable legal services to our clients. We work hard to serve the legal needs of communities in the five boroughs of New York. If you’re nearby and you need help, we hope you’ll give us a call. Contact us online, or call us at 718-864-2011.  


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