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ACS Cases

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Battling False Abuse Reports to New York's ACS

Our community undoubtedly has an important responsibility to protect children suffering from abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or caregivers. 

That said, our New York City ACS attorneys know that far too often, innocent children are harmed by false reports of abuse and neglect, filed by individuals whose goal is revenge. Once such an allegation is made and this vast bureaucracy is involved, it can be exceedingly difficult to put the episode behind you.

The non-profit City Limits project of Community Services Society of New York recently examined the issue of false reporting in an article aiming to spotlight how this problem hurts not only the parents, but the children too. 

Among the scenarios described to reporters:

  • A landlord who contacted ACS on his tenant for child neglect on numerous occasions - each coinciding with incidents in which the tenant's housing support check wasn't coming through;
  • A neighbor who contacted ACS alleging child neglect by another neighbor, shortly after the two had quarreled over a missing phone call;
  • A homeless shelter resident calling ACS for child neglect on another resident regarding her 15-day-old son, who was removed from his mother's for five days and endured a six-month investigation before the case was ultimately dismissed. The caller was reportedly jealous of the mother's relationship with her boyfriend. 

In many cases, adoptive and foster parents have been the target of such vitriol, mostly by biological parents who are unable to avail themselves of any other avenues of recourse. There have even been extreme cases in which some individuals have dozens of reports filed against them in a single month's time. 

There have been other reports in which victims of domestic violence became the target of such action, perpetuated by their aggressor. In these scenarios, the abuser may use the threat of ACS action to keep the victim in the relationship. The victim doesn't want to lose her children, so she stays with someone who may in fact be perpetuating even more harm. Batterers know they don't need much evidence for an investigation to be kick-started. 

There are no clear-cut answers for just how many false reports the agency receives in any given period. We know that about 60 percent of reports are unfounded, but not all of those are malicious.

However, vengeful abuse reporting is a phenomenon with which even the social workers are quite familiar. Still, they are bound by the law to investigate claims of abuse and neglect. Even if they suspect the report may be false, they still have a duty to initiate an investigation. Nobody wants to be responsible for leaving a child in a potentially dangerous situation. 

State law does require the agency to send reports it believes to be maliciously false to officials with the District Attorney's office. However, it's rare that they take this action, and it's even more unlikely that such a case would go to trial. 

This is not to mention the fact that such calls can be made anonymously - and many are. 

The situation can be compounded when the target of such action is enduring a real struggle, such as depression or homelessness. They may find it difficult to fight. 

But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Our experienced ACS attorneys are committed to ensuring that such false reports don't continue to plague you. Call us today for more information about how we can help. 

If you have been the target of ACS abuse or neglect reports in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

False Abuse Reports Trouble Child Welfare Advocates, Oct. 4, 2013, By Rachel Blustain, City Limits

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Child Custody and Abuse Claims: Proving Your Case, Sept. 18, 2013, New York City ACS Lawyer Blog

Friday, October 4, 2013

Successful Brooklyn ACS Appeals Require Experienced Attorney Help

Recently chronicled in the New York Daily News was the reported neglect of an infant and toddler by a young single mother who was accused of leaving the children at home alone and in filthy conditions and in a room with freshly-smoked marijuana.

On the surface, our Brooklyn ACS appeal lawyers know that it sounds like an open-and-shut case. After all, no one would argue that it's acceptable to leave a 1- and 2-year-old at home alone for any length of time, and no one wants to think of infants being left in soiled clothing in close proximity to potentially dangerous drugs.

However, as in so many of these cases, the details that emerge begin to paint a picture that isn't quite so black-and-white.

In this case, it was a neighbor who alerted authorities after noting that an adult at the apartment had left without anyone appearing to be inside with the children. The neighbor peered into a window and saw the two children looking back at her, one inside a crib. They were alone.

Sheriff's deputies arrived and found the children alone, in conditions they described as "squalid." On the living room table, there was reportedly a half-smoked marijuana cigarette, next to a plate of spaghetti that had turned moldy. The children were found to be wearing garments that were soiled.

The mother returned soon after police arrived. She was reportedly surprised to learn that an 18-year-old she'd hired to babysit was not there. When authorities contacted the babysitter, she at first said she'd been to the house, but had left to go to the store for 30 minutes. She later changed her story and said she was never there at all, so it's not clear which version was true.

The mother lamented to a news crew, which she allowed to tour her home, that she had hired a babysitter, and therefore couldn't understand why authorities were charging her with neglect and had removed her children. She described her home as "a little messy." However, she said as a working single mother, housework sometimes took a backseat to other priorities. She said she was horrified to hear that the children had been left in dirty diapers and that the marijuana cigarette belonged to her boyfriend - the father of her children - who does not live there but occasionally visits.

When we begin to analyze the totality of the circumstances, again, it does not appear as initially presented. And this is why appeals of findings handed down by the Administration for Children's Services in Brooklyn are so important.

The agency is charged with the protection of children, and it's a responsibility that many of its workers take very seriously. However, these individuals tend to be overworked and underpaid. Judgments have to be made quickly, and workers will usually err on the side of caution. Under those circumstances, mistakes are inevitable. Parents are falsely accused and families are needlessly separated.

But you are not without recourse.

Appealing an ACS finding of neglect or abuse will start with a full consultation. Copies of the ACS records will be requested and reviewed by your attorney. At that point, a formal request is made to change the finding to unfounded (based on what is in the reports) and to have the record expunged. A legal brief may be submitted, detailing why an insufficient record exits for the finding that was ultimately reached. In some cases, a Fair Hearing will be set before an Administrative Law Judge. At that time, your lawyer will advocate for the dismissal of the case and the expungement or sealing of your records.

If you are seeking to appeal a Brooklyn ACS neglect or abuse finding, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Florida mom faces child neglect charges after children, aged 1 and 2, found dirty, alone with marijuana: police, Oct. 1, 2013, By Nina Golgowski, The New York Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Child Custody and Abuse Claims: Proving Your Case, Sept. 18, 2013, Brooklyn ACS Appeals Attorney Blog

Saturday, August 17, 2013

ACS cases and the removal of children under Article 10 of the Family Court Act

I am a  New York City ACS Attorney that defends the rights of parents in New York City that have been accused of Abuse or Neglect by the Administration of Children’s Services (hereinafter referred as ACS). I have done so over the past ten years. I represent people in ACS Administrative proceedings (where court is not involved) and in Court. I am a privately retained counsel. This article describes the process in which a child can temporarily be removed from their home pursuant to Article 10 of the Family Court Act. If you are currently being investigated by ACS and if you believe that there is a possibility that ACS will remove your child from your home, give me a call immediately, 24 hours a day, at 718 864 2011.

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