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Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Maltreatment

What is Child Abuse?

There are two categorical definitions of child abuse established by state law. In either, the child must be under age 18. An abused child is defined as one whose parent, guardian, custodian, legal guardian or other person legally responsible has inflicted, or has allowed another person to inflict serious physical injury or substantial risk of death, serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health. This definition also includes children who have been sexually abused.

A maltreated child is defined as one whose physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired as a result of the failure of his parent, custodian, legal guardian, or other person legally responsible to exercise a minimum degree of care in: 1) supplying the child with food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care or, 2) in providing the child with proper supervision or guardianship by unreasonably inflicting or allowing another person to inflict harm or a substantial risk thereof, including the use of excessive corporal punishment; or by misusing drugs or alcohol to the extent that he or she loses control of his actions; or by abandoning the child.

In these definitions it is useful to note that any adult residing in the same household as the child, whether or not related, is legally responsible for the child. Also, in considering the impact of the use of a substance to the point of losing control, the law makes no distinction as to the legality of the substance.

What Happens After a Report is Made?

The New York State Central Register notifies the local child protective services (CPS) immediately. An investigation will begin with 24 hours. This will usually include a telephone call back to the reporting source to verify the information provided and to begin assessing any risk to the child. CPS must notify the subject(s) of the existence of the report and of the subject’s rights. CPS will usually try to see the child first but this is not required by law and is not always possible. If warranted, a child may be taken into protective custody.

Within sixty days of the date of the report, CPS must determine if the suspicion reported is "indicated" or "unfounded." Only "some credible evidence" is required to indicate the report, while a "fair preponderance of evidence" is required to submit a petition to the family court or to uphold a finding in a fair hearing. An indicated report may be closed if the situation is not deemed to be serious. Otherwise the family may be offered a service plan to avoid further neglect or abuse. If the family refuses such a plan, and the refusal is believed to expose the child to further risk, CPS will ask the family court to order a service plan.

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Important Numbers

Reports are made by telephoning the New York State Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment in Albany.

Statewide Toll Free Number: 1-800-342-3720

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call TDD/TTY: 1-800-638-5163
or have your Video Relay System provider call 1-800-342-3720

If you believe that a child is in immediate danger, call 911

Anyone can report suspected abuse or maltreatment, anonymously if they prefer.

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901