Reports of child abuse and neglect in New York State are made to the State Central Registry (SCR). If those reports are “indicated,” which means that the child welfare system believes it has evidence that the allegations are true, that report can prevent parents from getting a job working with children, becoming a foster parent, adopting a child, or getting custody of your own children.
How an “Indicated” Report Can Affect You
When you apply for a job that is connected to caring for children, you may receive a letter saying you have a report under your name.
Indicated cases stay on your record until the youngest child named in the report is 28 years old.
“Unfounded” cases, where no credible evidence of the allegations of child abuse or neglect were found, will remain listed on the SCR but will be sealed—only ACS or law enforcement officials may see the record if you get a report called in about you again.
Even if your child was not taken away from you and your case was closed, you may still have a report against you in the SCR.
How to “Seal and Amend” Your Record
Once your case is closed, you can begin the process of trying to have it “sealed” or “amended” so that it cannot be held against you and prevent you from advancing your life goals. ‘
If the report amended, that means that the status has been changed from indicated to unfounded after an administrative review or a fair hearing.
If a report it sealed, it has been determined that even if the allegations of abuse and/or neglect were founded, they are not relevant to employment involving children and therefore not accessible to employers or foster care and adoption agencies.
Trying to clear your name is a process, but it helps remove the long shadow of the child welfare system, and it is not that difficult to try. Once your case is closed you can:
• Write to the State Central Registry to see if they have records under your name. In that same letter, request that ACS records of your investigation be sent to you, which will include all children involved, allegations made, and why ACS made their decision. The letter should also ask that any records be sealed or amended.
• After you write your letter, you should start getting copies of certification of programs completed (drug treatment, mental health, parenting etc.), and character letters from people who have seen your change. If your request is denied, you can then request a fair hearing to show the judge evidence that you have changed your life around and want to advance. Getting these copies and letters takes time, so start as soon as you send your first letter.
In the Hands of the Judge
Anyone can request to seal or amend their case, but the decision lies in the hands of the judge. As a parent advocate, I have seen that neglect cases, like educational neglect, get closed quickly. If your allegation was related to corporal punishment, like mine was, or substance abuse, then it can be more difficult to seal and amend the case.
I still have a corporal punishment investigation on my record even though it’s been 15 years since the case was closed. I have been fortunate to be able to work in the child welfare system all these years, but that record follows me whenever I apply for a job dealing with children. I have tried several times to seal the contents, but I have been denied each time. It drives me crazy not to have that feeling of closure.
[YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS]
[Name of the Director if you have it]
New York State Central Register of Child Abuse
New York State Office of Children and Family Services
PO Box 4480
Albany, New York 12204-0480
Re: Case ID Number _____________
To Whom it May Concern,
My name is _________ and my date of birth is________. My children’s names and birthdates are______________________________. I am writing to ask if I am the subject of a report of suspected child abuse or maltreatment. I request that pursuant to Social Services Law §422(7), you provide me with a copy of all records in your file regarding me and my family.
I also request, pursuant to Social Services Law § 422(8), that if I am the subject of an indicated report of suspected child abuse or maltreatment that you expunge, or amend and seal, all records of this report.
If you decide not to expunge, or amend and seal, the report, I request that you provide me with a fair hearing to clear my name and to expunge or amend and seal the report.
Thank you for your consideration.
Very truly yours,