The Rise series Surveillance Isn’t Safety began with a focus on schools because NYC schools call in 26% of NYC reports to the state child abuse and neglect hotline. Parents have described the harm caused to their families when schools did not support them, but then reported them.
Here, Rise highlights steps that the Department of Education (DOE) and individual schools, as well as our city and state child welfare agencies, ACS and OFCS, and others can take to better support families and reduce unnecessary reports.
Last March, changes were made to Article 10 of the Family Court Act through the state legislature. The changes require schools and ACS to work with parents to resolve educational issues related to a student’s excessive absences prior to filing a petition of educational neglect. ACS also has to provide reasons why the educational issue cannot be resolved without going to court. To understand the new law, as well as p how NYC’s child welfare and education systems work together, we spoke with staff at ACS.
For months before I caught my case with child protective services, I was dealing with my daughter Brianna’s behavioral issues. She was a bubbly little gymnast who liked to do cartwheels all over the place. But she was also very destructive, breaking things, hurting herself and stealing. She was 6.
A few days before the school called in the case, I met with Brianna’s teacher, parent coordinator, and guidance counselor. They told me that Brianna was interrupting class, sliding across the floor, being rude to teachers and stealing other students’ snacks.
I knew that Brianna had developmental challenges, but I didn’t know her behavior was going this far. I was shocked, and mad at my daughter.
Two days after the meeting I spanked Brianna because she started throwing things after I asked her to clean off her bed. I didn’t normally spank my children. But I was so fed up with her behavior. And I didn’t know what else to do.
On December 21, 2015, the school social worker called in the case. That started a 5-year ordeal with ACS that tore my family apart and caused many new problems.
Throughout Rise’s series on schools and child welfare, parents describe how school reports to child protective services took them by surprise. Sometimes, the calls were made without sufficient cause. Other times, problems at home escalated when schools were not willing or able to adequately address a child’s behavior problems. Even for families who got help, the trauma of child welfare involvement far over-shadowed the benefits.
Here, Asia Piña and Crystal Baker-Burr, a social worker and an education attorney at The Bronx Defenders, warn parents that some schools may call in reports far more quickly than others. They suggest ways parents can navigate challenges and improve their relationship with their child’s school to avoid unnecessary reports.