In New York City, 44% of Black children, 43% of Latino children and 19% of white children experience an investigation in childhood. As ProPublica reported, an average of 150 children are investigated by the Administration for Children’s Services every day.
This brief runs through the meaning of different data points related to investigations and where to find them. It does not cover every data point available but focuses on those that offer a picture of family and community impact. Also, note that some data is by calendar year (CY) and other data is by fiscal year (FY), which runs Oct 1-Sept 30.
If you came to this page because you are facing an investigation, find help here: https://yourfamilyyourrights.org/
Number of investigations
Investigations begin with callers reporting abuse and neglect to the State Central Registry (SCR), run by the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), which refers reports to ACS for investigation.
The Flash report includes a chart showing the current investigations against the last few years. However, this chart is somewhat misleading because ACS does not include “differential response” cases (called CARES in NYC), which are less intrusive but still involve ACS investigators visiting the family. Scroll down for an explanation of CARES.
For example, looking at August 2022, there appears to be a significant drop of more than 400 cases from 3,280 in 2019 to 2,867 in 2022. But if you include full investigations and CARES, the total is 3,223 for August 2022 and there were 3,237 investigations and 65 CARES cases in August 2019, totaling 3,302, according to ACS. So the difference is actually much smaller — about 80 fewer cases today.
CARES cases are tracked with investigations on the following page. That’s where you can see that total investigations, including CARES, were 3,223 in August of 2022.
Types of Callers and Allegations
In the index in the last few pages of the Flash report, ACS provides information on the types of callers and allegations.
ACS publishes the number of reports it receives from different reporter types:
It also publishes the allegation types. See the bottom of this page of NY State’s definition of neglect.
Results of Investigations
Investigations close with a finding that abuse or neglect is “indicated” or not, except CARES cases, which do not include any finding. The rate of indicated cases fell dramatically in 2022, when a new law took effect, changing the legal standard from “some credible evidence” to “preponderance of evidence” required to indicate neglect.
ACS does not provide information about the indication rates of investigations called in by different types of hotline callers, but this information is reported to the federal government. From this data, you can see how accurate different reporters are. “Alternate Response” is another term for CARES.
In the Mayor’s Management Report, ACS provides information about repeat investigations. In recent years, the percentage of children in any investigation who are reported again within a year has been about 25%. The number of families who had had an “indicated” investigation and then a repeat investigation has gone down from about 18% in FY18 to 15% in FY22.
Who Is Investigated and Where
In 2022, ACS began providing data snapshots of each community district. Below is one example, CD1, the Mott Haven Neighborhood in the Bronx. In terms of investigations, these reports show the type of child protective contact (investigation or CARES), the type of reporters calling the hotline, and the types of allegations in investigations. They compare each neighborhood to the city and borough. The reports also show foster care, preventive services and juvenile justice involvement, and ACS child care vouchers.
These snapshots also break out investigations and other data by “rate.” This means the number of children per 1,000 children in the neighborhood. If you compare the numbers of investigations or removals in one neighborhood to another, it doesn’t tell you very much, because the number of children in one neighborhood may be a lot different. The rates allow for an accurate comparison.
The snapshots give a picture of ACS’ presence in a neighborhood. If 24 children out of 1,000 are investigated each year in Mott Haven, for instance, it means that on a block with 100 children, 2-3 are getting investigated every year, or 1-3 families. Over 10 years, that can mean that a quarter or a third of families on a block with 100 children would have experienced an investigation.
You can see the number of investigations and indication rate in every community district (CD) from 2016-2021 to get a sense of changes over time.
In 2022, ACS reported the race/ethnicity of families at every step of the child welfare process—from reports to investigations to indications, and to preventive service referrals, court involvement and removal. This information is set up to show how each stage relates to the original number of reports, meaning that it answers questions like, “What percent of Black families investigated citywide have their case indicated? What percent of families investigated end up having a child removed? What percent of families with an indicated investigation have their child removed?” These charts also show how investigations play out in every neighborhood, so that comparisons can be made across neighborhoods.
Some striking information in this document is that:
- Black families are far more likely to experience an emergency removal, with the percent of reports resulting in an emergency removal at 10.6% for Black parents, 6.8% for Latino parents, 3.9% for Asian/Pacific Island parents and 4.7% for white parents.
- While a similar percent of reports on Black and Latino parents lead to Article X filings alleging abuse or neglect in court (44.2% for Black parents and 41.0% for Latino), their results in court are quite different. Reports against Black parents are 50% more like to result in removal than those against Latino parents. Looking only at indicated cases, indications against Black parents are still about 45% more likely to result in removal than those against Latino parents.
A couple notes on terms used here: A “remand at initial hearing” means that a child was removed and placed in foster care at the first court hearing. “Article X foster care entries” also means removal, but includes removals at the first hearing and those that happen at a later date.
This document also includes the race, gender and language of every parent and child impacted by the child welfare system each year citywide.
Trends Over Time
Lastly, it’s possible to see changes in investigations and other child welfare impacts over time. OCFS keeps data from 1995-2021 in a series of spreadsheets that cover CPS reports, “indicated” reports, foster entries and other metrics. NYC is aggregated in yellow at the bottom. Two observations:
- Hotline reports in 2020 and 2021 fell below 1995 levels for the first time in 25 years. While 40,000 children were in foster care that year – and that number has fallen continuously every year since then – the number of hotline calls has followed a different track. Hotline calls and investigations jumped sharply in 1996, 2006 and 2016 after the highly publicized deaths of Elisa Izquierdo, Nixzmary Brown and Zymere Perkins and remained elevated until 2020.
- Indication rates have been consistently higher in NYC than upstate, radically diverging in 2006 when media and political pressure jumped in the city and remaining much high today. At the same time, the investigation rate is higher upstate. Upstate accounts for about 60% of all children in New York State, but about 66% of all investigations.
What Is CARES?
ACS is legally required to respond to all SCR reports referred but it can respond with a full investigation or with a less intensive, intrusive response when cases appear to be low risk. That’s called by many names: “differential response,” “alternate response,” “FAR” in New York State and “CARES” in NYC. With CARES, there is no traditional investigation, no court involvement and no determination/finding. Instead, child protective staff trained in the CARES approach call ahead to set up a meeting with the family. The meeting focuses on any needs the family may identify and families are connected to resources or services. As of October 2022, ACS has 39 units handling CARES cases; its goal is to have 48 units available by the end of 2022 and 64 units by the end of 2023.
CARES numbers are reported by ACS in the Flash indicators and Mayor’s Management Report, and by OCFS as “FAR Reports.” CARES has grown dramatically in recent years.
How Does NY State Define Neglect?
For a full definition, read the laws summarized here:
- A maltreated child includes a child “defined as a neglected child by the family court act, or … who has had serious physical injury inflicted upon him or her by other than accidental means.” NYS Social Services Law § 412(2). New York State defines a neglected child as a child “whose physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of his parent or other person legally responsible for his care to exercise a minimum degree of care…” Family Court Act § 1012(f); NYS Social Services Law § 371(4-a)(i). “’Person legally responsible’ includes the child’s custodian, guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s care at the relevant time.” Family Court Act § 1012(g).
- In reports to the SCR, the reporter must have “reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is an abused or maltreated child or when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is an abused or maltreated child where the parent or other person legally responsible comes before them in their professional or official capacity and states from personal knowledge facts, conditions or circumstances which, if correct, would render the child an abused or maltreated child” (NYS SSL § 413(1)).
Both ACS and OCFS have phone numbers that mandated reporters can call to find out about services and resources in the community to refer families to instead of calling in a report.
- In NYC, it’s the ACS preventive technical assistance unit that receives the call: 212-676-7667
- OCFS has a line called HEARS that is described as a parent helpline, but parents should know that it is staffed by mandated reporters at OCFS
Parents in NYC can get free legal support when facing an investigation. Here is information on your rights and support during an investigation: https://yourfamilyyourrights.org/