Hotline Calls

Overview

In 2021, a new study showed that Black and Latino families in NYC experience astoundingly high rates of child welfare investigations – 44% of Black children and 43% of Latino children will experience an investigation by age 18. The study documented what parents have long decried: their families and communities live under constant child welfare surveillance and threat of family separation.

This brief uses zip-code level data from 2019 to offer new information about the hotline calls that lead to child welfare investigations in NYC. (The term “hotline calls” throughout this brief refers specifically to calls to the State Central Registry that are referred to ACS and consolidated into investigations or CARES/differential response cases.)

  • Hotline calls are highly concentrated in just a few neighborhoods where hotline call rates are double or even triple the citywide average, such as in Brownsville, where the hotline call rate was 188 calls per 1,000 families in 2019 or in Hunts Point, where it was 141 calls per 1,000 families, compared to a citywide average of 53;
  • The vast majority of calls are unsubstantiated – in Jan.-May 2022, 75% did not indicate neglect or abuse;
  • There’s a strong correlation between a neighborhood’s child poverty rates and rates of hotline calls.

In recent years, advocates have pushed for legislation, policies and training that could reduce hotline calls and investigations. Current legislation under consideration in the State Legislature calls for replacing anonymous reporting with confidential reporting, requiring informed consent before drug testing mothers and newborns in public hospitals, and requiring that ACS inform parents of their rights at the onset of an investigation. ACS and OCFS also have revamped trainings in ways that emphasize to mandated reporters that children need to be in danger, not poverty, to merit a hotline call.

This brief offers information on where efforts to reduce mandated and non-mandated reporting could make the biggest difference.

 

Data analysis by Caterina Pisciotta and text by Nora McCarthy. All child welfare data provided by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) unless otherwise noted. Special thanks to Frank Edwards. 

How to Use This Brief

This set of slides makes it easy to make use of this data:

You can use the tables below to look up every zip code in NYC to see the number and rate of hotline calls in 2019, the types of reporters making calls and the allegations made in every zip code. You can also use the chart that shows the correlation between child poverty rates and rates of investigations to see the percent of child poverty in every zip code and how zip codes compare to one another.

All of the data from these charts can be downloaded as a spreadsheet—and so can each chart—so that you can use this data in advocacy and planning.

A few notes:

  • "Hotline calls" throughout this brief refers specifically to calls to the State Central Registry that are referred to ACS. Reports of the same incident from multiple callers are consolidated into a single report.
  • There’s a bunch of jargon in this brief – “indicated,” CARES, SCR. You can use this guide for explanations.
  • This brief uses the term "rate per 1,000." Most public child welfare data shows only the number of investigations in a community district (CD). The charts below use zip code data and present rates of hotline calls in addition to numbers. Looking at the rate of hotline calls per 1,000 children or households in a zip code allows us to accurately compare which zip codes are most impacted. For example, Hunts Point ranks 81st in the number of hotline calls because it’s a small neighborhood, but it ranks 4th citywide in its rate, which is 141 per 1,000 households with children (or 7 calls for every 50 families). That means that many families probably know a neighbor who was recently investigated. ACS’ presence is high.
  • You can learn more here about how to understand ACS' publicly available data about hotline calls and investigations.
  • This brief does not examine race impacts; FPP's next brief will examine race across child welfare involvement.

You can contact info@familypolicynyc.org with any questions. Our goal is to make sure parents and youth impacted by the child welfare system, advocates, community organizations, policymakers, media and others have access to information about the child welfare system’s impact in New York City.

Where are families most impacted by hotline calls?

The Bronx has a far higher rate of hotline calls than other boroughs. In the Bronx, 87 hotline calls were made for every 1,000 households with children in 2019, compared to rates of 48-54 calls per 1,000 households with children in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

In all charts, hover over each bar for full labels and data. To see data presented in terms of “1 call for every X families,” click here.  

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Citywide numbers include only those cases with NYC zip codes. Numbers were aggregated at the citywide and borough levels to create rates. “Families” refers to households with children in the Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019). Includes all NYC zip codes regardless of # of calls/reports to the State Central Registry (SCR), the hotline run by the state child welfare agency, OCFS, to report neglect or abuse. “Hotline calls” refers specifically to calls to the State Central Registry that are referred to ACS.

What were hotline call rates in my zip code?

To explore: Click on the each label (such as “# families” or “rate per 1,000 children” to sort the sheet by that data type from the lowest number to the highest, and click again to show highest to lowest.

Note: “Families” refers to households with children in the Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019).

The majority of hotline calls do not result in substantiated neglect or abuse

ACS substantiated allegations in only 35% of cases in 2019 — and substantiations dropped to 25% in 2022, after the standard of evidence to substantiate neglect increased and the number of CARES cases increased as well.

That means that 75% of families investigated or contacted by ACS for CARES in 2022 were not indicated for abuse or neglect.

 

Note: 2022 data is from ACS’ Flash Report. CARES cases are neither substantiated nor unsubstantiated; they have no determination.

Download: Image 1, Data 2019, Data 2022

 

In the 25 zip codes with the highest child poverty rates, the hotline call rate was twice as high as in all other zip codes

Rates were also 4 times as high in zip codes with the highest poverty rates than in zip codes with the lowest.

A rate of 98.5 hotline calls per 1,000 households with children in the highest poverty zip codes is just about equivalent to a hotline call being made on 1 in 10 households.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children and/or child poverty data (n=16). Median analyses show similar results (Top 25: 82, 96, respectively); All Other Zips (32, 42, respectively); and Bottom 25 (17, 20, respectively).

Poverty is highly correlated with hotline calls and investigations

A scatterplot chart like this how closely two things are related (“correlated”). The correlation rate between child poverty and investigations was .595 in 2019 and is shown here. The way dots cluster pretty neatly along the line shows that this is a strong correlation. The correlation between child poverty and hotline calls was .596 and between child poverty and foster care placements was .57, also high.

Click on each dot to see the zip code, child poverty rate and investigations rate.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Child poverty data is from the Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019).

 

The Bronx, with the highest child poverty rate, had a disproportionate percent of hotline calls

Almost one-third of all hotline callers report Bronx families, even though they make up only 21% of families in NYC. In all other boroughs, calls are more proportionate with the population.

The child poverty rate in the Bronx was 39% compared to 27% for Brooklyn, 21% for Manhattan, 16% for Queens and 15% for Staten Island in 2019.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children and/or child poverty data (n=16). Child poverty data is from the Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019).

The majority of hotline calls are about neglect

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Data represents the citywide average. Allegation groups are explained here. Multiple allegations are frequently made in one call. This data refers to the percent of all allegations that are neglect. Almost 100% of all calls include a neglect allegation.

What were the allegations in my zip code?

You can use this table to see the allegations made in hotline calls in every zip code. Calls referred to ACS from the State Central Registry (SCR) are consolidated into either investigations or CARES cases, because multiple SCR reports may be made on the same incident (such as both police and the hospital calling). This table shows the number and percent of each allegation in both investigations and CARES cases in each zip code.

To explore: Click on the each label (such as “education neglect #”) to sort the sheet by that data type from the lowest number to the highest, and click again to show highest to lowest.

Allegation types across the boroughs showed some differences, such as higher educational neglect allegations in the Bronx

In 2019, the Bronx accounted for 21% of all households with children, yet made up 31% of all hotline calls and 37% of all educational neglect reports.

In 2022, 57% of reports from schools did not include educational neglect; 23% were educational neglect with other allegations; and 20% were only about educational neglect, according to ACS.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children (n=16). Allegation groups are explained here.

Who is making reports to the neglect and abuse hotline?

These percentages have remained consistent since 2019.

Download: Image, Data Mandated, Data Non-Mandated

Reports by law enforcement are most likely to be substantiated; hotline calls by friends, family and anonymous reporters are least likely to be substantiated

Nationally, 90% of calls by education reporters are not substantiated, but in 2019, 32% of reports by NYC education reporters were substantiated.. Still, education reporters have the lowest substantiation rate among major mandated reporter groups in NYC. After the standard of evidence to substantiate neglect increased in 2022, the percent of reports by education personnel that were substantiated dropped to 15% from Jan-June 2022.

Reports by friends, family and neighbors had very low substantiation rates in 2019, and were substantiated only 9% of the time in the first five months of 2022, after the standard of evidence changed. Likewise, in Jan-May 2022, ACS substantiated only 7% of calls by anonymous reporters.

Download: Image, Data Mandated, Data Non-Mandated

 

Note: Data includes all NYC data, not just those with NYC zip codes on file for the case. There are a small number of missing reporters that make up less than 1 percent of the total (not shown here). Foster parents also accounted for 11 SCR reports, 35% of which were substantiated.

Who called the hotline in my zip code?

You can use this table to see the rate of hotline calls per 1,000 children or families in every zip code, and to see the percent of calls from each major reporting group.

To explore: Click on the each label (such as “# families” or “rate per 1,000 children” to sort the sheet by that data type from the lowest number to the highest, and click again to show highest to lowest.

Hotline calls by law enforcement were somewhat over-represented in Brooklyn and under-represented in the Bronx

Education reports were slightly under-represented in Manhattan as well.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census Amer Commy Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children and/or child poverty data in 2019 (n=16).

In high poverty zip codes, social service reporters called in a higher percent of calls than in other zip codes

Education reporters make the highest number of calls, but the percent of calls by education reporters was slightly lower in high-poverty zip codes than in other zip codes.

These patterns also held comparing zip codes with the highest percent of Black and Latino residents to all other zip codes.

ACS reports that its contracted providers account for only about 2% of social service calls.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children (n=16). Child care/substitute care personnel are also mandated reporters but are not included in this data. In 2019, they made up about 2% of all mandated reporters.

Reforms to reduce calls by mandated reporters would have the greatest impact in these neighborhoods

Legislation could reduce hotline calls from mandated reporters, such as eliminating criminal penalties for not reporting or requiring that mandated reporters take more preemptive actions to support families before an SCR report is referred to ACS.

Both the state and city child welfare agencies, OCFS and ACS, have instituted new trainings to reduce over-reporting in the past year.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes Education, Medical/Mental Health, Law Enforcement, and Social Services reporters. Does not include Childcare/Substitute care providers (in “all other” in this report).

 

Non-mandated reporters made almost 1/3 of all hotline calls

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Data includes all NYC data, not just those with NYC zip codes on file for the case. There is a small number of missing reporters that make up less than 1 percent of the total.

Hotline calls by non-mandated reporters are far less likely to be substantiated

Non-mandated reporters were much more likely to make calls that are not substantiated by an investigation – 24% for non-mandated reporters vs. 42% mandated reporters.

These proportions remained similar in recent years. In 2021, mandated reporter allegations were substantiated 41% of the time compared to 19% for non-mandated reporters. In the first five months of 2022, substantiations fell to 26% for mandated reporters and 12% for non-mandated reporters.

Download: Image, Data Mandated, Data Non-Mandated

 

Note: Data includes all NYC data, not just those with NYC zip codes on file for the case. There is a small number of missing reporters that make up less than 1 percent of the total.

Reforms to reduce calls by non-mandated reporters would have the greatest impact in these neighborhoods

These are the zip codes with the highest number of calls from non-mandated reporters.

Legislation proposed in New York would replace anonymous reports, which were substantiated only 7% of the time in the first five months of 2022, with confidential reports. That would allow OCFS and ACS to more easily identify and screen out false and malicious reports, such as reports by exes or landlords that seek to weaponize the child welfare system.

Community education and supportive alternatives to reporting could also reduce hotline calls by neighbors, family, friends and parents themselves.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: “All Other” includes parents/foster parents, friends/neighbors/other relatives, anonymous and any other non-mandated reporters. It also includes child care/substitute care providers here (though these are mandated reporters).

These 25 zip codes had the highest rates of hotline calls

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: The Top 25 most impacted zips include those with the highest rates of SCR calls/reports per 1,000 households with children in 2019. The numbers presented here are essentially identical when doing the same analysis using highest rates of SCR calls/reports per 1,000 children in 2019, which includes all 11 of the zip codes most impacted by the CW system overall, i.e., they were in the top 25 for rates (per 1,000 children) of investigations, preventive starts, COS entries, and foster care entries in 2019.

The 25 highest-impacted zip codes accounted for 15% of families but nearly 30% of calls across all reporter types …

… while all other zip codes accounted for 85% of the population but only 67-73% of hotline calls

Hotline calls are double the population in these 25 zip codes.

Download: Image 25 Zip Codes, Image All Other Zip Codes, Data 25 Zip Codes, Data All Other Zip Codes

 

Note: The Top 25 most impacted zips include those with the highest rates of SCR calls/reports per 1,000 households with children in 2019. The numbers presented here are essentially identical when doing the same analysis using highest rates of SCR calls/reports per 1,000 children in 2019, which includes all 11 of the zip codes most impacted by the CW system overall, i.e., they were in the top 25 for rates (per 1,000 children) of investigations, preventive starts, COS entries, and foster care entries in 2019.

Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children (n=16).

In zip codes with the highest call rates, substantiation rates were slightly higher

Calls were somewhat more likely to be indicated during an investigation in the zip codes with the highest call rates.

Calls were much less likely to be indicated in zip codes with the lowest call rates than in the zip codes with the highest.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children in 2019 (n=16). These numbers are essentially identical when doing the same analysis based on the zips in the Top 25/Bottom 25/All Other SCR Reports by Rates per 1,000 Children. Median analyses show very similar results (37.7, 33.5, and 27.0, respectively). Does not include any report that went to a CARES stage/case.

The 25 most highly impacted zip codes show somewhat different patterns of allegation types than in other zip codes

Educational neglect and substance show different patterns in the most highly impacted zip codes.

Download: Image, Data

 

Note: Includes only NYC zip codes. Excludes any zip codes with where there were less than 20 SCR reports/calls in 2019 (n=25). Also excludes any zip codes that did not have Census American Community Survey 5 year (2015-2019) estimates data for # children/# households with children (n=16). The Top 25 most impacted zips include those with the highest rates of SCR calls/reports per 1,000 households with children in 2019. The numbers presented here are essentially identical when doing the same analysis using highest rates of SCR calls/reports per 1,000 children in 2019, which includes all 11 of the zip codes most impacted by the CW system overall, i.e., they were in the top 25 for rates (per 1,000 children) of investigations, preventive starts, COS entries, and foster care entries in 2019. Allegation groups are explained here.

How to Use FPP's Hotline Calls Data Brief 

This slideset walks you through each data point and how to use the charts and tables to find information about your neighborhood.