Community Advocacy Project
Providing “early defense” to help parents during an ACS investigation and help for parents who want to clear their state records
Help for Parents in Manhattan and Queens
CFR launched its Community Advocacy Project (CAP) in 2019 to further bolster its efforts to prevent foster care and to enhance employment opportunities for parents who have been impacted by ACS (ACS is the New York City Administration for Children’s Services)—it has two core services: Early Defense and SCR Advocacy.
Parents with child welfare involvement are not assigned an attorney until ACS files a case against them in family court, leaving most parents without advocacy during an investigation, which can last up to 60 days. Access to legal and social work assistance at the early investigation stage is critical: prior to the case coming to court, critical decisions are made that have significant consequences for how the case proceeds, including the programs and services that families will be mandated to participate in, whether the case will be filed in court, and, most significantly, whether children will be separated from their parents.
Outside of CAP, parents participate in these investigations and attend pre-filing child safety conferences alone, without the advice of counsel or advocates to guide them through the process. This results in many family separations and court filings, which can be avoided if parents have access to legal and social work assistance earlier. CFR provides parents with lawyers, social workers, and parent advocates, who offer expert and supportive early defense during an investigation. Bringing our model of service to early defense work helps to avoid the misunderstandings, misjudgments, and mistakes that so often lead to unnecessary family separations and court filings. Our mission is to prevent unnecessary and traumatic family separations that cause acute short-term distress and long-term harm to families, as well as save New York City needless court and foster system costs.
Information & Resources
State Central Register (SCR) Fair Hearing Representation
New Yorkers are routinely denied employment based on administrative findings of child abuse or neglect that remain accessible to employers and others for years on the State’s Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). However, the majority of “indicated reports” that result in an entry on the SCR have never been reviewed by a judge to determine whether the allegations are supported by evidence or if they warrant drastically limiting a person’s employability.
When a person’s name is on the SCR, it also does not specify what the report was indicated for. Thus, someone whose children did not attend school appears identically on the register as someone who was found guilty of sexually abusing a child. The vast majority of indicated reports bear no relationship to a parent’s ability to safely perform jobs in the fields of health care, education, security, and transportation, yet employers in these fields often review SCR records in screening job applicants. Challenging an indicated report is possible, but confusing and burdensome without skilled assistance by an experienced advocate. CFR provides representation to parents, including at fair hearings, to help clear their names off the register and remove this barrier to employment, so they can have every opportunity to support their families.
CFR engages in community outreach in Manhattan and Queens to publicize our Community Advocacy projects. Community outreach specifically targets those neighborhoods where child welfare involvement is most concentrated and includes “Know Your Rights” presentation, which offer information about our services and the consequences of an investigation.
CFR also distributes written materials with hospitals, treatment programs, schools and community organizations to educate health care and education professionals on our work and to encourage referrals for at risk families.