Community Advocacy Project

Providing “early defense” to help parents during an ACS investigation and help for parents who want to clear their state records

What to Know About ACS

What is ACS and what do they do? ACS is short for the Administration for Children’s Services. In New York City, ACS handles reports of child neglect and abuse. If someone is reported to ACS, they investigate. It can be hard and scary to deal with ACS because they have the power to remove your children from you.

Having an ACS case doesn’t always mean you did something wrong. Too many good parents go through this process, especially in low-income communities. (We know that family policing cases in this country too often focus on people of color.)

When you interact with ACS, they write down everything you say or do. That information can be used against you later—and could be a reason they use to remove your children.

If ACS investigates, you can meet with a lawyer or an advocate, but you do not have the right to a lawyer. That changes if your case goes to Family Court. If that happens, you have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be assigned to you.

Someone who works with ACS may not look official. They may be a “child protective specialist” or CPS. Or they might just say they are with ACS. If they don’t show you their ID, ask to see it. You should also ask for the supervisor’s name and phone number.

What to Expect When You Talk to ACS

We strongly suggest that you contact us or another parent defense group. Talk with one of us about whether it makes sense to answer questions from ACS.

  • Answer only the questions ACS asks about the investigation.
  • Do not offer any information that isn’t about the allegations in your case. (Allegations are statements that accuse a person of doing something wrong.)
  • If you have a criminal case, talk with your defense attorney before you talk with ACS.
  • You don’t have to talk about private information like your medical history or your personal relationships.
  • You are allowed to talk to a lawyer or advocate before you talk to ACS. You have the right to an interpreter. Contact us if you are in Queens or Manhattan (other than Harlem). If you need a lawyer in another part of NYC, read more here.
  • You have the right to preventive services. You can choose to use only the services you think will help your family.
  • You do not need to tell ACS your immigration status.
  • You have the right to refuse to speak to ACS or let them into your home. That is not true if ACS has a court order or search warrant. If you do not talk to ACS, they will still investigate. It could make things worse if you refuse to talk to them. Talk with a lawyer if you don’t want to let ACS into your home. Contact us if you are in Queens or Manhattan (other than Harlem) or read more here.
  • Know that ACS may talk to your children at school, their teachers, service providers, and doctors.
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