Attorneys Who Support this Practice Area
Copps DiPaola Silverman, PLLC regularly represents clients who have received indicated reports of child abuse and/or neglect. Findings of abuse and neglect can be made against parents, foster parents, child care workers, and workers in residential facilities.
If a report of suspected abuse of neglect is made against you, you will receive a letter notifying you that you are the subject of such a report. Thereafter, an investigation into the allegations will take place. It can be helpful to hire counsel during the investigation stage because we can speak to the caseworkers and/or attorney conducting the investigation and provide information that guides their investigation.
If you ultimately receive a letter informing you that the report has been indicated, you have 90 days within which to request a fair hearing. We also request a copy of your file at that time. Before the fair hearing occurs, your matter undergoes an internal administrative review. If the decision to indicate the report is not unfounded at that time, a conference will be scheduled with the administrative law judge (ALJ).
At the conference, we will exchange exhibits and witness lists with the Department of Social Services (“DSS”). The preliminary conference can also be used to try to negotiate a settlement or dismissal of the charges, if appropriate.
If a fair hearing is necessary, it is presided over by an ALJ. The standard for indicating a report at the investigation stage is that there is some credible evidence of abuse or neglect, but at a fair hearing, DSS must prove abuse or neglect by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a much higher standard.
After the hearing, the ALJ issues a written decision. If you are unhappy with the decision, it can be appealed to the Court via an Article 78 proceeding within 4 months of receiving the decision.
If the initial investigation results in an unfounded report or if the ALJ’s decision amends the report to unfounded, you can consider taking the additional step of seeking to have the report itself expunged. To do so you must be able to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the alleged abuse or neglect did not occur. If the report is expunged, it means that it cannot be seen and considered if a future report is made against you. This can be important for foster parents who sometimes face multiple false claims by birth parents and worry that even multiple unfounded reports will not look good to a caseworker investigating a future report.