Bill S5943-2013

Relates to requiring child protective services to document home visits with photographs

Requires child protective services to document home visits as part of a treatment plan, supervision and monitoring, pursuant to a court order, or on an emergency basis with photographs.

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  • Jan 8, 2014: REFERRED TO CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
  • Oct 2, 2013: REFERRED TO RULES

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S5943

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the social services law, in relation to requiring child protective services to document home visits with photographs

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:

To provide greater accountability and safety regarding caseworker visits to children in the child protective services and foster care system.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:

Section 1 states that this act shall be known and may be cited as "Marchella Pierce's Law".

Section 2 amends subdivision 3 of section 421 of the social services law to require that every caseworker and child protective services employee who has contact with a child as part of a treatment plan or supervision and monitoring, document each such contact with a photograph taken of the child during such visit or contact. Such photograph shall be part of the confidential case record for such child and shall be subject to periodic review by the supervisor of the case.

Section 3 amends Section 372 of the social services law by adding a new subdivision 4-c making the same provisions as in section 2 of this act.

Section 4 provides for the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION:

Our child protective services (CPS) system was designed to afford protection by way of monitoring, for children at risk of abuse and neglect. Trained caseworkers are required to make routine visits to children in their homes or in the foster care system to ensure that they are not continuing to be abused or neglected.

Sadly, even under the watch of CPS, children "fall through the cracks" resulting in substantial harm and sometimes death. A recent case involving the death of Marchella Pierce, a medically fragile child in Brooklyn, highlighted a situation where an immediate safeguard is absent. In many ways, this tragic case resembles the tragedy of Nixmary Brown, a 7-year-old Brooklyn girl killed by her mother and stepfather four years ago while she was being monitored by ACS.

Prosecutors are charging the Administration of Children's Services (ACS) caseworker in Marchelle's death, contending he should have noticed the child's injuries and malnourishment and that he changed records after her death to make it seem like he visited hex family when he did not make the visits for months leading up to death-months in which she was starved and abused by her mother who is being charged in connection with her death.

In order to prevent caseworkers from being delinquent with regard to the important responsibilities they are entrusted with and to assist caseworker supervisors with monitoring the visits of caseworkers, this legislation takes a common-sense approach toward providing a much needed safeguard in child protection by increasing oversight and accountability.

Requiring that a simple photograph of the child under supervision be taken at each visit and that photograph be included as part of the caseworker's record for that visit will help ascertain if visits were actually made in the event of a tragedy. This action was taken by the State of Florida last year in response to an audit that discovered that more than 70 caseworkers fraudulently filed records that they had visited children in the child protective system when in fact they had not.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:

None to the State.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

This act shall take effect immediately.


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 5943 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE October 2, 2013 ___________
Introduced by Sen. KENNEDY -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Rules AN ACT to amend the social services law, in relation to requiring child protective services to document home visits with photographs THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as "Marchella Pierce's Law". S 2. Subdivision 3 of section 421 of the social services law, as amended by chapter 718 of the laws of 1986, paragraph (a) as amended by chapter 110 of the laws of 1989 and the closing paragraph as amended by chapter 320 of the laws of 1990, is amended to read as follows: 3. promulgate regulations setting forth requirements for the perform- ance by local social services departments of the duties and powers imposed and conferred upon them by the provisions of this title and of article ten of the family court act. Such regulations shall establish uniform requirements for the investigation of reports of child abuse or maltreatment under this title. The department shall also issue guide- lines which shall set forth the circumstances or conditions under which: (a) personal contact shall be made with the child named in the report and any other children in the same household, including interviewing such child or children absent the subject of the report whenever possi- ble and appropriate; (b) photographs of visible physical injuries or trauma of children who may be the victims of abuse or maltreatment shall be taken or arranged for; (c) medical examination of a child who may be a victim of abuse or maltreatment and documentation of findings of such examination, shall be required. The department shall promulgate regulations to establish standards for intervention, criteria for case closings, criteria for determining
whether or not to initiate a child protective proceeding, and criteria for the formulation of treatment plans and for the delivery of child protective services including specification of the services to be clas- sified as child protective services, which shall also apply to any soci- ety for the prevention of cruelty to children which has entered into a currently valid contract with a local department of social services to investigate child abuse or maltreatment reports. The department shall promulgate regulations establishing minimum standards and practices for the delivery of child protective services in connection with monitoring and supervising respondents and their families as ordered by a family court pursuant to section ten hundred thirty-nine and paragraphs (i), (iii), (iv) and (v) of subdivision (a) of section ten hundred fifty-two of the family court act. THE DEPARTMENT SHALL REQUIRE THAT EVERY CASE- WORKER, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES EMPLOYEE OR ANY PERSON ACTING PURSUANT TO A CONTRACT FOR SERVICES WITH A LOCAL SOCIAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT WHO HAS CONTACT WITH A CHILD AS PART OF A TREATMENT PLAN OR SUPERVISION AND MONITORING, DOCUMENT EACH SUCH CONTACT WITH A PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THE CHILD DURING SUCH VISIT OR CONTACT. SUCH PHOTOGRAPH SHALL BE PART OF THE CONFIDENTIAL CASE RECORD FOR SUCH CHILD AND SHALL BE SUBJECT TO PERIODIC REVIEW BY THE SUPERVISOR OF THE CASE. SUCH PHOTOGRAPH MUST BE OF SUFFI- CIENT QUALITY TO CLEARLY IDENTIFY THE CHILD, AND CONTAIN ACCURATE DATA WITH REGARD TO THE TIME AND DATE OF THE PHOTOGRAPH. WHERE THE PARENT OR LEGAL GUARDIAN OF THE CHILD OBJECTS TO THE CASEWORKER TAKING A PHOTO- GRAPH OF THE CHILD DURING THE VISIT, THE CASEWORKER SHALL PROVIDE A FORM, SUPPLIED BY THE CASEWORKER'S AGENCY OF EMPLOYMENT, STATING THAT THE CASEWORKER CONDUCTED THE VISIT WITH THE CHILD AND VERIFIED THE WELL BEING OF THE CHILD. SUCH FORM SHALL BE SIGNED AND DATED BY BOTH THE CHILD'S PARENT OR LEGAL GUARDIAN AND THE CASEWORKER AT EACH VISIT WHERE A PHOTOGRAPH IS NOT TAKEN. Such regulations shall also require local child protective services to comply with notification requirements of the family court act in connection with such monitoring and supervisory responsibilities. S 3. Section 372 of the social services law is amended by adding a new subdivision 4-c to read as follows: 4-C. THE RECORDS MAINTAINED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION BY ANY CASEWORK- ER, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES EMPLOYEE OR AUTHORIZED AGENCY AS DEFINED IN SECTION THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-ONE OF THIS TITLE WHO HAS CONTACT WITH A FOSTER CHILD AS PART OF A TREATMENT PLAN OR SUPERVISION AND MONITOR- ING, SHALL DOCUMENT EACH SUCH CONTACT WITH A PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THE CHILD DURING SUCH VISIT OR CONTACT CONSISTENT WITH THE REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH IN SUBDIVISION THREE OF SECTION FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE OF THIS ARTICLE. S 4. This act shall take effect immediately.

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