Relates to the disclosure of information pertaining to a child abuse and neglect investigation.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the social services law, in relation to disclosure of information pertaining to a child abuse and neglect investigation
This bill would prohibit prosecuting any city or county social services commissioner for disclosing information pertaining to a child abuse or maltreatment investigation if done so in good faith adherence to New York State law.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS OF BILL:
Section 1 of the bill adds a new paragraph 8 to Section 422-a of the Social Services Law to prohibit prosecuting any city or county social services commissioner for disclosing information pertaining to a child abuse or maltreatment investigation if done in good faith adherence to the standards contained in Section 422-a of such law.
Section 2: Effective Date.
Section 422-a of Social Services law provides criteria that, if met, allows a city or county social services commissioner to disclose information pertaining to a child abuse or maltreatment investigation.
In enacting Section 422-a in Section 1 of Chapter 12 of the Laws of 1996 the Legislature stated:
"Legislative Intent. The legislature finds that the deaths of children due to abuse, neglect and maltreatment, despite the involvement of government agencies charged with protecting children is intolerable and unacceptable, and finds equally unacceptable laws which bar legitimate and appropriate inquiries about activities of such agencies in these cases, for they frustrate the ability of the legislature to set informed policy and act in an appropriate oversight capacity; impair the ability of independent government agencies to determine the effectiveness of services, staff and funding; corrode public trust; and undermine the right of the public to determine whether abused children are being adequately protected.
"The legislature therefore finds a compelling need to reform the confidentiality laws and declares its intent, by enactment of this act, to increase the capacity for oversight and monitoring of the child welfare system, and to increase information available to the public and to increase accountability among the agencies involved in the system.
"The legislature finds that the privacy of children and their families in abuse, neglect and maltreatment cases must be safeguarded, but that the interests of children, their families and the public are best protected by increased knowledge and oversight concerning the system, and by greater accountability, and therefore declares that such
privacy must be balanced with appropriate release of information concerning such cases."
The legislative intent to allow a balancing of privacy issues with the need for the legislature and public to know what occurred in certain cases has never been realized. The criminal penalty for improper disclosure contained in Section 422 of the Social Services Law along with the interpretation of the law by the Office of Children and Families has created a chilling effect that thwarts the intent of Section 422-a.
By removing the threat of criminal prosecution, Commissioners of Social Services who make a good faith effort to comply with Section 422-a of the Social Services Law will be able to exercise their own best judgment regarding the balancing that is called for by the Legislature without fear of being prosecuted.
This is one in a series of measures being introduced at the request of the Erie County Executive upon the recommendation of the county's Commissioner of Social Services to improve the provision of child protective services to New York's children and families.
This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ S. 7127 A. 9437 S E N A T E - A S S E M B L Y April 30, 2014 ___________IN SENATE -- Introduced by Sen. KENNEDY -- read twice and ordered print- ed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Children and Families IN ASSEMBLY -- Introduced by M. of A. PEOPLES-STOKES -- read once and referred to the Committee on Children and Families AN ACT to amend the social services law, in relation to disclosure of information pertaining to a child abuse and neglect investigation THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 422-a of the social services law is amended by adding a new subdivision 8 to read as follows: 8. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY INCONSISTENT PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, ANY DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION MADE BY A CITY OR COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES COMMISSIONER PURSUANT TO A GOOD FAITH BASIS UNDER THIS SECTION SHALL NOT BE SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION TWELVE OF SECTION FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO OF THIS TITLE. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD14765-01-4