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This FAQ explains that according to New York courts and guidance from the Office of Child & Family Services ("OCFS"), parental knowledge of a minor's voluntary sexual activity does not necessarily give rise to reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect and should not be reported to the Statewide Central Register, absent other indications of abuse or neglect. This memorandum is not intended to provide individualized legal advice. New York's child abuse reporting law mandates certain professionals to file a report when they either have reasonable cause to suspect or become aware of abuse or maltreatment (neglect) committed by a "parent, guardian, custodian or other person legally responsible" (hereinafter referred to as "parent or caregiver") for a child's care.1 Abuse or maltreatment means that the parent or caregiver directly harms the child or acts in a way that allows the child to be physically or emotionally harmed or sexually abused.2 Under New York law, a child abuse report is only required if the abuse is committed by a parent or caregiver, because they are the only ones that can be ‘the subject of a report."3 Therefore, the Statewide Central Register should only commence an investigation in a case involving suspected child abuse or maltreatment against a parent or caregiver, and not in a case involving a person who is clearly not considered a person legally responsible for the child's care,4 even if that person harmed a child.5 Harms committed by strangers or peers are therefore not mandated reports, unless a parent has allowed a third party to harm the child. New York laws about "statutory rape" and child abuse reporting are confusing. This list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) describes when to make a report to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (the reporting hotline for child abuse and neglect) based on a minor's sexual activity. Situation #1: The parent is unaware of his or her child's sexual activity. Generally, there is no abuse or neglect if a parent or guardian is unaware of a teen's sexual activity. Y.3d 175 (2004) (dismissing claim for failure to report abuse of child by 14-year-old boy because boy was not a parent, caregiver, or person legally responsible for the child's welfare and therefore could not be the subject of the report pursuant to the law); 488 F. Can a child abuse or neglect report be made against the parent or caregiver solely on the grounds that a teen in their care is sexually active? However, abuse committed by a school employee against a student in a school setting is governed by another set of laws. No, absent other allegations of abuse or neglect, a minor is not an abused or neglected child merely because she or he is sexually active.15 Without other evidence of abuse, mandatory reporters should not report sexually active or pregnant minors to the Statewide Central Register. School employees must report any allegations of such abuse to school authorities, but , 122 Misc.
OCFS further clarifies two points: (a) the mere reoccurrence of the sexual activity "does not in and of itself," mean that the parent's response is inappropriate or that a report is required and (b) a parent's support of or involvement in the teen's accessing sexual or reproductive health care services may be a reasonable response, and therefore does not by itself give to a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect. The court found that while statutory rape laws serve a strong social policy purpose, child abuse liability cannot reasonably be extended to the parents of all sexually active minors.20 The court extensively discussed the policy reasons against imposing particular moral or religious values under the pretext of child protection, and the practical problems involved in convicting thousands of parents-including responsible and involved parents-of child abuse because of their children's sexual activity.21 The court concluded that any abuse or neglect charges should be "limited to those parents who fail to intervene in sexual relationships of which they have personal knowledge."22 In summary, parents of sexually active or pregnant minors should not automatically be reported for suspected child abuse or neglect, even if they know of such activity. Should a mandatory reporter file a child abuse report against the parents of a sexually active minor solely on the basis of the child's sexual activity with an older partner? In order to report a possible case of child abuse or neglect, a mandatory reporter must have a reasonable suspicion that such abuse or neglect is occurring.23 Because courts have found that failure to prevent a child's voluntary sexual activity does not constitute abuse under New York law, this situation in and of itself cannot give rise to a reasonable suspicion of child abuse. While the age of the minor may be taken into account in determining whether sex was voluntary, a conclusion should not be based solely upon the age difference between the partners. When must a mandatory reporter make a child abuse report? Mandatory reporters must report a of child abuse or neglect immediately to the Statewide Central Register.11 A reasonable suspicion must be based upon "articulable facts which, when examined objectively, would lead others to the same conclusion" that a child whom they see in their professional capacity has been abused or neglected.12 Therefore, a proper report is based upon a reasonable suspicion that a parent or caregiver harmed - or allowed a third party to harm - the child. 1984) (finding a mother guilty of neglect because she should have known that her daughter was being sexually abused by the stepfather and failed to act to protect her).