In simplest terms, whenever you hear a lawyer refer to an “Article 1o” Proceeding, he or she is referring to a child neglect or abuse case in Family Court in the State of New York. The Family Court Act is the body of law that governs legal matters pertaining to children and families litigated within the Family Court. The name, Article 10, refers to the section of the Family Court Act that governs child neglect and abuse cases.
As an attorney who has practiced in this area of law for quite a number of years, I cannot think of a more emotional subject than child neglect and abuse cases (child custody and visitation comes in at a very close second but I will touch upon this in a subsequent blog post) in that you’re dealing with the state’s (or city or county) intervention in the lives of families— with the very important purpose of protecting children from alleged neglect and abuse. The removal of a child from their home and/or having a child protection agency monitor a family is not the norm and admittedly, is very intrusive. But it can save the lives of those who are least capable of defending themselves.
So, how does an Article 10 proceeding start? When child neglect or abuse is suspected, anyone can call the Statewide Central Register (SCR) of Child Abuse and Maltreatment and report it to State officials. However, there are those in our society who are “mandated reporters” of neglect and abuse, including but not limited to, teachers, nurses, social workers, doctors, the police and other law enforcement. If they see something or are told something, they are under a legal duty to call the SCR.
What happens then? The State official on the other end of the phone takes down all necessary and required information and generates a report, known in child welfare as the “ORT” or Oral Report Transmittal and it is sent electronically to the local child welfare agency in the specific county where the alleged incident or incidences took place.
And then? The report is received at the local child protection agency office and the case is assigned to a Child Protective Specialist (CPS) or caseworker who then begins to investigate the allegations, by calling the “reporter” (the person or persons who called the case to the State), possibly making multiple home visits and interviewing the affected parties and witnesses (the process is oftentimes more involved than this). The case is then reviewed and if the investigation yields information that evidences neglect or abuse, the case is “Indicated” for such. If the information yielded does not substantiate the claims of neglect or abuse, the case is “Unfounded” and closed.
Now what? Depending on the type of neglect or abuse alleged, as well as preventative measures (or lack thereof) taken by the family, and the level of cooperation, the case can either be referred for preventative services in the community (parenting classes, drug rehabilitation, therapy, etc) or legal action. In serious cases, the child protection agency can remove a child or children from a home prior to taking legal action by using their “emergency removal power” which is bestowed on them by Article 10 of the Family Court Act. When an emergency removal has taken place, an Article 10 petition must be filed the next day or if possible, the day of the removal.
What are we left with? A caseworker will go the child protection agency’s legal department to have the case reviewed by the agency’s attorneys. If the caseworker has information that rises to the level of legal sufficiency (it spells out a case of alleged abuse and neglect) the matter is accepted for filing, an agency attorney drafts a petition and it is filed with the Court. Later in the day, the petition and the parties appear before a Judge and attorneys for all sides make the necessary applications…and the proceedings have officially begun.
Article 10 Proceedings are complicated and I could absolutely go into more detail about the above, especially the ” ifs, ands or buts” involved… but that’s what this blog, in part, is all about, the opportunity for you to learn …post by post… and for me to write about it!