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Laws

Federal Law

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996 (CAPTA) and amendments in 2003 require each state to establish Citizen Review Panels "to evaluate the extent to which agencies are effectively discharging their child protection responsibilities in accordance with [the State’s CAPTA Plan], child protection standards set forth [in law], and any other criteria that the panel considers important to ensure the protection of children" including:

  • a review of the extent to which the State child protective services system is coordinated with the foster care and adoption programs established under part E of title IV of the Social Security Act

  • a review of child fatalities and near fatalities.

The federal statute states that the panels:

  • make this evaluation by examining the policies, procedures and practices of State and local agencies

  • must prepare and make available to the public an annual report containing a summary of their activities.

  • provide for public outreach and comment in order to assess the impact of current procedures and practices upon children and families in the community (Section 106 (c)(4)(C)); and

  • make recommendations to the State and public on improving the child protection services system at the State and local levels in an annual report.

  • must meet not less than once every three months

  • be composed of volunteers who broadly represent the community including those who have expertise in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

  • not disclose to any person or government official any identifying information about any specific child protection case.

The federal statute instructs the state to:

  • provide access to information on cases and staff assistance

  • respond to the panels’ annual report in writing within six months to the recommendations of the Panels

  • include a summary of the activities of the Citizen Review Panels in their annual report to the federal government.

  • establish civil sanctions for a violation of confidentiality by a panel member.

State Law

New York State passed legislation to form Citizen Review Panels in the state in order to be in compliance with The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996 (CAPTA).

This legislation establishes at least three citizen review panels, one for the city of New York and at least two panels outside the city. The New York City panel consists of five subcommittees to evaluate the extent to which the state and the social services district are discharging their child protection responsibilities within each particular borough. Each panel must meet at least quarterly.

The law amended Social Services Law 371-b. Under this legislation the panels are authorized to:

  • Review the policies and procedures of the State and Local social services districts and, where appropriate, specific cases, evaluate the extent to which the agencies are effectively discharging their child protection responsibilities in accordance with

    • The state plan

    • The child protections standards set in federal law (42 U.S.C.5106a(b); and (c).

    • And any other criteria considered important to the protection of children.

  • Have access to information on specific cases.

  • Have reasonable access to public and private facilities providing child welfare services within their respective jurisdictions that receive public funds.

  • Hold public hearings on issues within their jurisdiction.

  • Have access to the report prepared by the state pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 5106a(d).

  • Prepare and make available to the public an annual report by February 1st, setting forth a summary of the Panel activities and the findings and recommendations of the Panels.
     

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services is to make available resources to support the needs of each citizen review panel and assist the panel.

Each Panel is to have thirteen members, seven of whom are appointed by the Governor, three by the temporary President of the Senate and three by the Speaker of the Assembly. Each Panel is to elect a chairperson and shall be composed of volunteer members who broadly represent the communities in which the Panel is established. Panels shall include members who have expertise in prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. No person employed by Federal, State, County or Municipal agencies, which directly deliver child welfare services may be a panel member.

Any Panel member who knowingly discloses any identifying information about a specific child protection case to any person or governmental official may be subject to a civil penalty and removal from the Panel.

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