Step Two: ACS Follows Up
Reports of possible child abuse or neglect are received at the state level, but follow-up is assigned to local child protective agencies. In New York City, that means ACS and ACS field offices, sited in individual communities or discrete geographic areas.
According to ACS data, nearly 60 percent of calls concern children who lack basic care, food, clothing and rudimentary comforts like a bed to sleep in. One in eight calls reports abuse – physical, sexual, or psychological – and one in ten cite educational neglect – when children don't attend school. ACS says that other causes prompt concern in 14 percent of cases, and that a small fraction, 3 percent, of calls concern medical neglect.
While ACS makes initial calls and home visits within proscribed timeframes, how quickly ACS investigators move on a report depends on the nature of that report. Reports of repeated violence merit a swift follow-up; a report of a child staying home from school (possible educational neglect) might not take as high a priority.
The human factor : The first decision gets made at the hotline; the second, when a worker assigned to investigate the complaint decides how aggressively to pursue the contact – or how speedily to remove a child, in an emergency. But other decisions and factors affect how well ACS workers are able to do their jobs. Caseloads swell and shrink. Families move; children go to live with relatives, sometimes out of state; evictions send some families to shelters. Schools or other reporters may not have a current address. Land lines can be switched off for lack of payment; cell phones can be changed and old numbers discarded. There are many blind alleys that hamper investigation because children and families sometimes cannot be found or visited in a timely way.