Photo by: Garvid

This article is part of a series called How To NYC that aims to equip readers to use public resources. Read more stories here.

A member of New York’s general public can report instances of child abuse and neglect 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the New York State Central Register’s Child Abuse Hotline. (1-800-342-3720).

The complete list of warning signs for all four types of maltreatment can be found in this pocket guide distributed by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services.

Many types of professionals (including physicians, surgeons, dentists, chiropractors, nurses, guidance counselors, day care workers, camp counselors, teachers and law enforcement officers) are mandated by the state to report maltreatment. New York is not one of the 18 states that requires all person who suspect child abuse or neglect to call in a report. The hotline for mandatory reporters is 1-800-635-1522 –with roughly 60 percent of child abuse case reports coming from calls made to the mandatory hotline.

Those who must disclose information on possible abuse or neglect face penalties for failing to report.

False reporting of any kind is also a crime.

Both regular civilians and those lawfully bound to inform must follow up their oral report with a written one (2221A form) no more than 48 hours after the initial call.

Social services law extends confidentiality to all reporters, meaning that members of the general public who are not mandated to report can do so anonymously.

After the State Central Register (SCR) receives a call, staff there determine whether the report meets requirements for an investigation and assign a child protective specialist. Unless a report is rejected (due to the victim being older than 18 or because the alleged perpetrator is not the parent or legal guardian of the child) a specialist will contact the child’s family within 24 hours and begin the investigation. Up to 60 days are allotted for the child specialist to interview family and various community members, including teachers and neighbors. Further information is also gleaned from the person who reported the abuse and the child herself, as well as through home visits.

In cases where an allegation of neglect or abuse is, in the vocabulary of the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, “indicated”–meaning there is believed to be enough evidence to warrant fither investigation–different actions can be taken. (More than half of allegations are found not to be indicated.)

Families may be directed to voluntary preventative services, or mandated to receive such services. Children may also be removed from their family and placed in foster care, in a group setting or with relatives. This placement is temporary pending further review of the case. (More detail on the system for evaluating child abuse and neglect allegations is here.)

90, 714 New York City children were reported for signs of neglect and abuse in 2011. The number in 2012 was slightly lower.