An Increase in Child Abuse Cases Labelled “High Risk” Saves Innocent Lives

New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner David A. Hansell recently announced that a record number of high-risk child abuse investigations have been handled by the agency’s Instant Response Team, a model that is marking its 20th year bringing together ACS workers, NYPD Detectives, and District Attorneys’ staff. In 1998, the Instant Response Team was created to improve coordination between ACS and law enforcement in high-risk child abuse cases involving severe physical and sexual abuse. The coordinated response helps ensure robust, timely investigations in complex cases, and it also helps reduce further trauma to children involved in investigations by limiting the number of interviews and/or exams. From July 1, 2017 through June 30th, 2018 (FY18) a total of 5792 cases were coordinated through the Instant Response Team Program, a 22% increase over the previous two years.

Either ACS or NYPD can initiate an Instant Response Team investigation. The Mission of the Instant Response Team is to improve coordination between ACS and law enforcement in order to enhance the protection of children in New York City. In cases involving severe abuse and severe maltreatment committed by a parent or guardian, personnel from ACS, the NYPD, and District Attorneys’ Offices in each borough work together on “Instant Response Teams” in order to accomplish two main objectives. First, the teams aim to protect children from abuse and maltreatment by ensuring that evidence is gathered in a timely, effective, and coordinated manner, thereby laying the foundation for necessary intervention, and, where appropriate, removing the alleged abuser instead of the children. Second, the teams aim to minimize trauma to the child or children during the investigation process by: reducing the need for repetitive interviewing by law enforcement, medical and social service staff, and by holding interviews and medical examinations in child-friendly surroundings, such as Child Advocacy Centers and special child abuse clinics when possible.

Each borough is assigned at least one Instant Response Team Coordinator, who is responsible for establishing whether a report of abuse or neglect fits the criteria for an instant response. “We must treat high-risk child abuse investigations with the utmost care and give the children involved — who have already been unimaginably wronged — the necessary attention they deserve," NYS Senator Persaud said. "I commend the Instant Response Team for their increased efforts in protecting the city’s most vulnerable kids so they may procure a better future."

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