NYCLU report finds heavy racial bias in cases handled by NYC Administration for Child Services

An explosive new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union takes the Administration for Children’s Services to task – saying racial bias is baked into every stage of a family regulation case. They say Black and brown families receive harsher treatment.
The report says that less than one-quarter of New York City’s population is Black, but that more than 40% of family regulation cases are brought against Black parents. More than half of the children removed from their homes without a court order are Black.
Impacted families and advocates have fought for bills to be passed that ensure parents are informed of their rights at the first point of contact with ACS.
Jenna Lauter, from the NYCLU, says these visits often take place at inconvenient times like the middle of the night.
“They will insist that they will have to be granted entry into the parent’s home so that they can look through cabinets and inspect all parts of the home, they will ask the parent all kinds of deeply invasive questions. They may even ask to strip search the child in many cases. And many times, a parent doesn’t actually know that they don’t have to immediately cooperate with these demands,” Lauter told News 12 New York.
Advocates are also fighting to reduce the number of malicious and harassing reports against families and prohibiting health care workers from secretly testing pregnant people and newborns without consent.
“The way that the law in New York defines neglect is largely a tool to punish poverty, so neglect under New York Law can often be code for a parent’s struggle to provide stable housing for their family, to provide adequate nutrition, or childcare, to be able to make it to medical appts. So all of these challenges that are tied to the socio-economic status are punished by the system as a parent’s individual failure.” Lauter added.
ACS says it is aware of the disparities across child protection systems nationwide. They said they have provided additional training to their employees and as a result the disparities have been declining. They told News 12 that among Black non-Hispanic families indicated investigations are down by 38%, abuse and neglect court filings are down nearly 50%, emergency removal declined by one-third and foster care placement is down by 20%.
ACS acknowledges more work needs to be done, something Lauter agrees with.
“The fact that the racial disparities are declining, that’s certainly welcome news to the extent that that is the case, but what I think it really does is highlight how immense the racial disparities have been and how far we still have to go,” she said.
The NYCLU says if you’re being investigated by ACS, it’s wise to seek the advice of legal counsel.  You can visit to find out what resources are available.