Practice Alerts

Laws, rules and regulations, not Alerts, specify the requirements for practice and violating them constitutes professional misconduct. Not adhering to this Alert may be interpreted as professional misconduct only if the conduct also violates pertinent law, rules and regulations, some citations of which are listed at the end of this Alert.

Alert 21: Reporting Suspected Abuse and Neglect

There are many laws that require individuals who come into contact with children and/or certain adults to report instances of suspected abuse and neglect.

Children

Social Services Law §413(a) requires certain individuals to report cases of suspected abuse or maltreatment of a child. While many professions are listed among the mandated reporters, physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are not. However, there are several categories of mandated reporters which may include a PT or a PTA, depending upon the nature of his or her employment. These categories include:

  • Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of persons; or
  • An employee or volunteer in a residential care facility for children that is licensed, certified or operated by the Office of Children and Family Services.

Any mandated reporter who willfully fails to report a case of suspected child abuse or maltreatment is guilty of a class A misdemeanor and may also be liable for damages caused by such failure.

While PTs and PTAs may not be mandated reporters of child abuse or maltreatment in most instance, the Social Services Law provides that “any person may make [a report] if such person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is an abused or maltreated child.” Moreover, any person making a report in good faith has immunity from civil or criminal liability.

If you suspect a child has been harmed or is at risk, please call the Statewide Central Register "Hotline” at 1-800-342-3720. For additional resources and information, please visit the New York State Office of Children and Family Services website (ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/ ).

Adults

Social Services Law §473-b(a) provides immunity from civil liability for any person who in good faith believes that a person 18 years old or older may be an endangered adult or in need of protective or other services, and who, based on such belief reports or refers such person to the Office of Children and Family Services, Office for the Aging, or any local social services district office or designated area agency on aging, law enforcement agency, or any other person or organization that such person, in good faith, believes will take appropriate action.

Social Services Law §473-a(1)(a) defines an endangered adult as a person, age 18 or over who is (i) in a situation or condition which poses an imminent risk of death or imminent risk of serious physical harm to him or her, and (ii) lacking capacity to comprehend the nature and consequences of remaining in that situation or condition. However, it should be noted that neither the refusal by the adult to accept protective services nor his or her mental illness in of themselves are sufficient evidence of lack of capacity.

To report adult abuse, call (within New York State only):1-844-697-3505 or contact the local county Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services. For additional resources and information, please visit the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Bureau of Adult Services website (ocfs.ny.gov/main/psa/).

People with Special Needs

Physical therapists are required to report allegations of reportable incidents concerning vulnerable persons. A vulnerable person is defined as “a person who, due to physical or cognitive disabilities, or the need for services or placement, is receiving services from a facility or provider agency.” Reportable incidents include:

  • physical abuse,
  • sexual abuse,
  • psychological abuse,
  • the deliberate inappropriate use of restraints,
  • the use of aversive conditioning,
  • the obstruction of reports of reportable incidents,
  • the unlawful use or administration of a controlled substance,
  • neglect, and
  • other significant incidents.

Reports are to be made to the vulnerable persons’ statewide register.

A PT who willfully fails to report a case of suspected abuse or neglect regarding a vulnerable person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor, may be subject to termination of employment, and may also be liable for damages caused by such failure.

A person making a report reasonably and in good faith has immunity from civil and criminal liability.

If you have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person, you must call the Vulnerable Persons’ Central Register (VPCR) at 1-855-373-2122. For additional resources and information, please visit the Justice Center website (www.justicecenter.ny.gov ).

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Citations of Pertinent Law, Rules or Regulations:
Social Services Law, Section 413 – mandated reporters of child abuse and maltreatment
Social Services Law, Section 414 – any person permitted to report child abuse and maltreatment
Social Services Law, Section 419 – immunity from liability for reporters of child abuse and maltreatment
Social Services Law, Section 420 – penalties for failure to report child abuse and maltreatment
Social Services Law, Section 473-a – short-term involuntary protective services; definition of endangered adult
Social Services Law, Section 473-b – reporting of endangered adults or persons in need of protective services
Social Services Law, Section 488 – definitions relating to protection of people with special needs
Social Services Law, Section 491 – duty to report incidents relating to protection of people with special needs
Social Services Law, Section 497 – immunity from liability for reporters of incidents relating to protection of people with special needs
Last Updated: August 11, 2016