The First Department, reversing (modifying) Family Court and remitting the matter, determined father made a prima facie showing that the NYC Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) should be held in contempt for failing to provide unredacted reports of child abuse or neglect which were deemed unfounded. Father’s request for the unredacted documents should not have been denied absent a finding by Family Court the safety of the person(s) who made the report or cooperated with the investigation would be jeopardized by revealing the name(s):
As the subject of the unfounded reports, the father is a person entitled to receive access to the otherwise sealed reports (Social Services Law § 422 [a][iv]). * * *
… [F]ather made a prima facie showing of the elements necessary to hold ACS in contempt for its failure to fully comply with a lawful judicial subpoena … The subpoena was a valid order expressing an unequivocal mandate, requiring ACS to produce “complete” investigation and unfounded reports of suspected child abuse concerning the children. ACS does not deny that it was aware of the order. Further, ACS did not comply with the subpoena, as it produced reports that redacted the names of sources, not complete reports. Finally, the father suffered prejudice, because his modification petition alleges that the mother was causing false abuse reports to be filed with the authorities, and the unredacted unfounded reports may be admissible in such a proceeding … .
Once the father met his prima facie burden, it was incumbent on ACS to refute the showing or to offer evidence of a defense … . ACS asserted that Social Services Law §422(7) permits the commissioner “to prohibit the release of data that would identify the person who made the report or who cooperated in a subsequent investigation . . . which he reasonably finds will be detrimental to the safety or interests of such person.” However, there was no indication that any such determination had actually been made. Matter of Michael Y. v Dawn S., 2023 NY Slip Op 00193, First Dept 1-17-23
Practice Point: Under the Social Services Law, the NYC Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), in response to a judicial subpoena, must provide unredacted reports of child abuse or neglect which were deemed unfounded, unless ACS can demonstrate revealing the names of the sources of the reports jeopardizes the safety of those sources.