A timely letter drafted for the Parental Rights Foundation was sufficient to remove one couple’s names from the New York State child abuse registry, proving once again that the names should never have been added in the first place.

Legal Context

Under New York law, doctors are required to administer a vitamin K shot to all newborns. But the law does not require all parents to allow the shot, nor does it empower doctors to override the parent’s wishes.

If a parent is hesitant or refuses, the New York Department of Health provides documents the doctor can use to “educate parents” in hopes they will be persuaded to consent. But this itself acknowledges the critical role of parents in making the final decision.

Even “[t]he New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has taken the position that the refusal of preventative medical procedures such as eye prophylaxis and vitamin K does not meet the definition of a maltreatment of a child and a report to the Statewide Central Registry (SCR) will not be accepted in these circumstances,” according to a letter from that agency on February 19 of this year.

Yet—and you probably saw this coming—that is the only allegation cited in adding one couple’s names to the registry earlier this year.

Fit, Prepared Parents

Darby and her husband, Greg (names changed to protect their privacy) had studied up on the vitamin K shot in anticipation of the arrival of a new baby. According to their research and discussions with their doctor and their midwife, they concluded that, in light of a genetic issue Darby has, oral vitamin K would be more effective and have fewer negative effects than the standard shot. So, with their doctor’s approval, they ordered an oral brand recommended by midwives and awaited the coming birth.

(The Parental Rights Foundation does not have a position on vitamin K or its application. Rather, we fully support the right of each parent to make the best decision for their child.)

When Darby arrived at the hospital in labor, the parents signed the waiver they had been told to expect, and everything seemed fine. The delivery experience, like their new daughter, was beautiful.

Medical Overreach

But hours later, things got testy. Medical personnel who had not been part of the discussion disagreed with the parents’ decision to administer oral vitamin K. (Their own pediatrician was not present as he did not have privileges at that hospital.) Ultimately, the county Department of Child and Family Services was called and started a neglect investigation.

What should have been a joyous time of celebrating new life became fraught with stress and conflict.

“That Never Happened in This Case”

Ultimately, the baby received the oral vitamin K just as the family had planned all along. But at the conclusion of the investigation, the case worker found Darby and Greg “indicated” for neglect and added their names to the state registry.

And that’s when attorney Darren Jones stepped in on behalf of the Parental Rights Foundation, drafting a letter the parents could submit to have their names removed from the list.

“For a report to be indicated, state regulations require that the investigation ‘determines that some credible evidence of the alleged abuse or maltreatment exists.’ NYCC R&R § 432.1(g). Thus, as a foundational element, there must be ‘abuse and maltreatment alleged,’” the letter stated. “That never happened in this case.”

The letter also cited the state’s position, quoted more fully above, that “the refusal of preventative medical procedures . . . does not meet the definition of a maltreatment of a child.”

Would a name really be added to an abuse registry where no one ever alleged abuse or neglect? That’s exactly what had happened in this case.

Fortunately, the letter successfully persuaded the state commissioner that Darby and Greg’s names should be removed from the registry. But that can never erase the fact that, for five months, they were listed as child abusers.

Needed Reform Is Coming

Cases like this perfectly demonstrate why reform is necessary. The model legislation we introduced this summer and hope to see adopted by the states in 2021 would have prevented this entire situation.

The model requires due process, including a hearing and a right to defend one’s self, before a name can be added to the registry. In this case, with no allegation of abuse, and no complaint except a medical decision already clearly declared to “not meet the definition of maltreatment of a child,” the whole thing would have been dropped without even bothering with a hearing.

The net result: Darby and Greg’s names would have never gone on the list in the first place.

The Parental Rights Foundation is grateful to Darby and Greg for agreeing to let us share their story with you, and we are grateful to each of you for standing with us to support parental rights for the good of the children.

The Foundation is completely donor supported, so if you are able, please make your generous donation here to continue the important work of getting innocent names off the abuse registry—or keeping them off the list in the first place.

Sincerely,

Michael Ramey
Executive Director