The first thing youshould do if you suspect abuse or maltreatment is Call the New York State Office of Children and Family Services at 1-800-342-3270. They will listen to your issues and guide you on next steps, which may involve a referral to the Child Advocacy Center which is a one stop shop for medical support, emotional support and legal support. Where needed they can conduct the appropriate evaluation (physical abuse, psychosexual abuse) via videotape. They also have trained medical experts who can do physical examinations.
You may also want to contact your pediatrician. Do keep in mind that your pediatrician is bound by their Hippocratic oath and Law to report ANY suspected cases of child abuse. It is only for the good of the child. Although it seems like a terrifying and invasive process, these professionals are trained in this and it is exactly what they do every day of their lives.
While parents who have only a vague story may be reluctant to get involved with the state or be afraid to get involved in the system, they should be reassured: the report goes to the Administration for Children's Services, and working together with the skilled professionals at the Children's Advocacy Center, they investigate the situation. Many investigations conclude that there is a low likelihood of abuse, and then the case is closed without prejudice.
Calling the hotline is the most important first step to make sure that if there is abuse occurring, evidence can be collected in a legally appropriate way. They also consider all the emotional issues involved in the situation. In addition, the hotline can guide you as to whether and how to involve other parties who may be part of the situation.
Parents are strongly urged to call the hotline with the understanding that if there is no evidence of wrongdoing, no one will be hurt by the investigation.Â A problem could arise if parents remove their own child from a questionable situation, but do not activate the system that could bring a dangerous situation into the light and save others from harm.
Above all else, try to stay calm.