Death of Center Moriches boy leaves question about process of reporting child abuse allegations

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In the wake of the death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva, a lot of questions have come about into what happens when allegations of abuse are reported.

Nassau County Director of Child Protective Services Jeanette Feingold says once her department gets a report for an investigation, they have 24 hours to begin investigating. The explanation was part of a presentation to members of the county's health committee during a public hearing about procedures at the Department of Social Services.

As News 12 has reported, the hearing came in response to the death of Thomas Valva, who officials say was locked in a cold garage in Center Moriches and died of hypothermia.

The process for investigating child abuse and neglect begins with a call to a 24-hour hotline in Albany. A report of abuse can only be investigated once allegations are sent to a county's Office of Child Protective Services from the state.

MORE: Prosecutors outline ‘house of horrors’ abuse that led to Thomas Valva’s death 

That information then goes to a registry unit in the county where the child lives, and depending on the type of allegation reported, is sent to one of several units in CPS for investigation.

Following the initial 24-hour contact, CPS has seven days to determine how safe a child is in their home.

"At that seven-day safety assessment, we need to document what was done and if the family is at any risk," says Feingold.

If a child is found to be in imminent danger, CPS then goes to court and petitions to have the child removed from the home.

"The court is the one that makes the ultimate decision of whether or not a removal will be upheld, because it's the judges that make that ultimate final decision," says Feingold.

As for the investigation, CPS has 60 days to make a determination about the allegations. Actions can range from working with the family to keep them together to putting the children in foster care.

While the hotline is the official way to start an investigation into suspected child abuse or neglect, police say you should always call 911 in an emergency situation.

The 24-hour hotline number is 1-800-342-3720.



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