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New law will strengthen background checks for child advocacy centers

New York’s Child Advocacy Centers will be able to conduct background checks on current or incoming employees using a state-maintained Child Abuse and Abuse Registry under legislation approved by Governor Kathy Hochul this week .

The measure aims to address the lack of access to the state’s central child abuse and abuse registry. Previously, only county-run child advocacy centers could access the registry. The new law will extend this access to non-profit centres.

“Child Advocacy Centers are critical resources for young victims of sexual and physical abuse,” said State Assemblyman Carrie Woerner, who sponsored the measure in the state Assembly. “Children are the most vulnerable among us, and the bill I sponsored and helped pass will ensure that private and nonprofit CACs can conduct thorough background checks on potential and current employees to better protect them.

Centers are required to adhere to standards set by the Office of Child and Family Services for cases involving child victims of sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. Centers often have to rely on contractual or pro bono arrangements with physicians and medical providers trained in forensic pediatrics as well as mental health professionals and victim advocacy personnel.

“This is a huge success for child advocacy centers across the state,” said Linda Clearly, executive director of the New York State Children’s Alliance. “Child Advocacy Centers provide essential services to children who have been sexually and physically abused and who, until now, have not been able to conduct thorough background checks on their employees. Access to central state registry information now ensures that every team member has been vetted to work safely with children.”

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