My Bill Regarding Forwarding Reports Of Child Abuse Between Authorized Agencies Is Passed By The New York State Senate

I am proud to announce that A.2965/S.4172, legislation I authored, was passed by the New York State Senate on Thursday and will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law. The New York State Assembly passed the bill on May 24.

The legislation amends current social services law in relation to forwarding reports of abuse. The bill requires reports of suspected child abuse or maltreatment of a child be provided to the social services district charged with the care, custody or guardianship of such child when the child has been placed in a home under the care, custody or guardianship of an authorized agency which is not in the social services district that placed the child.

The care and custody of a child may be transferred by a social services district to an authorized agency and the child placed in foster care.  There is no requirement that the authorized agency charged with the care and custody of the child and the child’s foster home be located in the same social services district that transferred the care and custody of the child.

Problems arise, however, when the foster home is the subject of a report of child abuse or maltreatment and the foster home is not located in the social services district that placed the child in the foster home. There is no mechanism under current law that requires notice of such report to be provided to the placing social services district. Absent information that the foster home may be the subject of a report of child abuse or maltreatment, the placing social services district may continue to place children in the care and custody of that foster home.

We must close gaps in communication between and among authorized agencies and social service districts responsible for the safety and welfare of our children. Placing agencies must be informed of reports of suspected abuse or maltreatment involving homes in which they have placed children so that they do not unwittingly place additional children in a situation that risks subjecting them to further abuse or maltreatment.

Patrick Gallivan (R-59) sponsored the bill in the Senate.



My Child Marriage Bill Was Sent To The Governor To Be Signed Into Law

I am proud to announce that A.5524-B/S.4407-B, legislation I authored, was passed by both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate this week and will now be sent to Governor Cuomo to be signed into law.

The bill would prohibit the marriage of minors under the age of 17 and strengthen the process to obtain court approval for marriage of persons at least 17 years of age but under 18 years of age.

The current minimum age to marry in New York State is 14. If a child is 16 or 17, she can marry with parental consent.  If a child is 14 or 15, she can marry with parental consent and the approval of the court. Current law enables children to be forced into marriage by their parents who bring their children before the court or the court clerk to provide their “consent” when in reality the parents have forced their child to marry, threatening the child with ostracism, beatings or death if the child refuses to marry.

Children who are 14 and 15 years old should be worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends. They are much too young to be married. We are seeing girls getting married to much older men who are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally. This is an appalling practice that destroys the lives of young girls.

How has it been possible that we allow a 14-year-old to get married yet we don’t allow her any practical ways out? She can’t sue for divorce in her own name. Under current law, she has to sue for divorce through a parent, who likely forced her into the marriage in the first place, or through a guardian. We have needed to address this for a long time.

According to Fraidy Reiss, executive director and founder of Unchained At Last, nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010 and more than 84 percent of those children were minor girls married to adult men.  Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages. 

“This bill is an important first step toward ending the human rights abuse of child marriage in New York State,” Reiss said. “I applaud Assemblywoman Paulin for her leadership.”

The current court approval process for the authorization of marriage of persons under 16 hasn’t provided adequate protections for a child against abuse and fraud on the part of parents or guardians to force a child into marriage. This legislation will strengthen the process for marriage of persons at least 17 but under 18 by, among other things, requiring the appointment of an attorney for the child who must have received training in domestic violence including a component on forced marriage, and requiring the court to hold an in camera interview, separately with each minor party, and make specific written findings.   The bill also provides that if the court approves the marriage, each minor party will have all the rights of an adult, including the right to enter into a contract, except for specific constitutional and statutory age requirements.

“New York is poised to lead the nation in recognizing child marriage as a human rights violation,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York. “Governor Cuomo has been very clear that child marriage is a scourge on the values we hold dear in New York. It’s not a surprise that he will be signing into law the strongest protections in the nation. We urge the rest of the country to follow suit.”

“Child marriage is a human rights violation that fosters gender inequality and exploitation and whose victims are three times more likely to suffer domestic violence, are much less likely to complete their education and are not able to bring divorce or annulment in their own names,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families. “Sanctuary for Families has seen the deleterious effect it has had on our clients. We thank Assemblywoman Paulin and Senator Lanza for their leadership and applaud the New York State Legislature’s swift action to halt this unacceptable and outmoded practice. Marriage is rightfully a milestone of adulthood, not childhood.”

Andrew Lanza sponsored the bill in the Senate.






My FOIL Bill Passed By Senate, Sent To Governor

I am pleased to announce that A.2750-A/S.2392-A, legislation I authored, was passed by the New York State Senate this week and will now be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law.

The bill would award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party who has gone to court to challenge an agency’s refusal to provide records requested under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The time and cost involved in these court proceedings can be staggering for individuals, and may deter them from pursing legal action to compel agencies to provide the records. This bill would encourage agencies to comply with FOIL in order to avoid potentially paying the attorney’s fees for prevailing individuals who challenge the agency in court.

Very often, the time and effort involved in getting a FOIL request fulfilled is trying enough. A person petitioning an agency through FOIL shouldn’t have the added expense of a lengthy court proceeding as well.

This bill establishes a two-tiered approach. In court cases where an agency failed to respond to a person’s request for records or appeal within the allowable time, the court may require the agency to pay for a person’s attorney’s fees if the person prevails in court. In cases where an agency denied an individual’s request for records and the court finds that there was no reasonable basis for the denial, the court must order the agency to pay the individual’s attorney’s fees if that individual prevails in court.

The Committee on Open Government recommended this two-tiered approach in its 2016 annual report.

The bill is sponsored by Patrick Gallivan in the Senate.

My Bill Exempting Sex Trafficking Victims From Providing DNA Samples Passed By The New York State Assembly and Sent To The Senate

I am pleased to announce that A.1030, legislation I authored, was passed by the New York State Assembly on Monday and will now be sent to the New York State Senate. The bill would exempt victims of sex trafficking from providing a DNA sample to be included in the State’s DNA criminal offender database.

New York State has been on the forefront in recognizing that commercially sexually exploited individuals are victims of human trafficking and should not be treated as criminals. I am one of the leading advocates to end human trafficking and have authored several pieces of legislation, including the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, to hold traffickers and buyers accountable and get help to trafficking victims who are trapped in the vicious cycle of human trafficking.

This legislation will exclude from the definition of a designated offender a person convicted of prostitution or loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or a person whose participation in an offense the court determines was a result of having been a sex trafficking victim under New York or federal law. By making clear that these persons are not designated offenders, the victims will not be required to provide upon conviction a DNA sample that would be included in the state DNA identification database.

These individuals are victims, forced into a life of exploitation and abuse. They have come into our criminal justice system by virtue of their enslavement at the hands of their traffickers. Their basic human rights have already been violated by their traffickers; we cannot compound the further violation of their rights by requiring a DNA sample.

The bill is sponsored by Andrew Lanza in the Senate.