New bill clarifies CPS laws involving missing children and record access

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A bill that would make it easier for law enforcement to access CPS records when investigating missing child cases has passed the state legislature and will now go to the governor for consideration.

Senator George Amedore and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, along with Albany Sheriff Craig Apple hosted a press conference in Albany on Monday to announce legislative passage of the bill in both the state assembly and senate. Sheriff Apple has been pushing for changes to CPS laws since the case of Kenneth White, the 5-year-old who police say was killed at the hands of his cousin.

Sheriff Apple says he had difficulties working with CPS while investigating when White’s cousin, Tiffany VanAlstyne told authorities two masked men broke into her mother’s trailer and kidnapped the child. After an Amber Alert was issued, authorities discovered that he was not missing, but actually buried under snow across the street.

“I had investigators on the phone with Montgomery CPS, the hotline for CPS, Albany County’s lawyers going back and forth. Going, ‘listen this is what we got and this is the section we’re reading and we feel we need this information.’ And they kept saying we didn’t meet the threshold,” Sheriff Apple said.

A review of the case determined that the records should have been turned over when requested. Sheriff Apple said he took a closer look at the law after that denial, and realized just how convoluted it was. He contacted local legislators in the hopes that something could be done.

The new bill will clarify the law, ensuring that when a child goes missing authorities have immediate access to CPS records if there is reason to believe that a parent, guardian, or other person legally responsible for the child is the subject of a report of child abuse or maltreatment. If denied, law enforcement agencies can request an administrative review by the state Office of Children and Family Services, which would have the ability to overturn a decision by the county CPS.

“You often can’t rewrite law based on one incident but sometimes such a glaring, horrific incident makes you go back and re-evaluate,” said Aseemblymember Fahy.

Sheriff Apple says this new bill would not have helped saved White, however he hopes it can help save children in the future.

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