Fair Hearings on Foster Care Issues
written with the assistance of Lansner & Kubitschek
A Fair Hearing is a chance for you to change a decision about services or visitation that was made by the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) or the private foster care agency. A Fair Hearing is not the same thing as a conference - you have the right to request both, but your services may continue if you request a Fair Hearing.
Reasons to Request a Fair Hearing
Request a Fair Hearing if ACS or the foster care agency:
- Intends to reduce or end a service that you are now receiving.
- Provides services that you are not satisfied with.
- Does not provide the services that they agreed to give you.
- Does not answer your request or refuses to give you a service.
- Places you on a waiting list for services.
- Creates a visitation plan that you disagree with.
How to Request Fair Hearings
The best way is to go in person to:
New York State Department of Family Assistance
14 Boerum Place
Brooklyn, New York
You may also make requests:
|By fax to:||New York State Department of Family Assistance|
(518) 473 - 6735
Keep a copy of the cover sheet and confirmation.
|By telephone:||(800) 342-3334 (toll-free)|
(518) 474-8781 (long distance)
Write down the date and time you call, and the name of the person you speak to.
|By mail to:||New York State Department of Family Assistance|
40 N. Pearl Street
Albany, New York 12243
Keep a copy of your letter and send it by certified mail, because mailing is the least reliable way to make a request.
Your Fair Hearing request must include:
- A simple explanation of the reason you are requesting a Fair Hearing.
- Your request for "aid continuing" (if this applies).
- Your request for any special assistance needed for the Hearing.
You cannot request a Fair Hearing while you have an active case in court. You can, however, go back to court and ask that the judge order the agency to give you the services you need.
When to Request a Fair Hearing
If the City sends you a notice stating that they plan to reduce or end your service, request a Fair Hearing immediately.
- If you make your request within 10 days of the date on the letter, you can get "aid continuing," which will continue your services until the hearing decision.
- You will not be able to get aid continuing after the 10-day deadline, but you are allowed to request a Fair Hearing up to 60 days from the date on the notice.
If you apply for a service and are denied, you may request a Fair Hearing within 60 days of the denial. You may also request a Fair Hearing if ACS or the foster care agency does not answer your application in 30 days.
If you have an emergency situation, ask for an "expedited" hearing and explain your reasons. You may be given a hearing within a week, but these emergency hearings are very rarely given.
Rescheduling a Fair Hearing
If you need to reschedule, the best way to do so is by going in person to 14 Boerum Place in Brooklyn. You may also reschedule through any of the ways listed above for requesting your hearing. You must have a very good reason why you cannot attend, for example, you are sick or your witness is unavailable. Call to reschedule as soon as you know you will not be able to attend.
Preparing for a Fair Hearing
You have the right to see your case record and to receive all the documents that ACS is bringing to the hearing. Make requests in writing or by phone to the address given on the back of the notice. Within 3 business days of your request, ACS must send you the documents. If you forget to ask for the documents, you should go to the Fair Hearing early and look at them before your hearing.
Read the documents ACS provides to you. These documents will have the information that ACS will be giving to the judge. When you know what their argument is, you can prepare your answer.
Find evidence and witnesses to support your argument. You may bring any person or document that will help you. If a witness is unavailable for trial, you may bring a notarized written statement from that person or you may ask for an adjournment so that you can have a chance for that witness to testify.
Do not give anyone your original documents. Make 2 copies of every document, one for the judge and one for the ACS Representative. You must, however, bring the original copies for the judge to see.
Write down the points you want to make. This will help you not to forget important facts.
Prepare a closing statement, telling the judge exactly what you want and why you believe you are entitled to it.
Free Assistance for the Fair Hearing
You may receive the following free of charge:
- A translator
- Carfare for the transportation cost for yourself, your witnesses and representatives
- Reimbursement for your childcare cost
Request this assistance when you request your Fair Hearing, then again at the Fair Hearing.
Persons Attending the Fair Hearing
Persons at the Fair Hearing will include the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), a representative from ACS, your ACS worker, usually the foster care agency worker, and maybe a lawyer from the foster care agency. Since there are several people involved in answering your complaint, you may be more comfortable if you bring someone for support, such as a friend or family member, in addition to your witnesses.
At the Fair Hearing
The ALJ is supposed to help you present your side of the story, and to question ACS's story, if you need this assistance. Both the ALJ and the ACS representative will ask you questions. It is very important that you understand all the questions that you are asked. If you do not understand something, ask that it be repeated or explained.
1) Give your evidence to the judge and question your witnesses. Give the ALJ each document, one at a time, explaining why you are giving him or her each one. Ask your witnesses specific questions; you should write these down before the hearing. The ALJ may not let you bring up other things that are bothering you, if these issues are not part of this hearing.
2) ACS's representative will present their argument. If the representative tries to introduce documents that you were not sent, ask the ALJ to refuse to admit this evidence or to give you time to review the new documents, and to answer them with your own witnesses or evidence.
3) You have the right to argue against the documents, evidence and testimony presented by ACS's representative.
4) Make a closing statement. Tell the ALJ exactly what you want and why you are entitled to it.
After the Fair Hearing
The ALJ is supposed to make a decision within 60 days of when you requested the Fair Hearing. A written copy of the decision will be mailed to you, to ACS, and to your representative (if you have one).
If you do not receive the decision within 90 days, you may call 1-800-342-3715 ext. 48781, or write to:
Bureau of Hearings
New York Department of Social Services
40 N. Pearl St.
Albany, New York 12203
Obeying the Decision
ACS or the foster care agency must do what the decision says as soon as possible; they cannot take more than 90 days. The decision you receive will be accompanied by information on how to make ACS or the foster care agency obey the decision.
If ACS or the foster care agency does not, you may complain by calling 1-800-342-3715 ext. 48781, or writing to:
Compliance Unit - Bureau of Hearings
New York Department of Social Services
40 N. Pearl St.
Albany, New York 12203
Appealing the Decision
If you are not happy with the results of your Fair Hearing, you may appeal to the New York State Supreme Court within four months of the date of the decision. Information on how to appeal is included with the decision. You should try to consult a lawyer before filing an appeal.