Child advocacy centers in New York will be able to conduct background checks on current or incoming employees using a child abuse and maltreatment registry maintained by the state under a law approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul this week.

The measure is meant to address the lack of access to the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Previously, only county-run child advocacy centers can access the register. The new law will extend that access to non-profit centers.

“Child advocacy centers are critical resources for young victims of sexual and physical abuse,” said state Assemblywoman 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 into law will ensure that private and not-for-profit CACs are able to conduct thorough background checks on both prospective and current employees to better protect them."

The centers are required to comply with standards set by the Office of Children and Family Services for cases that involve child sexual abuse victims and serious physical abuse. The centers often must rely on contractual or volunteer arrangements with doctors and medical providers trained in forensic pediatrics as well as mental health professional and victim advocacy personnel.

"This is a tremendous success for Child Advocacy Centers across the state," said Linda Clearly, the executive director of the New York State Children's Alliance. "Child Advocacy Centers provide critical services to children who have been sexually and physically abused and until now have not been able to do a thorough background check of their employees. Accessing information in the statewide central register now ensures that every team member has been vetted to safely work with children."