Poll Worker Sees Child With Rash, Reports Family to ACS

The parents say their daughter has eczema and that they are now being unfairly investigated by child welfare workers

By Melissa Russo
|  Friday, Apr 27, 2012  |  Updated 7:05 AM EDT
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A Queens family got a surprising visit from child welfare workers this week after a Board of Elections worker at a voting site Tuesday reported them to officials, believing that a rash on their child's legs was evidence of being beaten. Melissa Russo reports.

A Queens family got a surprising visit from child welfare workers this week after a Board of Elections worker at a voting site Tuesday reported them to officials, believing that a rash on their child's legs was evidence of being beaten. Melissa Russo reports.

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A Queens family got a surprising visit from child welfare workers this week after a Board of Elections worker at a voting site Tuesday reported them to officials, believing that a rash on their child's legs was evidence of being beaten.

When Andrew Schiefer went to vote in New York's Republican primary, he brought along his 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who has eczema, a common skin condition.

"Some of it looks like it's bleeding, but it's not," the little girl told NBC 4 New York.

A poll worker at the Ridgewood polling station, with access to the family's information from voting records, apparently suspected the marks were injuries, and called in a tip to the city's child abuse hot line. A child welfare worker showed up to the family's home the next day.

The poll worker "should have just minded her own business, because she started a whirlwind of trouble for this family," mother Jessica Schiefer said.

The Administration for Children's Services says the investigation has to continue for 30 days, even though the family has proof of the child's skin condition. The investigation includes visiting the girl's school.

Even if the family is cleared, the complaint remains on file indefinitely.

"It's ruining our reputation -- I mean, people who don't know about this situation are going to think we beat our children," Jessica Schiefer said.

Sources at ACS tell NBC 4 New York that the poll worker did the right thing by making the report, because too often people suspect child abuse and don't report it. The agency investigates 60,000 tips a year; wrongdoing is substantiated in four out of 10, officials said.

Once a report is filed, ACS must make contact with the family within 24 hours and must conduct an investigation within 60 days to determine whether there is evidence of abuse or neglect.

"The Administration for Children’s Services takes any allegation of abuse or neglect that it receives through the state hotline for child abuse and maltreatment seriously," the agency said. "Our agency has an obligation and responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation in each case to ensure the safety of children in New York City."

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