What You Need To Know About ACS

One of the scariest things that can happen to a parent is becoming the subject of an investigation by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). That’s the agency responsible for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, and while in some cases they can provide the resources to help a family out of a bad situation, they also have the power to remove children from parents. Because many of the things that can trigger an ACS investigation are indistinguishable from other issues faced by families struggling with poverty, low-income communities end up with far more ACS investigations than other places, and with far more fear of ACS becoming involved in their family.

When someone is charged with a crime, they have the right to a lawyer. But a parent suspected of child abuse or neglect doesn’t have access to a lawyer throughout most of the process of ACS’s investigation even though things they do or say will be noted by ACS and can be used against them later in court. This means, to get the best results for their family, parents have to decide when to cooperate with ACS, and when to assert their rights – and that’s a tough decision to make.

To help parents find the balance between cooperating and standing up for themselves and their families, Brooklyn Defender Services teamed up with CUP and designer Manuel Miranda to create What You Need To Know About ACS – Parents’ Rights When Dealing With the NYC Administration for Children’s Services. This fold-out poster helps parents understand the frightening process of an ACS investigation, know their rights during the process, and provides the tools to help parents know when to assert their rights.

The poster also breaks down the convoluted ACS investigation process, so parents know what’s coming, and can prepare themselves during the steps in the investigation before their case goes to Family Court — which is when they can finally access legal assistance.

Resources & Links

Brooklyn Defender Services provides high quality legal representation and related services to people who cannot afford to retain an attorney.

Manuel Miranda Practice uses graphic design to make places and content visible, legible, and navigable to people.

Making Policy Public is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). CUP partners with policy advocates and graphic designers to produce foldout posters that explain complicated policy issues, like this one.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

General support for CUP’s programs is provided in part by The Kresge Foundation, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, New York Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

Special Thanks

Sabrina Calloway, Esiena Ekwofia, Christine Gaspar, Codi Haigney, Joy Howard, Joyce McMillan, Moshammet Rhodd, Yasmin Safdié, Ben Strachan, Ebony Taylor, Lamont THomas, Emilio Vides-Curnen


  • CUP
  • Mark Torrey
    Clair Beltran

  • Brooklyn Defender Services
  • Daniel Ball
  • Meghan Downes
  • Jessica Nitsche
  • Designer
  • Manuel Miranda