In point of fact? The Judge.
In reality? Well, that answer is filled with too much controversy and politics to answer here.
New York State places investigating (and proving) neglect/abuse through the Office of Children and Family Services. Yet, in the end a Court decides whether (depending on if the case is now before or after a neglect trial) the children are:
1. in imminent risk to their life or health;
2. whether it would be contrary to their welfare to return to their home; and finally
3. What is in their best interests.
If the circumstances that led to their removal have changed from the date CPS removed them, then you have a NY State Statutory right and a 14th Amendment constitutional right to the return of your children
- CPS improperly notified mother of case, court rules (statesman.com)
- CPS custody hearing sheds light on Highland Park infant’s death (wfaa.com)
- injustice (ireport.cnn.com)