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New York

Postby Marina » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:03 am

. ... d_deaths_1

Report blasts NYC child welfare agency

By ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Aug 9, 4:09 PM ET

NEW YORK - The city issued a damning report on its child welfare agency on Thursday, calling for changes in the way caseworkers look into abuse and neglect allegations after 10 children died during or after bungled investigations.

The city's Department of Investigation said it probed the deaths of 11 children and one who nearly drowned in an eight-month stretch beginning in October 2005. DOI said that in all the cases, the Administration for Children's Services was either investigating the parents or had completed its findings.

"In all but one of these cases, DOI has found that the investigations conducted by ACS were substantially inadequate and incomplete," the 141-page report said.

The agency showed a pattern of lying, incompetence, carelessness, ill-trained caseworkers — and many of the children had preventable deaths, according to the report.

The cases include the 2006 beating deaths of Nixzmary Brown, 7, and Quachaun Brown, 4, along with 2-month-old Michael Segarra, who died in his crib of neglect and tested positive for cocaine at birth.

"In at least one instance, an ACS manager admitted to DOI investigators that he had falsified records after the death of a child to make it appear as if he had been actively supervising the investigation," the report said.

That case involved the Nov. 6, 2005 bathtub drowning of 16-month-old Dahquay Gillians, whose mother has pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

ACS suspended the manager in December 2005.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the investigation in January 2006 after widespread concern about whether the agency could properly investigate and respond to abuse allegations, the report said.

The report also said caseworkers routinely took the word of parents who denied the allegations. At other times, managers pressured caseworkers to "close cases within the state-mandated 60-day period at the expense of a thorough and thoughtful investigation of the allegations."

ACS head John B. Mattingly said it was a very tough report, but the agency embraced recommendations to improve. "As commissioner, it all rests on my shoulders," he said.

The agency said it has drastically increased the number of caseworkers and reduced each worker's caseload from 22 to 11.

It also has hired 20 investigative consultants with law enforcement experience, and plans to hire 100 more. Hearn said the goal is to have one investigative consultant per 15 caseworkers.

Last edited by Marina on Sun Dec 07, 2008 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:10 pm

. ... ml?ref=rss

Council hearing set to grill ACS on latest deaths

Tuesday, August 21st 2007, 4:00 AM

The City Council will hold a hearing on Sept. 20 on the practices of the city's child-welfare agency in the wake of the recent deaths of two kids in its care.

The hearing was announced by Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), the chairman of the General Welfare Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over the city Administration for Children's Services.

He cited the Aug. 13 death of 21-month-old Hailey Gonzalez after she was allegedly beaten by her mother's boyfriend on Staten Island and the suspicious Aug. 7 death of 2-month-old London Rogers after he was allegedly shaken by his mother in a Brooklyn homeless shelter.

De Blasio said ACS has made some progress in its child-care practices since it was rocked by the beating and starving death of Nixzmary Brown, 7, on Jan. 11, 2006. Her mother and stepfather were charged with murder.

"But everyone has to step up and work harder, because we're still losing kids that, I think it's fair to say, there's no reason we should be losing," de Blasio said.


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Postby Marina » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:57 pm

. ... oster.html

A History of Neglect

In Foster Care Review, Vows of Help and Vigilance

Published: November 7, 2007

John B. Mattingly became New York City’s child welfare commissioner aiming to bring accountability to the dozens of private agencies the city paid hundreds of millions of dollars each year to care for foster children.

A History of Neglect
‘We Always Wanted Our Own'

A New York Times examination of the struggles of minority-run foster care agencies in New York City found a trail of scandals and disappointments, as well as a new commitment to better caring for the city’s vulnerable black and Latino children.

Brenda Hart, founder of Family Support, an agency in the Bronx.
Mr. Mattingly also brought to the job a long history as an ardent supporter of the idea that endangered children would fare best if the people in the neighborhoods they came from were involved in their care and protection.

And so in the spring of 2005, Mr. Mattingly found himself faced with a delicate and complex challenge. Evidence of fraud, mismanagement and the mistreatment of children had led him to end contracts with two of the city’s largest neighborhood-based, minority-run foster care agencies. Those, he acknowledged, were the easy calls.

But he had also put six of the eight remaining minority agencies on notice that they would be investigated and perhaps closed, as well. Their performance in recent years had left them ranked near the bottom of the roughly 40 agencies the city entrusted with its most vulnerable children, and he wanted to be sure there were not other disasters looming.

Mr. Mattingly and his staff realized that what they were contemplating — all but ending a 20-year experiment in allowing minority agencies to care for many of the city’s thousands of abused or neglected black and Latino children — could be divisive, and they prepared themselves for the backlash.

Brenda Hart helped provide the passionate resistance. In recent years, Ms. Hart’s Bronx agency, Family Support Systems Unlimited Inc., had been identified by the city as troubled — allowing children back into abusive homes only to see them returned to foster care, for example.

Ms. Hart was upset by Mr. Mattingly’s action, and determined to resist it. She and others argued that the city’s system for evaluating its foster care agencies was flawed, and that the city was failing to acknowledge that agencies like hers — started from scratch in the burned-out Bronx of the early 1980s — were often left to deal with the most challenging and unwanted children.

Churches, local politicians and families rallied to save her organization. As she pressed ahead, the five other minority agencies under review made their own efforts to persuade Mr. Mattingly’s staff to keep their programs alive.

“I felt people had negative opinions without really taking a look, and I am not sure that wasn’t solely because we were minority,” Ms. Hart said. “I can’t even understand that we were on a list.”

Mr. Mattingly said he was open-minded, but sent in a city team to examine Family Support and the other minority agencies. He had also placed three white-run agencies under review.

The city’s evaluations had provoked genuine concern about just how well the agencies were protecting and providing for several thousand children. The poor scores were no mere bureaucratic accounting. They reflected problems across more than a dozen measures — from the levels of abuse in foster homes to adoption rates to how well the agencies kept track of whether children were being fed and clothed, attending school and receiving medical care.

Along with his review, Mr. Mattingly and his aides pledged to study the experiences of the city’s minority agencies, and to consider the recommendations of a task force he had set up to explore ways that such agencies could be preserved and supported.

“We wanted to confront their perspective and come to understand it,” he said of the minority agencies. “I am reasonably confident that we were in the position to make some judgments about quality of work. I did not need them to tell me about that.

“But since I was new to New York, I sure needed some help figuring out how we ended up where we were. And what we might do to save the good things while at the same time not jeopardizing quality.”

Making a Change

On the afternoon of May 16, 2005, about a dozen people convened in a conference room in the Park Avenue offices of the United Way of New York City, which provided grants, training and other support to minority foster care programs.

This was an early meeting of the special task force on minority agencies, which Mr. Mattingly had appointed after the criticism from Ms. Hart and others.

(Page 2 of 4)

To some on the panel, his decision to place six of the city’s remaining eight minority agencies under review was brazen and insensitive. And they felt that the move, which he announced publicly, had imperiled a modest network at a time when almost all of the 18,000 foster children were black or Latino.

The task force members, who came from diverse racial and professional backgrounds, were largely in agreement on the unique attributes of minority agencies: their cultural sensitivity and their locations in needy neighborhoods, as well as their struggles for money and survival.

If there was one characteristic the agencies all shared, one witness told the task force, it was this: “They were all founded,” he said, “on a wing and a prayer.”

In meetings over the next several months, the members traced the history of the minority agencies in New York, and what they saw as the inequities in the system, the task force’s minutes show.

In one presentation, Alma J. Carten, who teaches social work at New York University and was a child welfare official under Mayor David N. Dinkins, described what she saw as the “second-class treatment” of minority children in the “white-led child welfare system.”

She said there had been a “persistent lack of understanding” of the “culture, needs, and strengths of children and families of color.” Yet minority agencies, Dr. Carten added, still represented only a small part of the city’s foster care network at a time when “children of color constitute the overwhelming majority of the clients in this system.”

Another member, David Tobis, executive director of the Child Welfare Fund, said he was not initially convinced of the need to keep every minority agency. “My view was, you look at the performance of the agency, and you keep the agencies that are performing well,” he said.

But he said he came to agree that the minority agencies were critical to the system “even if they are not the peak performers.” He also concluded that the city’s evaluation system had its own problems.

For example, the system awarded points to agencies for the number of adoptions they completed and how fast they were done. Yet minority agencies argued that black and Latino children sometimes benefited from staying in stable long-term foster care with a relative, rather than being placed for adoption with a stranger. That philosophical choice could cost an agency points.

“In this field, as in many other fields, numbers do not always tell the story,” said one task force member, Megan E. McLaughlin, former executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, which has long offered training and other support to the minority agencies.

When the task force ultimately issued its recommendations, one was that the city modify its scoring system to better capture the virtues of minority agencies. The task force also urged the city to create a pool of public and private money for grants to minority agencies.

Some of the recommendations spurred debate among executives of the established organizations about their fairness.

Poul Jensen, president of one of the oldest agencies, Graham Windham, which has some 900 foster children, circulated a letter about 10 months ago to industry colleagues and to Mr. Mattingly in which he enthusiastically supported the task force’s recommendations. But he opposed “a publicly financed special fund for this group.”

“In my view,” he wrote, “it would not be a good idea to treat minority agencies as a special, protected class so as ‘to insure that these agencies will survive.’”

He said the “public good will be best served” by fairly holding all agencies to account, and by having every agency try to incorporate the special benefits seen in well-run minority agencies.

Fighting Back

Mr. Mattingly’s rigorous review of Ms. Hart’s agency, Family Support, turned up some worrisome findings. An audit, for example, concluded that the agency’s finances were in danger.

City child welfare workers in the Bronx, the ones with the most contact with the agency, complained about Family Support’s performance. Their assessments were often scathing: “There seems to be a lack of leadership,” one wrote; “Foster parents are not always bilingual and yet they foster English-speaking children,” read another; yet another concluded that the entire agency did not fully understand the policies of the child welfare system.

page 3

But the city investigators also listened seriously to Ms. Hart’s defense, and considered what she said was Family Support’s crucial role in the community. Her argument, in many ways, offered an intensely personal and specific portrait of the kind of experience the task force had looked at more broadly.

She said that when she opened an office on the Grand Concourse, she had money only for raw space. She begged at local banks, which donated used copying machines and furniture. She said she got painters from a local job-training program to work for nothing.

Over time, her agency grew to have nearly 1,000 foster children, but there was never enough money, she said. For years, the city paid Family Support, like many of the newer agencies, less for each child than it paid the more established organizations — the result of a longstanding reimbursement formula that rewarded the agencies that spent the most and raised the most private money. And for an agency deep in the Bronx, fund-raising was not easy.

“Minority agencies, for whatever reasons, seem to have a more difficult time gaining access to some of these resources,” she said.

The city’s criticism was particularly galling, she said, because for years she had taken on any child sent her way, regardless of their challenges, handicaps or history of mistreatment or violence.

“We did not follow the money; we followed our hearts and our souls,” she wrote to Mr. Mattingly at one point. In an interview, she later added, “We always wanted our own.”

As he considered what to do with the minority agencies under review, Mr. Mattingly had to reckon with his own personal loyalties.

Before his appointment in mid-2004 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, he had spent much of his career supporting the idea of minority foster care programs. As director of child welfare in Toledo, Ohio, just as that city was being hit by the crack epidemic of the mid-1980s, he had seen the shortcomings of a system largely overseen by traditional foster care agencies.

“We were staffed by all these white women from Bowling Green University,” Mr. Mattingly recalled of the city’s child welfare operation. “They were lovely and well intentioned, but had no more idea about the neighborhoods that they were going into than the man on the moon.”

And so during the decade he later spent as an executive at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, one of the most influential child welfare organizations in the nation, he put the foundation’s money where his heart was. He gave grant money to agencies in dozens of cities to help them develop a local system of care that would draw upon the wisdom and commitment of local communities. New York was one of those cities.

But now, in 2005, he found that New York’s experience had been mixed. He said he felt fully empowered by Mr. Bloomberg — a mayor committed to the strict measurement of outcomes and the meritocracy that implied — to be tough if that was warranted.

And he knew he had a rare chance to further justify any unpopular moves. The city’s foster care population was in steep decline — the crack crisis had ended, and as a matter of policy, the city had been trying to keep children in their homes. Agencies, then, would have to close. The city just did not have business for them all. It was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to preserve the best and start weeding out the agencies that had consistently performed poorly.

Still, he and his aides could not help but be uncomfortable even considering terminating Ms. Hart’s agency or any of the other minority operations.

Anne Williams-Isom, an African-American lawyer and one of Mr. Mattingly’s top aides, felt the gravity of what they were contemplating.

“I am thinking of black and brown high school students brought into a predominantly white school through a program meant to encourage diversity, and then it turns out most of them are struggling and on academic probation,” she said. “It’s not about giving them a pass, but wouldn’t you want to make sure they had the skills and resources to be competitive with their white counterparts?”

page 4

By May 2005, Mr. Mattingly had decided to continue the foster care contracts of five of the six minority agencies that had gone through reviews. Two of the agencies, he found, were so new that they deserved more time, and the other three, including Family Support, were showing improvement. Indeed, in an evaluation a few months later, another of those three, Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families, ranked first among all the city’s foster care agencies.

Later, he said he would try to put the task force’s recommendations in place.

“I don’t want to be the commissioner who walked in here and wiped off a majority of the minority-led agencies,” he said.

An Uncertain Start

Today, some 2,400 children remain in the care of seven minority foster care agencies. But more than two years since Mr. Mattingly formed his task force, its recommendation for better evaluating minority agencies has yet to be carried out.

The question of how to revamp the city’s performance scoring system for foster care agencies, in fact, is still the subject of study and debate among child welfare officials.

Some of that discussion has centered on the difficult question of how much to credit agencies for what is known in child welfare circles as “cultural competency.”

It can be a hard thing to define, and to measure.

At its most basic, it is an agency’s ability to bring a special understanding and sensitivity to the question of how different communities — black or Jewish, Latino or Russian — raise, discipline and provide for their children.

City officials concede that they are still struggling with questions as fundamental as how such intuitive skills can be measured in concrete, trustworthy ways. Toward this end, they have sent out teams to investigate cases in which an agency has succeeded in this regard. And they have hired a Hunter College professor as a consultant.

Mr. Mattingly is firm in his belief that cultural strengths can and must be measured. His staff, though, still has not settled on how much cultural competency will count, especially when compared with critical measurements like safety and the ability to find permanent homes for children.

The other major recommendation of the task force — that the city create a public-private fund that would support minority agencies — also posed a problem because of questions about how the city could participate in a fund that gave grants exclusively to minority-led agencies.

One consultant, Eric Brettschneider, a child welfare official under Mayor Edward I. Koch, wrote to Mr. Mattingly that the city could define the fund’s potential beneficiaries not by their “status as a minority-governed” agency, but by other attributes that applied, like being “truly embedded in the community,” offering “culturally competent” services, and having leadership that reflected “the people that they serve.”

In the end, the city decided not to create or pay into a fund, but said it would provide a staff member to work at a fund administered by United Way of New York City.

Mr. Brettschneider, who now works at United Way, said the funding criteria are still being worked out, and the plan is to seek money from private, federal, and state sources. Some private foundations have already contributed money, he said.

Recently, the fund made grants to several minority-led agencies, including some that had been under review by the city. One of them was Family Support, which was given about $22,000.

The grant was aimed at improving the agency’s ability to track and document the care children were receiving.

But the problems at Family Support still run deeper than such basic concerns.

The city, for instance, has met recently with lawyers for foster children in the Bronx who have been troubled by the agency’s handling of cases. And in September, Ms. Hart and her staff were called in to meet with the family court judges of the Bronx to hear criticism about the agency’s continued poor performance. Ms. Hart, for her part, said she had her own complaints about the judges.

As for the city, a recent examination conducted by the Department of Investigation found substantial failings in the oversight of many foster care agencies, minority or otherwise. Mr. Mattingly, though, said his office was positioned to keep closer track of the foster care providers.

The reason, he said, is a series of reforms he enacted this year that include sending teams of child welfare staff members into the agencies themselves to conduct checks and provide regular feedback. This means, he says, that the city will identify and fix problems more quickly.

But Steven Banks, attorney in chief of the Legal Aid Society, whose lawyers represent 90 percent of the 30,000 children who appear in family court each year, said there was a “significant gulf between excellent policy initiatives by the city and the day-to-day realities of suffering by children and families in the foster care system.”

Mr. Mattingly said he would not be afraid to act. “I don’t care who is running the agency or what the purpose of any program is, if you don’t do the basics, you can’t do the work,” he said. “And I don’t back off that at all."


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Postby Marina » Thu Nov 22, 2007 4:27 pm

. ... reporting/

New child abuse reporting requirements

Nov 15, 2007 11:09 AM

There has been a recent change in state law that affects all mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or maltreatment, including teachers, guidance counselors, school nurses, school psychologists and school social workers.

All pedagogical and non-pedagogical staff in a school who have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment are now required to file a report with the State Central Register personally. Mandated reporters may no longer fulfil their reporting obligation by having the principal or the principal’s designee make the required report.

Call the SCR at 1-800-635-1522 or 311 to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. All reports made to the SCR should include the name, title and contact information for every staff person in the school who is believed to have direct knowledge of the allegations contained in the report.

Afterward, the staff member must immediately notify the principal or the principal’s designee and provide the “Call I.D.” number provided by the SCR. The principal or designee is then responsible for all subsequent internal action.

No school may take retaliatory action against an employee who makes a report to the SCR. A principal or other school supervisor cannot demand that prior approval is necessary before a report of suspected child abuse or maltreatment is filed.

Contact your district representative if you have any questions or concerns about this change in state law and the Chancellor’s Regulations. The Integrated Service Center and Office of School and Youth Development can also answer questions about this regulation and provide training and educational materials on child abuse prevention.


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Postby Marina » Fri May 16, 2008 7:14 pm

. ... emove.html

Child Welfare Tightens Law on Removal

Published: May 15, 2008

New York City has enacted a tough new policy that allows the authorities to remove newborns from their parents’ homes in all but an “extraordinary instance” if the parents previously had children taken from their custody and their case is still open.

John B. Mattingly, the city’s commissioner of children’s services, announced the more aggressive approach during a City Council budget hearing on Tuesday at which he faced questions on his agency’s role in the death of Pablo Paez, an 11-week-old boy whose older sibling had been removed from the same home at age 3 months, a year earlier.

The children’s mother, Kiana Paez, a 23-year-old drug addict, was charged on April 25 with beating Pablo to death. Child welfare workers had been in frequent contact with Ms. Paez since the first baby was placed in foster care because of violence in the home, but they did not try to remove Pablo.

Mr. Mattingly said that the new policy was influenced by the Paez case, but that he had been considering the changes — a natural outgrowth of other changes he had made at the agency — for a long time. The policy, which had been toughened in 2006, was officially revised again on April 21, 18 days after the baby’s injuries were discovered.

“When I got here three and a half years ago, the assumption was the child would stay in the home,” Mr. Mattingly said in a telephone interview. “Most of us in the country have the view that if older siblings are in foster care, and the court has affirmed that they are at substantial risk of harm, it makes very little sense to make the opposite assumption about a 6-pound baby coming into the home.”

Even under the new policy, removals will not be automatic. When caseworkers learn of a pregnancy, they are required to have a safety conference with family members, lawyers or advocates to evaluate the risk for the new baby. If they feel a new child should stay in the mother’s home, a borough supervisor will have to sign off on the decision. Otherwise, the agency will initiate the court proceedings required to remove any child from the parents’ care.

“The assumption should be we are going for removal,” Mr. Mattingly said. “This is a very serious matter, and only the highest authority can make a decision not to remove the child.”

City officials could not say whether any babies have been removed under the new regulations, but they estimated that 150 to 200 infants a year were born into families with children in foster care.

Several child-welfare experts said on Wednesday that New York’s new regulations were among the most aggressive they had seen.

“The presumption is toward keeping a baby home unless there is imminent risk,” said Anne Marie Lancour, director of state projects at the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law.

Richard Wexler, executive director of the Virginia-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform and a major critic of foster care, said that New York had basically adopted “a de facto confiscation-at-birth policy.”

“What this policy is really saying, to the worker, the supervisor and even the borough commissioner, is, ‘Go ahead and leave that child in the home if you want, but if anything goes wrong, your career is over,’ ” Mr. Wexler said.

For the authorities to remove a child from a home for any significant period of time, they must have an order from a family court judge. Child-welfare officials in New York have long held that a court order for the removal of a single child from a home includes the right to monitor the safety of any new children born into that family. The degree of aggressiveness in how the city pursues that jurisdiction, however, has varied widely over time.

Mr. Mattingly said he had seen a need to tighten the protocols for dealing with such families after reviewing child deaths and seeing too many situations like the one involving Pablo Paez. He declined to state which cases in particular had worried him, but it was clear from his City Council testimony that Pablo’s case bothered him deeply.

Officials said that caseworkers had been monitoring the home of Kiana Paez carefully since her first child’s placement in foster care, and that her drug screening tests had all come back negative, leading them to believe she was becoming more responsible.

But the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, has said that as a result of abuse at her hands, Pablo had severe brain injury and fractures, including broken ribs and a broken leg.

Bill de Blasio, the chairman of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee, praised the new regulations, saying they were “desperately needed.” But some parent advocates worried that the aggressive approach might cross a civil rights boundary.

“The extraordinary circumstances language is troubling,” said Michael Arsham, executive director of the Child Welfare Organizing Project. “There has to be a reason beyond simply their history. There has to be a new allegation. There has to be an immediate and pressing concern.”

Bill Baccaglini, executive director of New York Foundling, one of several dozen foster-care agencies that will help administer the new policy, said he was “willing to be the subject of a little criticism from the civil libertarians.”

“This comes out of the best of intentions,” he said. “Being on this side of the business I know if we make a mistake you could lose a life.”


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Postby Marina » Mon Jun 30, 2008 6:24 pm

. ... 112491.htm




SHOCK: Karen Dussack received this letter from child-welfare officials notifying her she had been accused of "educational neglect."
May 25, 2008

Bronx HS of Science senior Michel Dussack has a "B" average, an 1890 SAT score and an almost full college scholarship for the fall.

But Dussack's mother was accused of "educational neglect" two weeks ago and was reported to the city's child-services agency - because she missed a scheduled meeting to discuss her son possibly failing gym.

Karen Dussack, 40, is now under investigation by the Administration for Children's Services, the city's welfare agency that protects kids from neglect and abuse.

Two caseworkers from the ACS showed up at Dussack's door in Bayside, Queens, on May 14. The ACS interviewed Karen and her husband, also named Michel, as well as their two children, Michel and his sister, Deborah, 11. They checked the home for smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors and examined the contents of the refrigerator.

The visit lasted two hours. Afterward, someone from the agency interviewed a representative from Deborah's school, MS 158 in Queens, and the family pediatrician over the phone.

"It was humiliating," Karen said.

The Department of Education has a policy of reporting parents whose children are absent 10 consecutive days or 20 days over four months.

The department would not disclose Michel's attendance records. But in a conversation between Bronx Science officials, ACS representatives and the Dussacks recorded by the family and played for The Post, it was revealed he only had eight unexcused absences.

The nonconsecutive days were for family deaths and illnesses, and his mom said she knew about them.

Sources at the department told The Post that since the case of Nixzmary Brown, who was absent 46 times in one school year and killed in January 2006 by her abusive stepfather, school officials have been encouraged to enforce the absence policy strictly.

There were 8,712 educational-neglect cases reported to the state during the 2006-07 school year, with 36 percent substantiated. The previous year, 8,302 cases were reported, with 42 percent substantiated. Both those numbers are steep rises from the 5,542 cases reported for the 2004-05 school year, before the Nixzmary case. That year, 33 percent of cases were substantiated.

"The school has a responsibility of forcing a parent to attend to a child's education," said Bronx Science Principal Valerie Reidy. "I'm sorry this family's lives were thrown into upheaval, but my job is to protect the children in my school."

Reidy said the school was having trouble getting Karen Dussack to come to school to discuss Michel's gym situation so the school guidance counselor reported the family as "the last resort."

But Dussack said she only missed a scheduled meeting because her daughter hurt her foot playing softball and had to see a doctor. She admitted she didn't reschedule, but told school officials she was dealing with Michel's lack of participation in gym - often caused by his asthma.

During the recorded meeting, the ACS told school officials there was no educational neglect in Dussack's case.

Kim Sweet, executive director of nonprofit group Advocates for Children, noted her group often gets calls from parents hit with false charges and said, "When schools are frustrated with a problem, they reach for educational neglect even though they know it's not really the right option."

Dussack, whom Michel called "a great mom," said, "I more than understand the need to protect children, but there have to be safeguards."

"Right now, parents have to look over their shoulders. They can get charged with neglect for anything, it seems. That's an abuse of power."

"What happened to me can't happen to other people," she said. "It's just so wrong."

The Department of Education's Office of Special Investigations is reviewing the school's actions.

Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg told The Post mandated reporting helps pinpoint abuse faster.


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Postby Marina » Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:07 pm

. ... p_her.html

British mom gets sick during N.Y. trip, her kids end up in group home


Friday, January 25th 2008, 4:00 AM

Two teenage girls from the British countryside were searched, photographed and dumped in a group home when their mom got sick during a Christmas week shopping trip in New York City.

Child welfare officials grabbed Gemma Bray, 15, and her sister, Katie, 13, and held them for more than 24 hours at a Manhattan shelter for children and teens, while their ailing mother scrambled frantically to find them.

"It was like being in a little cage," Katie told British reporters.

"It was quite scary at first," added her older sister.

Adding insult to injury, Yvonne Bray, 38, has received a letter from the Administration for Children's Services saying she is under investigation for possible child neglect.

The girls became known as the "orphan kids," in their rustic hometown of Appledore in Devon after the story hit British newspapers.

A spokeswoman for ACS said authorities helped a family in need and returned the girls to Yvonne Bray as soon as she was well enough to care for them.

"Children's Services assisted a mother whose children could not remain safe by themselves," the spokeswoman said.

The letter Yvonne Bray received was a form letter and she will get another one closing the case, the spokeswoman said.

The family's New York misadventure began when the mother became sick with pneumonia on the second night of their stay at the LaGuardia Marriott.

Her daughters rode with her in the ambulance to Elmhurst Medical Center, which was a world away from the quiet clinics they are used to in England.

"It was awful. I was in the emergency room for 12 hours without so much as a drink," Yvonne Bray told the Daily News.

She admits allowing an ACS worker to take the two girls, but she believed they would be staying with a nice family for the night.

Instead, the girls were taken to the facility on First Ave. in Manhattan, where they were given uniforms and had to pose for mug shots.

The girls didn't know what to say when authorities asked if they belonged to any gangs.

"I'm a member of Appledore library," Gemma told them.

In the end, things weren't too bad at the group home. They made friends with some of the other girls, who peppered them with questions about their homeland.

"They were like, 'Oh, so you have tea with the queen,'" Gemma said.

Back at the hospital, their ailing mother was pulling her hair out trying to find out what happened to her kids.

"I was like a madwoman," she recalled. "I just wanted to get hold of my children."

She insisted on being discharged the following day, and the family went home as planned on Dec. 31.

They never did get to see the Statue of Liberty or Central Park but hope to come back.

In spite of it all, "I love New York," Yvonne said.


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Postby Marina » Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:15 pm

. ... 206570.stm

Anger over girls' strip searches

Two British girls were sent to an orphanage for 30 hours and strip searched after their mother became ill during a holiday in the US.
Gemma Bray, 15, and her 13-year-old sister Katie also had their clothes taken off them and were asked if they had been abused or were suicidal.

Their mother Yvonne Bray of Appledore, Devon, says their human rights were infringed by the authorities.

She was hospitalised with pneumonia during a trip to New York.

The Administration for Children's Services in New York has declined to comment on the matter.

"What should have been the trip of a lifetime turned out to be a complete disaster from start to finish," Ms Bray told BBC News.

"I was going to give the girls money for their Christmas, but with the exchange rate being so good, I decided to book the trip to New York.

"This was their Christmas present and it was totally ruined."

The family flew out to New York on 27 December. When Ms Bray began coughing later that day, she initially put it down to her asthma and the air conditioning on the flight.

The following night, she became more unwell with laboured breathing and was admitted to the Queen's Medical Centre in Harlem.

But Ms Bray was told her daughters could not stay with her at the hospital as they were minors.

"A doctor told me they would make the arrangements, then a few hours later a social worker arrived and said they'd try to find a foster family for the girls," she said.

"Instead of that they were taken to a orphanage and subjected to the kind of treatment you wouldn't even expect criminals to go through."

The frightened teenagers had their clothes, including their underwear, removed and were issued with a uniform of T-shirt and jeans before being spilt up and given a medical examination.

"Being away from Mum when you are alone in New York in an strange place with people you don't know - it's just scary," said Katie.

"At first it was so shocking - it was as if it wasn't happening but then it hits you.

"You didn't know how long you'd be there or if Mum would get better."

Photographs were taken and the girls were told they would not be allowed to visit their mother in hospital.

When the duty social worker told Ms Bray her daughters could not leave the orphanage, she discharged herself from the hospital against medical advice.

She said: "I was so cross. I didn't sign anything saying they could be examined or interrogated - they even asked them if they had been raped.

"They had to shower in front of strangers. What they went through would be a breach of anyone's human rights, let alone two girls on holiday."

'It's disgraceful'

Ms Bray has now received a letter from the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) to say she is now being investigated.

"It's disgraceful, but I'm trying to totally dismiss this," Ms Bray said.

"It seems like a standard letter because the children have been entered into the child care system.

"I'm not guilty of anything other than getting ill in a country without family or friends."

A spokeswoman from ACS told BBC News it was an "entirely confidential matter" and the department would not comment.


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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:25 am

. ... 60779.html

Jun 30, 2008 8:24 pm US/Eastern

Brooklyn Mom Outraged Over School, Welfare Mix-Up

Reporting John Slattery

BROOKLYN (CBS) ― There's outrage in Brooklyn Monday night. The mother of a high school student is angry at school and child welfare officials for suspecting her daughter was absent from a school she wasn't enrolled in. But as CBS 2's John Slattery reports, officials suspected much worse.

Lisa Wilson is furious over what appears to be a series of mistakes regarding her daughter.

Even though 14-year-old Nailah Wilson has attended Bishop Ford Catholic High School since last September, officials at the public school Frederick Douglas Academy IV determined incorrectly that the teen was enrolled there but never showed up. So, they repeatedly try to track her down.

They tried unsuccessfully however. On several occasions, officials attempted to track Wilson down at a house numbered 912, but the 14-year-old and her family lived in house #913.

From September to March, says Lisa, the school never attempted to call on the phone, even though the phone number was in an old Department of Education file. Finally, on May 21, according to Lisa, after the child would have been delinquent for almost a whole year, a child welfare case worker showed up at the correct house.

Even though Lisa explained that her daughter was enrolled at Bishop Ford, the case worker proceeded to inspect the home for possible neglect and abuse.

"She asked me to have them put on shorts and a t-shirt to see if there were any bruises and bumps," said Lisa.

Wilson says she was asked to open the refrigerator, and her daughter was asked to turn on the tap to see if there was running water. CBS 2 asked Schools Chancellor Joel Klein about the mix-up.

"The matter is under investigation by us, and I don't think I should comment on a matter under investigation," said Klein.

Lisa says this mistake has generated a child welfare case, that if not corrected, could hang over her head for the next ten years.

A spokeswoman with the administration for Children's Services declined comment on the case.


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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:28 am

. ... _teen.html

School sics ACS on 'absent' teen


Sunday, June 29th 2008, 10:58 PM

Tracy for News

Lisa Wilson and daughter Nailah, 14, outside their Brooklyn home.
A child-welfare worker searched a Brooklyn ninth-grader for bruises and peered in her refrigerator for food to see if she was being abused, her mom says - all because blundering school officials marked her absent from a school she never attended.

The Administration for Children's Services probe came after Frederick Douglass Academy IV incorrectly listed 14-year-old Nailah Wilson as a student, looked for her at the wrong address and never called her phone number, the Bedford-Stuyvesant school's principal conceded.

"Due to a lazy employee with the Department of Education, my family was subjected to an investigation by ACS," said Nailah's mother, Lisa Wilson, whose daughter attends Catholic school.

Wilson said a city child-welfare worker performed a "body inspection" on her children while looking for bruises and looked inside the refrigerator. "She [made] sure we [had] running water," Wilson said. "My daughter was crying."

Wilson also questioned why it took school officials until May 21 to look into her daughter's supposed absences that began in September.

"This is a prime example of someone falling between the cracks," she wrote to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein last month.

"Thankfully, this is not an abuse/neglect situation."

School officials have ramped up their attendance policies since the death of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown.

She was killed by her stepfather in January 2006 after her chronic absences - she had missed 16 days of school within a few months and 46 days the previous school year - failed to trigger any investigation.

Now, when a child misses too many classes, an alert flashes on the computers of school administrators and attendance teachers, who are required to promptly investigate.

But Nailah wasn't even in the public school system.

She has been at Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School in Windsor Terrace since the fall, according to a letter from her principal, Frank Brancato.

In an apology letter to Wilson, academy Principal Marian Bowden admitted an attendance teacher had gone to Wilson's street, but to house number 912 instead of 913.

"We were informed by our attendance teacher, after attempts from October through March, that Nailah did not reside at the address," wrote Bowden.

She also conceded, "The telephone numbers that we had in the roster were not utilized, and the guidance counselor called ACS."

"Our investigation process should have been more thorough, and going forward we will make sure that this error will not occur again," she added.

Bowden, who noted disciplinary actions had been taken against staff members who made the errors, did not return calls asking for comment.

The chancellor's special investigations office is probing the incident.

City Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said she couldn't comment on disciplinary actions until "the investigation has concluded.

It is not clear if the school even received funding for this student."


Postby MaggieC » Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:35 pm

It is out of control. Children dying in truly abusive homes and yet fit parents and tax payers' monies being spent on these cases such as for the British tourist (hello, ACS, they are not US citizens-call the British Embassy!!!!!), a school (and one of the TOP public high schools in NYC) reporting a family because of gym absences, a public school that lost track of a student who never even officially enrolled at the school, Never mind that it took them a year to investigate and simple common sense is-the kid is attending a local Catholic HS and mom has the proof. Never mind, don't use your heads -just follow the form-you have a form to fill out -just follow the form. It is outrageous.

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Postby Marina » Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:14 pm

. ... dents.html

ACS was sicced on 2 more 'absent' students who weren't even enrolled

Sunday, July 6th 2008, 10:42 PM

Child-welfare workers scoured at least two more homes after blundering public high school officials mistakenly reported absences of kids who were never enrolled.

The Daily News reported last week that an Administration for Children's Services worker appeared at Lisa Wilson's Brooklyn home in May to peer in her refrigerator and check her daughter Nailah, 14, for bruises because of the teen's supposed absences from Frederick Douglass Academy IV, even though she was enrolled in Catholic school.

Now The News has learned that the ACS investigated Colleen Harrison of Queens and Sharon Barnwell of Brooklyn, whose children also attended Catholic schools.

"It's eerie," said Barnwell, a police officer who lives in East Flatbush. "They didn't go into my refrigerator, but they went up to see where my kids slept and they went through my whole house."

Her son, Earvin Wynter, now 15, attends Bishop Ford Central High School, just like Nailah does.

Like Wilson, Barnwell got a knock on her door eight months into her son's freshman year, she recalled. As in Nailah's case, a school worker had visited the wrong house; no one from the schools called to check with the parents before the visits.

The ACS was called by officials from Brooklyn's School for Legal Studies on Grand St., where Barnwell's son had applied before choosing Bishop Ford. "I don't know who registered him," said Barnwell.

For Harrison, an event planner who lives in Averne, there was a cruel irony to being investigated for neglecting her daughter's education.

When her daughter Kristin, 15, wasn't accepted to Beacon or Eleanor Roosevelt high schools, Harrison fought the decision before enrolling her in Manhattan's St. Vincent Ferrer High School.

In December of Kristin's freshman year, a letter from the ACS arrived in the mail followed by two visits.

"I was just floored," said Harrison. "Here are these children that really need ACS to be working for them, who really need to be protected, and all the resources are going into this nonsense."

City Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said the agency was "investigating all angles" of the cases.


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Postby Marina » Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:10 pm

. ... y&psp=news

Feds: Child Welfare Workers Stole City Adoption Money
By Jonathan Dienst

POSTED: 11:37 am EDT July 16, 2008
UPDATED: 4:06 pm EDT July 16, 2008

NEW YORK -- City child welfare managers helped steal hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to help adopted children, U.S. attorney Michael Garcia said Wednesday.

Administration for Children's Services worker Lethem Duncan along with Nigel Osarenkhoe and Philbert Gorrick allegedly helped funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars out of ACS accounts to a woman who did not have any adopted children, Garcia said. The woman who allegedly received the cash, Stay Thompson, was also charged.

Investigators said Osarenkhoe is the Supervisor of Adoptions for ACS while Duncan works as the deputy director of ACS's payment services department. Gorrick and Thompson work for Concord Family Services, an outside contracting agency that works with ACS.

The City's Department of Investigation said in June 2005, Duncan had a $375,000 check paid out and he allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars in return. Court papers say some of the money was used to buy cars like a BMW and a Range Rover. The criminal complaint unsealed in federal court charges the four with numerous embezzlement and mail fraud counts.

The four suspects are expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Federal Court in Manhattan. Garcia and and DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn are expected to hold a news conference later Wednesday. It was unclear which defense lawyers will be assigned to the case so attempts to reach the defendants for comment were unsuccessful.

The morning arrests come just one day after an unrelated ACS scandal made its way into federal court. Judith Leekin was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 11 years in prison by a Manhattan judge who spoke of her greed and fraud in adopting and abusing 11 disabled children. Leekin admitted to obtaining more than $1.6 million dollars from child welfare programs, money that was supposed to be used to care for the children.

Authorities say the children were so physically and emotionally abused they can never recover. The 63-year-old Leekin has been accused of beating the children and depriving them of food and medical care.


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Postby Marina » Mon Jul 21, 2008 5:46 pm

. ... 120831.htm


Last updated: 7:30 am
July 21, 2008
Posted: 4:42 am
July 21, 2008

Reports of abuse and neglect of children in city care grew by 12 percent last year, as parents, advocates and investigators keep closer watch on the municipal government's long-troubled child-welfare system.

The number of abuse complaints against foster parents and others asked by the Administration for Children's Services to look after troubled youngsters grew to 1,708 in the 2007 fiscal year, up from 1,525 in 2006, city records show.

In one such case, Florida resident Judith Leekin, 63, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last week for taking more than $1.6 million from ACS even as she abused 11 disabled kids left in her care when she lived in Queens.

Abuse complaints involving foster parents and other caretakers are investigated by the ACS Office of Special Investigations, an internal affairs unit that was revamped two years ago.

Some 362 of the abuse cases reported in 2007 were substantiated by ACS investigators, meaning that there was enough evidence to take corrective action or forward information about the cases to district attorneys' offices for prosecution, city records show.

Last year's tally of abuse cases showed that 11 kids in city care were sexually abused, 66 were beaten and one endured psychological abuse.

ACS officials say they have a tough job dealing with abuse by people hired to care for children, and note that with 8,000 foster parents in the city caring for 17,000 kids, the rate of substantiated cases is tiny.

Andrew White, who runs the watchdog group Child Welfare Watch, said the rise in abuse complaints is due to the retooling of the Office of Special Investigations, including the hiring of 60 former law-enforcement officers.

"It shows a higher sense of caution and a more rigorous and intense approach to investigating," he said.

But another advocate says greater vigilance by parents angry that their children were unjustly taken has sparked the rise in abuse complaints against ACS.

"Parents have become more outspoken about the abuse of their children. People are fighting back," said Rolando Bini, who heads Parents in Action, a grass-roots group.


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Postby Marina » Sun Dec 07, 2008 9:18 pm ... 019/NEWS03

Charges dismissed against mother accused of placing son in the oven as punishment

By Jenna Carlesso • The Journal News • December 5, 2008

Charges against Tiffany Fraser, a 26-year-old mother accused of putting her young son in an oven for losing a cell phone, were dropped yesterday at the recommendation of Child Protective Services.

Fraser, an Airmont resident, was indicted in May on felony assault and misdemeanor child endangerment charges.

Her son, then 7, was placed in the custody of a foster mother.

"Following recommendations from Child Protective Services and the expressed concerns of the child's foster-care mother, it was concluded that proceeding with the case against Fraser will likely cause further harm to the young victim," District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said in a statement yesterday. "A dismissal of this matter was clearly in the child's best interest."

Child Protective Services declined to comment on the boy's condition or future custody matters, saying only that the records are confidential.

"Additional interviews with the (now) 8-year-old victim, who has been permanently removed from the custody of the defendant, a review of evidentiary deficiencies and the completion of certain forensic analyses, confirmed that a dismissal was the appropriate decision," Zugibe added.

Phone calls to Fraser's lawyer, Martin Gotkin of Palisades, were not returned yesterday.

Fraser was arrested by Ramapo police in January after being accused of placing her son in an oven as punishment for losing a cell phone.

Zugibe said in May that Fraser was taken into custody after a thorough police investigation and indicted by the vote of a grand jury, which reviewed evidence and heard from witnesses.

Her son told police on Oct. 31, 2007, that he was running away from home because his mother put him in the oven and burned him.

Fraser's twin boys were removed in early November, several days after one was spotted alone in a nearby ShopRite supermarket.

When Fraser was arrested in January, investigators said, they confirmed with the boy's child-care provider that he told her in July that his mother had put him in the oven.

The provider, Joelle M. Lherisson of Airmont, apparently saw burn marks on the child's arm, hand, nose and left leg, police said.

The state Office of Children and Family Services revoked Lherisson's child-care license, and she was charged with failure to report child abuse, a misdemeanor.

Zugibe said yesterday that the charge was still pending in Ramapo. He could not say whether the dismissal of Fraser's indictment would affect Lherisson's case.

"There's been no discussion on that yet," he said.

In an interview with The Journal News in May, Fraser adamantly denied that the incident ever happened.

Fraser had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"I'm a Christian, and I don't believe in trick-or-treating," she said in May. "He was really angry that I wouldn't let him, so he made up a story."

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