New York City Administration for Children's Services

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New York City Administration for Children's Services

Postby MaggieC » Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:40 pm

Boy, 7, taken away because she left him alone to go to work

Sunday, January 18th 2009, 4:35 AM

Harbus for News

Lillian Lucas Dixon, in her apartment in Co-op City, surrounded by her three daughters (gray sweater, Princess, blue shirt, Lisa and Angela (orange shirt). Lillian is holding christmas presents that her son Juan never opened. Her son, Juan, was taken by social services in December.


Lillian Lucas Dixon,in her favorite photo of her and her son Juan.
Lillian Lucas-Dixon stares at the Christmas stockings for each of her mostly grown children still hanging on the wall and their portraits on a table in her Co-op City apartment - and she cries for her youngest son, 7-year-old Juan.

Her oldest eight have graduated or are in college or the military. The ninth is in high school.

But Juan was taken away by the city's Administration for Children's Services in mid-December.

Her story is one of a well-intentioned but desperate mother who left her son home alone while trying to keep in good standing for a job promotion.

It's a dilemma many single parents in or near poverty face.

Lucas-Dixon, 52, is scheduled to appear for a fourth hearing in Bronx Family Court later this month in hopes of getting Juan back.

Her predicament is also the story of a city agency with 50,000 cases a year, responsible for keeping children from danger, but also limited by ability and time to help parents like Lucas-Dixon find affordable child care or change work schedules.

"My choice was, do I lose my job or stay home with my son?" said Lucas-Dixon, an Metropolitan Transit Authority subway station attendant.

She says she worked while raising nine children with her now ex-husband and later Juan by a different father to give her kids the best lives she could provide.

Her older children, now ages 15 through 29, say they always received Christmas presents, went on vacations, participated in sports and arts programs and that their mother knew the administrators and teachers at each of their schools.

"She does for 10 of us what some parents do for one," said Princess, Lucas-Dixon's 20-year-old daughter, a student at Sullivan County Community College. "I just don't get it."

Lucas-Dixon brags that none of her kids have criminal records, were pregnant as teens or abused drugs.

"If I was dumb enough to have a large family, I owe it to myself and the world to produce responsible citizens," she said.

In December, Juan's school called ACS when a teacher said Juan wrote in his notebook that he was left home alone. He later told a caseworker that he had his own key to let himself into the apartment.

On Dec. 14, in between Lucas-Dixon going to work and her 23-year-old daughter Sparkle coming to watch Juan, ACS made a surprise visit and took Juan into custody.

He was placed with a single man in Washington Heights who has two other foster children.

Juan did not celebrate Christmas, since the man did not have money for a tree or gifts, said Lucas-Dixon, who has a pile of gifts waiting for him.

Her court-appointed attorney, Pierre Janvier, said the judge has said Juan should be returned home once ACS helps find child care for the gap between his mother and sister's work shifts, or can help negotiate a change in Lucas-Dixon's work schedule.

But so far, it hasn't happened, and her visits with Juan have often been scheduled during her working hours.

The ACS declined to comment on the case.

"The trick is not to be here," said Janvier. "Once you are involved with ACS, it's like a hospital. You could be stuck all day."

John Courtney of the Child Welfare Fund, a foundation that advocates for change in the child welfare system, said Lucas-Dixon's case is bureaucracy causing trauma to a family and wasting public dollars. He said foster care costs the city an average of $63 a day per child, according to the Mayor's Management Plan.

"Once they are placed in foster care there is more resistance. It's easy to get in, but a little more difficult to get out."

"Maybe I was wrong and should be disciplined, but my son is being punished," said Lucas-Dixon. "I wake up in the middle of the night and I wonder how he is, and I don't know."

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