In 2015 the Office of Child and Family Services (the state agency overseeing ACS) issued a report establishing that 293 children who were in the ACS system died as a direct result of abuse.

Current Situation

The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) was created in 1996 to ensure the safety and well-being of children in the City of New York. The Administration provides a broad range of programs that protects and promotes safety and well-being of New York City’s children and families by providing child welfare, juvenile justice, and early care and education services.

The Department investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect, supports preventive services to families and children, provides foster care and adoption services for children who cannot safely remain in their homes, and provides custody and care for children who are involved in the juvenile justice system. The Department also administers early childhood education programs through the Division of Early Care and Education.

Process of Reporting/Investigating Abuse

The NYS Office of Children and Family Services oversees ACS. Reports of abuse are logged into the Statewide Central Register 24/7 then shared through CONNECTIONS, a statewide computer program that contains information about children and families who receive welfare services. Cases of abuse or endangerment are investigated by ACS’ Division of Child Protection (DCP) which has 17 borough offices across New York City. The state mandates that these investigations be completed within 60 days of being reported and require that certain milestones be met during the investigation to ensure child safety as illustrated in the table below. The borough offices investigate an average of roughly 60,000 reports of alleged child abuse and neglect each year.

StepDescriptionTime Frame
Contact the source of the allegationVerify the information contained in the allegation.Within 24 hour receipt of allegation.
Pre-investigative conferenceConference between supervisor and case worker to review allegation and form a plan of action.Prior to the initial home visit
Initial face-to-face meetingInitial visit to assess the safety of the child or children.Within 24 Hours of receipt of high priority case and within 48 hours for all other cases
Face to face contact with the child or childrenIntended to ensure the safety of the child throughout the investigationOn a bi-weekly basis or twice per month
Follow key investigate steps, such as: (a) review prior allegations, (b) interview all parties separately, (c) interview collateral sources and school officials.Evidence collection guidelines are set forth by ACS for case workers to use when conducting an investigation.Early on during the course of an investigation
Two Safety AssessmentsIntended to support the child welfare goal of safety, permanency and well-being for children and their families.Initial report - by the 7th day of the investigation. Second report - by the 55th day or within seven days of closing the investigation
Risk Assessment Profile (RAP)Designed to assist in making informed decisions regarding whether additional services, such as anger management and drug treatment programs, are needed basedon the level of risk.By the 40th day of the investigation.
Domestic Violence Screening ToolTo assess for possible domestic violence. If there are signs, an additional protocol must be completed.In all cases. If signs of domestic violence is evident after first visit then a protocol is to be completed by the end of the investigation.
CPS’ Compliance with Supervisory DirectivesInstructions and guidelines offered by the supervisorThroughout the entire course of the investigation
Concluding an InvestigationForming a determination of indicated or unfoundedBy the 60th day of the investigation

Figure 1 from Comptroller Stringer’s 2016 ACS Audit

When a case is assigned to DCP, an investigative team consisting of a Child Protective Manager, a Child Protective Specialist Supervisor, and a Child Protective Specialist conducts the investigation. Deputy Directors of each borough office are responsible for overseeing investigations and are also responsible for ensuring that managers perform their required reviews. The investigative team must conduct a thorough assessment of the safety risk level of every child in the household. All of the details of each investigation must be documented by the case worker and supervisor in a timely manner within progress notes. Supervisors are supposed to regularly review the case workers’ progress notes and make comments and suggestions there as needed. At the conclusion of the investigation the case is either determined to be “unfounded” or “indicated” and the appropriate steps taken to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing.

Problems with ACS

In 2015 the Office of Child and Family Services (the state agency overseeing ACS) issued a report establishing that 293 children who were in the ACS system died as a direct result of abuse. The report prompted an investigation by the Public Advocate and a separate report by the City Comptroller which found that 10 children with open ACS cases died in the months preceding the death of Zymere Perkins. In what could be considered a complete dereliction of duty and a gross display of arrogance, de Blasio refused to fire ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion even after the reports were released. Instead, Commissioner Carrion was allowed to retire but didn’t actually leave the agency until the Comptroller and the public pressured her to leave. David Hansell is the new commissioner.

De Blasio Administration’s Failures

  • A NYC Department of Investigation report from January 2017 revealed “yet another” systemic blunder by the Administration for Children’s Services, preceding the brutal December 2016 beating death of 3-year-old Jaden Jordan.
  • According to report, the unit that handles calls on nights and weekends, was overwhelmed and undertrained. “DOI’s investigation found that the depth of errors over a two-day period was so significant and the errors involved the overall implementation of policies so basic that they go to the heart of ACS’ core mission of protecting children.”
  • The errors made “implicate high-level, systemic problems,” according to the report.
  • The report zeroed in on “inconsistencies” within the Emergency Children’s Services, the ACS unit that handles abuse calls on nights, weekends and holidays the time frame in which most complaints are received.
  • Councilman Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare committee of the New York City Council issued a statement “The system is failing our children.”
    The Councilman called for an independent entity specializing in child welfare to conduct a “large-scale review” of policies, procedures, and staffing throughout the ACS system. (Source)
  • A New York Post investigation found that in a year when many children died while having an open ACS case file, the ACS staff shrank. From 2013 to 2016 the staff numbers went from 6,995 employees to 6,883. The number of staff working directly with children was 1,864 compared to managers which numbered 1,932 – up 187 from 2013. 28% of the overall staff was considered management, exceeding the 23 percent at the city’s Department of Homeless Services and double the 14% at the Department of Health. The addition of management did little to protect children as evidenced by DOI, Comptroller and Public Advocate reports.

Children First Malliotakis Solutions

  • Abolish the Emergency Children’s Services Unit and instead establish ACS as a 24/7 agency requiring 3 distinct 8 hour shifts of Child Protective Managers, Child Protective Specialist Supervisors, and Child Protective Specialists. This will ensure that trained personnel and management are available at the peak hours for abuse reports as outlined in the January 2017 DOI report.
  • Cap the number of cases ACS Child Protective Specialists handle to 10 cases at a time.
    Establish an “Emergency Contract Oversight Unit” which will supervise pre-qualified non-profits which will provide additional Child Protective Specialists as needed in order to reduce the caseload of ACS Child Protective Specialists.
  • Conduct an audit of all “indicated” ACS cases during the last 5 years to determine the most prevalent cause of child abuse ie: parental drug addiction/mental illness/poverty etc. to be used to forecast the creation of educational programs to prevent future abuse.
  • Issue Request for Proposals for ethnic based non-profits such as Committee for Hispanic Children & Families to educate immigrant families that have been found “indicated” for less serious child endangerment, about proper nutrition, education and over all care for children living in New York City. Providing a culturally sensitive environment for parent training will help to ensure child safety and wellbeing.
  • Provide families applying for public assistance and housing with parenting education information in their native language to proactively ensure child safety.
  • Establish vocational training and alternative learning environments for at risk youth and juvenile delinquents to provide a positive path to education, future employment and proper parenting skills.
  • Re-brand and market ACS as an assistance agency rather than a punitive agency known for separating children from families. Parental distress due to financial difficulties, cultural differences, addiction, sudden disability and other extenuating circumstances can unintentionally result in child endangerment. With the proper marketing ACS can be viewed as an agency that supports families which can result in a reduction in child abuse as parents turn to the agency for help.

Nicole for NYCNewroom