Child Welfare Workers Charged In Brooklyn 4-Year-Old’s Death

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A special investigative grand jury will be convened to look at evidence of “systemic failure” at New York City’s child welfare agency after the death of an emaciated 4-year-old girl, the Brooklyn district attorney said Wednesday.

Charles J. Hynes said former workers with the Administration for Children’s Services didn’t do enough to help Marchella Brett-Pierce, who weighed 18 pounds when she died in September. Marchella’s death was the latest in a line of troubles linked to the agency and harkened comparisons to the 2006 case of Nixzmary Brown, a 7-year-old New York City girl who died of abuse and malnourishment.

“There’s an Italian word, it’s called ‘basta.’ It means, ‘enough,'” DA Hynes told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports from the criminal courthouse in Brooklyn

In another case earlier this week, a man was charged with assault and reckless endangerment after his girlfriend’s 17-month-old foster child was found unconscious and badly beaten. Kymel Oram suffered bruising, fractured ribs, a lacerated liver and a bruised spleen. He remained in critical condition, though a criminal complaint against the suspect, Kysheen Oliver, says the toddler was likely to die.

The medical examiner said Marchella suffered from child abuse syndrome and was starved, beaten and drugged.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell with reaction from Brooklyn DA Joe Hynes

Child welfare caseworker Damon Adams and supervisor Chereece Bell, who resigned in October, pleaded not guilty to  criminally negligent homicide and official misconduct.  The girl’s grandmother Loretta Brett was charged with manslaughter.

Their lawyers say the three are being blamed for crimes they didn’t commit.

“ACS has a single overarching mission to protect abused and neglected children in New York City. Our staff live up to this difficult and heart-breaking challenge every day,” the child welfare agency said in a statement. “Yet when we fail, it can be with tragic results, which we try to learn from and make adjustments. … When staff have failed to carry out their basic responsibilities, ACS will and does take appropriate action.

“The particular merits of this criminal case aside, we are very concerned that today’s indictments of social work staff may have the opposite effect from what’s intended because it may discourage excellent, idealistic individuals from taking jobs helping our society’s neediest and most vulnerable children,” the agency added.

“This is a terribly wrong thing and sets a bad precedent,” said Joshua Horowitz , the attorney for Bell.

The city’s public advocate blamed ACS budget cuts and wonders how the charges will affect employees.

“If they think literally they might be indicted for murder no less for the work they’re doing, even if they try to do their jobs well, I think that could be very, very problematic,” Bill de Blasio told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.

Marchella’s mother told police that she found her daughter’s cold and unconscious body on Sept. 2 and tried to resuscitate her before calling 911. The girl was born with underdeveloped lungs, had serious trouble breathing and had a breathing tube in her throat, authorities said. She had been hospitalized in the months before her death.

Marchella’s mother, Carlotta Brett Pierce, was previously indicted on murder and other charges, and has said she is innocent.

Nixzmary’s death, coupled with a series of other high-profile deaths of children known to the agency, sparked public demands for child welfare reform. City officials responded by bolstering the corps of caseworkers. A state child protection law signed in October 2009 increased the penalties for an adult convicted of torturing a child, changing the maximum penalty to life in prison.

Nixzmary’s mother is serving a prison sentence of up to 43 years for failing to act as her battered, malnourished child lay dying in their home. Her stepfather is serving 29 years on a manslaughter conviction for delivering the fatal blow.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More from Carol D'Auria
  • Bellgirl76

    It is always the people who have no clue about what a job like this entails have the most uneducated comments. Caseworkers are over-worked and underpaid. If this worker did not do his job, he should be fired. Where in the workforce have you heard of a person indicted for failing to do a job. This indictment is absurd..The DA is trying to send a message, but there will be a backlash to such outrageous charges. Caseworkers are not the ones killing kids, crazy parents are. Caseworkers cannot be in a home 24/7, therefore if a parent is gonna kill there kid it will happen regardless. A civil suit should be filed, not criminal charges…What a world we living in!

  • Richard T.


  • ACS Worker

    We have over 500 caseloads and paid very little. It’siImpossible to work like this.

    • ccolon

      quite! your a poor excuse for a ACS Worker! too much caseloads.

    • Curious

      ACS Worker,

      What are you doing about it?

  • LAH

    So, no one else in the family noticed the neglect? How are they held to a lower standard than strangers/social welfare workers who had limited contact? The workers were clearly negligent (I think the homicide charges are absurd though), but how about the other people in this child’s life? Remember when people used to be held accountable for the care and well being of their own families? If my niece or friend’s child or neighbor was THAT sick, I would notice and act (and not just by making one phone call to ACS).

    Sorry to sound so cynical, but I’m surprised the Mom hasn’t yet initiated the civil law suit against the City for $$$.


  • Does anyone oversee the ACS?

    These four are so frighteningly inadequate, they could be politicians.

  • C.J.

    Monkeys in the wild treat their offspring better. Poor kid.

    • Richard T.


  • The truth

    I hate to say but they got this one right. Somebody was not doing there job or should i say did not care about the job they were hired to do. they have to man up on this one. Sorry but all three are going to jail not because of the color of their skin but because they did not do their job.

  • Moral Truth

    Sounds like the workers are being charged becuase of their skin color and thats the moral truth

    • vintagedog

      Where in the story does it say that?There’s a dead child and all you can do is scream racism? You’re as sick as the system is! Are you now telling us blacks aren’t responsible for their own kids, either? The ONLY racism here is the lack of respect for humanity by YOURS! Nothing else!

  • Pat R.

    The witch that calls herself the childs mother doesn’t look like she does without anything. The child like so many children in low income homes was probably just a check each month. I personally have heard low income women say they have more children so they can get more benefits each month. And the fact that at tax time some people on welfare and getting help from every gov. program available draw huge tax refunds as in some getting $10,000 and up do not lose a single benefit. The refund is not considered income. Go figure that one.

    • Terry6206

      The huge tax refund is Earned Income Credit — it has been around for 40 years to low income citizens who work and get their taxes back, and some more as an incentive to continue working. Your $10K figure? Let’s not exaggerate.

  • Norm

    In my experience of social workers in the United Kingdom and Florida is that they are make work jobs for the inadequate. Seems it’s the same in New York too.

  • BOB


  • guest

    Having 4 adorable children in my life, I wished I was chosen to be in the jury. There are so many women out there wanting a child so bad and can’t have them and there are these creatures killing and starving a poor and innocent child. It breaks my heart to read these news reports and just want to kiss and hug my children all day long in memory of these defenseless angels being killed by evil souls.

  • steve

    Where is the father? He needs to be charged.

  • J

    I did a study for the Nassau County Department of Social Services and submitted it to Comissioner Imhof. i Never heard a word from him. There’s a relatively simply solution to all this that politicians don’t want to hear.

  • kendra

    see i knew the acs workers rarley do there jobs like they are supposed to do cause there so busy going after people they have no business going after that have no intentiions of harming there kids…they are just so damn ass backwards …

    • Dave

      My wife is a protective services worker and she does her job above and beyond what is called for when it is necessary. That is what gets her in trouble with her supervisor and higher bosses all the time. She looks at the welfare of the child and makes sure they are ok. The state puts a time limit on how long they can have a case open If they go over that time limit they start to get harrased by there bosses threatened to be written up and so on. The state looks at these kids as just a number but the workers look at them as children in need as help. The state is always doing number counts it is all about looking good to them not about the welfare of the child. If a worker has to go over there ime limit on a case then they should be able to if that is what it takes to make sure the child is going to be ok. Some times it might be due to not being able to find a person, waiting on something from the supervisor, wiaiting on law enforcement or because there computer systems that the state does not fix keeps loosing there reports so they have to start them over. i think that the workers should be held accountable but I also think that the higher up bosses should be also for trying to make the workers push these children threw the system. The state of michigan still is not in compliance with the laws set in place because of a child that died. There was a child law suit that said the state would implement certain things and they are still not doing them. Who is at fault for that not being done? The state is.

  • Lieutenantdan

    Does ACS receive funding from VAWA Act?

  • J

    Four years old and eighteen pounds, what the fock kind of idiot worker would make that observation and say to themselves everything is ok? I remember working for the A.C.S; specifically the Office of Confidential Investigations and remember seeing my supervisor throwing something in the trash only to find that it was a “notice of existence” regarding an open case I had. It was the only paper in the trash. He then lied to management and said I never sent it. I am so happy I resigned legally after what could have been a trial, because they actually fired me for telling them how focked up their system was. Sometimes our judicial system does work! A few years later, I went to Nassau County CPS. Different agency, much more competent coworkers, but still some STUPID-VISORS, So I resigned from there to. These agencies and services should be privatized, politics set aside, and real caring, competent people should be allowed to assume the roles and responsibilities of the incompetent ones.

    • capt

      ACS in NYC sucks! They are a bunch of low paid indiviuals who don’t really care. They need to fire everyone and hire all new well educated people who really care not just collecting a paycheck and going home.

      • Terry6206

        Good luck with that. The new well educated pepole will be taken by the bureaucracy real quick.

    • Gregg

      J – I agree with you 100%. These govt.agencies it appears hire anyone ! Maybe having privatized companies is the way to go ! There is a total lack of caring that has come to our society. Sad.

    • vintagedog

      I can only say that these same workers in my State of Wisconsin are starting to sweat! Our Governor Walker is taking their union protection away and we WILL BE ABLE TO FIRE THE SCHLUBS!
      Step Up New York! You too can expect what you pay for!
      Remember……………….WE THE PEOPLE!

  • John

    The child welfare units should be overhauled, as they are NOT doing their jobs, just collect a paycheck.

    • Devenio

      @John: So, what – 4 cases mentioned above and the entire system is no doing its job? John, you sir are an idiot – but I think you already know this.

  • Otto Matic

    Yipee!!! Yahoo!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • nyc

    Poor child that had to suffer at the hands of these animals ! Why not just reach out to the many agencies for help for the child ? Sad Sad

    • Sarah

      nyc, read the story. It is the workers in the agency being charged.

  • nam-vet

    Child welfare agency. What a joke! Many of these people are hired right off the street with no training whatsoever. And what about the family court judges that return abused children to the abuser? If I see a child being abused, I’m not going to worry about the child welfare agencies and courts. I’ll take care of it myself.

    • IMG



  • Sarah

    And what happens to the mother?

  • Capt Lou

    Someone or somebodies from CPS are fudging their reports or failing to follow through with their daily duties.

  • Catherine Smith

    This is why we don’t need Planned Parenthood.

    • Michael H.

      What, exactly, does Planned Parenthood have to do with this?

    • VG

      No, this is why we DO need Planned Parenthood. Some people have no business having children to begin with! If you are not prepared to take care of another human being in a meaningful way, then get “fixed” like an animal that you are. (I’m not referring to you, the writer, but to those women who keep having kids and then abusing them or killing them. As if having an abortion is worse!

    • Lori

      Another right wing nutjob throwing a sound bite out there with no logic to support the statement. This child was clearly born into a situation where there was no one that was responsible enough and or competent enough to provide care. I’m thinking birth control might be a good solution for those situations. The system is overwhelmed with unwanted and neglected children – are you saying we should eliminate a front line provider of birth control, health care, and sex education for low income women and that will improve the situation?

      You’re an idiot.

      • vintagedog

        Lori, what do we do with a mother that wants the child for the tax deduction, but not for the responsibility, like this one? Just how does Planned Parenthood help here?
        Go preach to people willing buy your one-sided garbage!

  • Riphly

    Drugged? A 4 yo?! What kind of drugs, recreational or prescription?

    • Georgia Brown

      There is no such thing as recreational drugs. You’re just as sick as the murderers in this case. Is that the only thing that concerns you in this case?
      Shame on you.

  • Dan Te

    What about the father of the child?

    • BigEz

      Dan te- what about the father of the child??
      The report says mother and step father so clearly the father is not in the picture.
      This is serious gross negligence on all counts. I hope they all burn in hell.

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