NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Another scathing report involving the Administration for Children’s Services has been revealed, this one uncovering more problems that may have allowed children to slip through the cracks with deadly results.
The report, released by city Comptroller Scott Stringer on Thursday, looks at nearly 3,700 “high-priority” ACS investigations from July through September 2016. Cases are deemed “high priority” when they result in four or more complaints of abuse, or involve the death of a child.
The report claims that 10 children died despite at least four abuse or maltreatment claims made to ACS about their safety, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported. According to the report, the 10 deaths all happened in the weeks leading up to the death of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins, who was beaten to death while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend in September.
Stringer’s investigators say they don’t know if the abuse complaints were legitimate or false reports.
“When we hear a child has lost his life it hurts all of us,” ACS worker Trisha Vandecruize said. “It touches all of us.”
The comptroller’s report claims 53 high-priority cases were closed without anyone from ACS having any face-to-face contact with the child. Nearly 26 percent of those cases were closed without required face-to-face contact with the child every other week, and 22 percent of cases were closed without an investigator meeting with the child 24 hours after a complaint was filed.
The report also found that 2,360 cases, roughly 73 percent, of closed high-priority ACS investigations lacked the three minimum required managerial reviews. Around 32 percent of cases did not receive the minimum five required views by a supervisor.
Of the 10 high-profile case deaths, Stringer noted:
• One is being investigated as a possible homicide
• Four were from previous years (cause of death unknown)
• Two were from a fire earlier this year
• Two were infant deaths from unsafe sleeping conditions
• One was a duplicate report.
The findings were released as some ACS workers are demanding reform at the agency, with case workers saying the workload is overwhelming.
On Wednesday, Vandecruize and dozens of her colleagues lined the steps of City Hall demanding reforms for ACS.
Among them, they called for the de Blasio administration to remove the independent monitor it recently appointed to investigate the agency and how it allegedly failed Perkins and 3-year-old Jaden Jordan.
Stringer also made a call for reform in a statement Thursday.
“The takeaway from these numbers is simple,” Stringer said. “Regulations are in place to save lives, but ACS is failing because it’s not following its own protocols. We need to see real, long-term change at this agency.”
So far, three ACS workers were fired and ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion announced her resignation following Perkins’ death.
The union representing the case workers agree change is needed but say case workers were scapegoats, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
“I believe they’re entitled to due process, and that’s as far as I’m going on that,” one union member said. “Our job is to protect their rights and make sure due process is handed out, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Stringer placed the blame on City Hall.
“Now they’ll say they put money and they’re doing this and that,” Stringer said. “But when we go do the data, it shows glaring, glaring inefficiencies.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office disputed Stringer’s findings, saying a majority of the cases he reviewed had no prior history with the agency, Diamond reported.
“It’s no surprise that ACS data was cherry-picked to support a simplified and largely inaccurate conclusion,” de Blasio’s office said in a statement.
An ACS spokesperson released a statement Thursday saying the comptroller’s report misconstrues the significant strides the department is making toward strengthening all processes for keeping children safe.
I can’t speak to why they drew the conclusions that they did, but I can say not all of them are accurate,” said Jill Krauss, ACS deputy commissioner for external affairs.
But Stringer said: “There’s a management failure at City Hall and ACS. The numbers do not lie.”
The city has said they plan on hiring over 600 child protective specialists in 2017.
Some city officials question the motivation behind Stringer’s new conference Wednesday. The comptroller would not confirm or deny a possible run for mayor next year.