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A Child's Death
January 12th, 2006

The Daily News wonder how the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and so many other adults could have failed Nixzmary Brown, the 7-year-old Brooklyn girl found dead yesterday after what was years of abuse. “How did caseworkers fail to see that Nixzmary was being starved? How did they miss the injuries that were inflicted on her over the course of years – the scars from which were readily apparent in her autopsy? Did they not look into the room where Nixzmary was imprisoned? Did they not question the siblings who were witness to her suffering?” The paper’s editorial asks. “And what of all the other adults who saw Nixzmary, her neighbors and relatives and her teachers and school principal. Yes, school authorities did file reports, but in the end they failed to protect a child.”

Noting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that “overall, ACS does a very good job,” the paper concludes, “doing a good job ‘overall’ was meaningless here. Nixzmary is dead, and many bear responsibility.”

Underscoring its point, in a related story, the paper lists three other cases of children “who had a history with the child-welfare agency” and died of apparent abuse or neglect in the last three months.

By on January 12, 2006, 10:52 am
In category: Gotham City,Social Services | 8 Comments »

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8 Responses to “A Child's Death”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    January 13th, 2006 at 9:16 am

    I think we need to be fair here. People are not all knowing, particularly about what goes on in the intimacy of a family, information is not perfect, particularly when privacy is a civil right, and decisions are not easy.

    So the ACS lurches between erring on the side of caution, and getting blasted for breaking up families, and erring on the side of forebearance, and being blamed for the death of children. The former error was more prevalent in the Giuliani Administration, the latter under Dinkins and (it seems) Bloomberg.

    You can’t forget how many resented Giuliani for violating civil liberties, and then wonder why case workers didn’t bust down the door to find out what was going on. Moreover, if you are intellectually honest, you can’t ignore how the issues here are similar to Bush’s illegal wiretapping — violating the privacy of the probably innocent to protect from the guilty, targeting certain groups (recall family breakup was a racial issue), etc.

    Was this just a screw up? Maybe. But in how many similar circumstances (based on the knowledge available at the time, not what is known now) is leaving a child with imperfect but still their very own parents the right decision?

    Given the selfish nature of the last few generations of adults, I didn’t mind the Giuliani approach to child welfare. Better safe than sorry. But I’ll bet some of those who did will yelp now. Without someone sitting in every home 24/7 and watching what is going on, you have to err on one side or the other.

  2. Eugene Weixel Says:
    January 13th, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Last year thirty children who were either under ACS investigation or foster care died. the yer before that it was 33. The numbers have been around the same since Giuliani’s much vaunted reform effort.

    Why haven’t any of the major news organizations conducted their own investigations of this situation? Were they to get their hands on the case records involved and read them, and perhaps interview the workers, supervisors and managers involved they might learn more than by waiting for the government to report on its self investigation.

    Why don’t you do it Gotham Gazette?

  3. Maria E Says:
    January 14th, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    Tell me why. WHY! DYFS, all the programs that are out there, why they walk away? Why they don’t look into the children’s eyes! Are they just collecting a check? Are there enough of us out there that can help? That truly care? If the signs are there, if the calls are being made, then follow through. God Bless Nixmary. She is obviously in a better place.

  4. carol legreid Says:
    January 16th, 2006 at 6:41 am

    Typical way how our trusted government officials worked. Claiming to work hard but often corrupted. Mayor Bloomberg praised John Mattingly like Bush praised Michael Brown with the handling Katrina crisis. They all put up this facade that they are working for us and we are benifitting from what they do for us. So far all of us are paying with lives of innocence. They often shift blames to others that are way down in the totem pole. Bloomberg should be accountable and so should Mattingly. Both failed in helping Nixzmary. Several times ACS was called upon and they just ignored all signs. In private industries, most upper management are accountable for actions of their subordinates and would have been disciplined or terminated. With government workers, they get praised or excused themselves with some lamed excuses. Must be nice to be able to work without worrying if you have a job if you make mistakes constantly.

  5. Eugene Weixel Says:
    January 16th, 2006 at 11:10 am

    Monday, January 16, 2006
    ACS worker to The Commissioner – My Boss Says Some Things to The New York Daily News – And I React.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/01-14-2006/news/crime_file/story/382663p-324889c.html

    In yesterday’s New York Daily News my boss John Mattingly is quoted as saying: “We need to be more skeptical and invasive and pushy,” …”We are beginning to be extremely concerned at our inability to take that one extra step or ask that one extra question or push that one issue harder in order to make sure children are safe.”…”What does stand out for me in this case is an inclination on the part of these staff to accept a story as long as it made sense to them,” …”We need to be focusing more on careful investigation and interviewing family members in ways that don’t just ask them to give us a reason, but the way police detectives do – to revisit the story again and again to make sure that we have something we can believe.” …”One worries when the workers get into the field office they may be in a position where they are told, ‘Well, that is what the trainers tell you – now we are going to tell you about the real world,’ ”

    That’s a lot of words and a mouthful, too.

    I’m not here to tell tales out of school. I will comment on public information.

    I’m not going to ask how or when this problem became apparent or when it began to be a problem. You the reader can do that.

    Learn how to contact the Mayor about key issues,
    invite the Mayor to an event, and more.

    I am going to ask here if my boss thinks these changes are likely to cost money. I think they might, and here’s why I think so:

    A confrontational interview in another person’s house is dangerous. Will we be traveling with police on each and every such interview? If so who will be in charge of the interview, the cops (plural) or the caseworker (singular)? Will the aim of the interview be to find out how to best protect the child or how to convict the alleged subject (or in police lingo the alleged perpetrator). Will the parent then be given Miranda rights?

    In such an interview will there have to be legally certified translators involved in many of them?

    A confrontational and skeptical interview takes more time than an interview that is aimed at rapidity and case closing. Do you have a problem with turnover right now? Has overtime ever been seen as an overarching problem in your agency?

    I believe that you are a well intentioned, well read and educated and honest non political person who wants to do what is right and what is best for the children.

    Do you think that the necessary changes can be accomplished with the tabloid press breathing down everyone’s necks? How long would you guess the press is going to care about this matter? Once they move on to other things will we have the momentum and support needed to do what needs to be done?

    Oh, and are any of these cynical oldtimers you speak of managers and supervisors ?

    This article Is the work of and property of Eugene Weixel. It may be reproduced in full with attribution to him and to this web site. http://WWW.FATOLDJEWISHGUYWHOLIVESINTHEPROJECTS.BLOGSPOT.COM

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