January 17, 2014
Preliminary finding recommendations include requirement of end-of-supervision court appearances and expanding ACS access to court databases
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NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced findings and recommendations on the homicide of 4-year-old Myls Dobson, who was found dead on January 8th in midtown Manhattan. On January 10, Mayor de Blasio ordered the Administration for Children’s Service (ACS) to conduct a review and submit it to him in one week. The preliminary investigation – delivered Friday – included a review of Family Court proceedings and interactions between Myls and ACS since January 2011, when ACS first received a report of alleged abuse.
“The senseless death of Myls Dobson is a searing reminder that when it comes to safeguarding the lives of our children, we must devote every available resource to those agencies and organizations charged with protecting them. I accept the recommendations presented to me by the Administration for Children’s Services, and have ordered every city agency with a role to play in improving the system to begin work immediately,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A review of the case records reveals areas where child protective practices could have been improved:
- During ACS’ investigation into allegations of maltreatment in January 2011, ACS did not explore in detail the allegations of domestic violence, and ACS did not seek an emergency removal.
- ACS was unaware of the fact that Myls’ father was incarcerated from September 2012 to February 2013. During that time period, ACS visited Myls on nine separate occasions. Myls appeared to be faring well in the care of the woman Mr. Wade was dating at the time, who reported to ACS that Mr. Wade was at work.
- Mr. Wade’s parole officer was not contacted after September 2012, in violation of court directives.
- On several occasions, ACS encouraged Mr. Wade to obtain child care services. Without a court order, a caregiver is free to accept or reject such recommendations. However, ACS could have done more to put child care services in place.
- ACS should have more forcefully encouraged Mr. Wade, a new father, to take advantage of preventive services.
Despite these missed opportunities, on every occasion ACS visited Myls during the period of court-ordered supervision (May 2012 - August 2013), caseworkers observed him to be safe and healthy. At no time since the beginning of ACS supervision did any person call in a report that Myls was being abused or neglected.
Based on the issues identified, Mayor de Blasio has directed ACS to take immediate steps to improve practice at the agency and raise awareness of child safety across the city, including:
- Require an end-of-supervision court appearance. Court-ordered ACS supervision should not end without a full exploration of the child’s well-being and approval from a Family Court judge.
- Conduct a review of all current cases that include court-ordered ACS supervision. ACS will conduct a review of all open cases that include court-ordered ACS supervision to ensure that court orders are being followed and children remain safe.
- Conduct a thorough review of the Family Support Unit (FSU). The Family Support Unit at ACS provides preventive services and support to families through a network of community-based non-profit organizations. ACS will conduct a review of FSU and lay out clear expectations, including how frequently FSU personnel must contact a probation or parole officer when a caregiver or parent is on probation or parole.
- Expand ACS access to court databases. ACS currently has access only to court information regarding criminal convictions. ACS will seek to amend both the Executive Law and Social Services law in order to: 1) allow the agency access to information about active arrests, not just convictions; and 2) allow all caseworkers, not just those investigating a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, to access arrest and conviction information for any person coming forward as a resource for the child, at any time during the case.
- Introduce legislation to strengthen ACS’ authority to supervise parents who are not the subject of a child welfare investigation but are caring for a child who is under ACS supervision.
- Work with the Office of Court Administration to establish interagency collaborations with the New York State Department of Parole and the New York City Department of Probation. If a caretaker under the supervision of the Family Court is on parole or on probation, the Office of Court Administration or ACS would send court orders notifying the respective agencies.
- Enhance Department of Correction intake procedures. ACS will establish an interagency agreement with the NYC Department of Corrections directing correction officers to ask incoming inmates who are primary caregivers about what arrangements they have made for their child.
- Form an interagency Children's Cabinet to facilitate interagency collaboration. Mayor de Blasio will convene an interagency Children’s Cabinet consisting of representatives from ACS, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Health and Hospitals Corporation, Department of Education, and the New York Police Department. The Cabinet will establish or bolster existing means of interagency communication.
- Launch a public awareness campaign. The campaign will encourage New Yorkers to not only speak out when they see abuse, but also take proactive steps to get involved in the life of a child, such as signing up to be a mentor.