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New York Times

Children’s Services Leader Leaving After 7 Years

By MOSI SECRET

July 26, 2011

John B. Mattingly, the commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, is stepping down after seven years on the job, the mayor’s office announced on Tuesday.

In Mr. Mattingly’s tenure at the agency, he hired hundreds of caseworkers in an effort to reduce the average load per worker, but the agency also faced strong criticism in prominent cases, including the death last fall of Marchella Pierce, a 4-year-old who weighed 18 pounds.

Mr. Mattingly will leave in September to work at a foundation in Baltimore.

“I reached this difficult decision after much careful thought, taking into consideration my desire to continue contributing to the important work of child welfare, while also wanting to spend time with my family,” Mr. Mattingly said in an e-mail to his staff.

Several people who have been close to Mr. Mattingly said that his wife might be ill and that he had long hoped to return to Baltimore, his hometown.

He will rejoin the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is dedicated to child welfare, as a senior fellow.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who chose Mr. Mattingly as commissioner in July 2004, and leaders in the child welfare community praised Mr. Mattingly’s work.

“As I’ve said countless times over the last seven years, New York City has been extraordinarily lucky to have a nationally renowned expert, John Mattingly, ably and tirelessly leading our Administration for Children’s Services,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a news release. “Few people have worked harder and more effectively in such difficult circumstances than he has.”

Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of the watchdog organization Children’s Rights, called Mr. Mattingly’s departure “a real loss.”

“There are far too few child welfare commissioners anywhere in this country that share his courage, strength, integrity and tenacity,” she said. “He aimed high and while he may not have hit every goal he set, his aim was dead on.”

Jennifer March-Joly, executive director of Citizens’ Committee for Children, an advocacy group, praised Mr. Mattingly’s work, saying that his legacy would be one in which child protection was strengthened and foster care caseloads were kept down.

Mr. Mattingly leaves an agency that came under fire after Marchella’s death. The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, charged a worker on the case, Damon Adams, and his supervisor, Chereece Bell, with criminally negligent homicide. The prosecutor said that Mr. Adams had not made required visits to the family and lied about it, and that Ms. Bell had failed to supervise him.

Mr. Hynes also convened a grand jury to explore what he called “evidence of alleged systemic failures” at the child welfare agency. The grand jury has not yet released its conclusions.

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said Mr. Mattingly let the fatal cases during his tenure define him. “I think he was so personally affected by the horror-story cases that he lost sight of the fact that the majority of the cases are not horror cases,” Mr. Wexler said.

During his tenure, Mr. Mattingly presided over the hiring of 600 additional caseworkers. The agency also began an accountability program, modeled on the Police Department’s CompStat program, called ChildStat: agency leaders meet regularly to review statistics and cases. Retired detectives were hired as consultants to train caseworkers on investigative techniques. The turnover rate among caseworkers dropped.

“There is never a good time to leave a child welfare leadership job,” Mr. Mattingly said in the e-mail to his staff on Tuesday. “There are always tragedies behind you and much work yet to be done.”

But he said he felt “blessed” to be leaving the agency “in very capable hands.”

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