New York City Administration for Children’s Services Announces “Child Safe” Initiative
Four-part initiative calls for community outreach, immediate review and reporting of findings for recent child fatalities, strengthening coordination between City agencies and a major public awareness campaign to advise parents on how to better protect their children
New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner John B. Mattingly today announced a series of measures, called the Child Safe initiative, to better protect the City’s children from harm.
The initiative was developed following a preliminary review of child deaths this year that were reported to the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). The review showed that 58 child fatalities had been reported to the SCR in the first nine months of 2004, up from 37 during the same period in 2003. Of these children, the number whose families had prior cases with ACS in the last 10 years rose to 29, from 16 previously.
“As an agency, and as New Yorkers, we at Children’s Services are responsible for protecting our City’s children, and one way to better do that is to be sensitive to the changes in the patterns of child deaths and to act immediately to respond to such changes,” said Commissioner Mattingly.
“Although there is no one defining cause of death that links these recent cases, a number were the result of preventable accidents.”
The Child Safe initiative is an umbrella effort that includes four strategies for keeping children safe:
- Expedite the review and reporting of findings for cases involving children whose families were previously known to ACS. ACS will seek a more immediate release of recommendations from the Accountability Review Panel (ARP) for cases involving children whose families were previously known to the agency. The panel, established two decades ago, is an independent body comprised of experts from the fields of law, medicine, psychiatry, social work and public administration.
- Partner with local communities to help them keep their children safe. ACS will sponsor in December and January a series of community forums involving residents and community leaders to better understand the strengths and needs of children and families in their neighborhoods.
- Develop a public awareness campaign to involve all New Yorkers in keeping children safe. To raise awareness of child safety issues among all New Yorkers, ACS will develop, in partnership with the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a print and broadcast media campaign this fall and winter that will feature safety tips and facts for parents and caregivers to reduce the risk of injury caused by potentially preventable accidents.
- Enhance support for families by collaborating more closely with other child-serving City agencies. ACS works with many families who are served by the other City agencies, such as the Department of Homeless Services. To enhance the City’s ability to identify and assist at-risk families experiencing homelessness, ACS and DHS last summer announced a series of initiatives focused on better data and information sharing, staff development, and the distribution of child health and safety educational materials to shelters. Commissioner Mattingly today said that each of the six measures announced last summer have been implemented, with quality improvement work continuing.
Commissioner Mattingly also urged New Yorkers to get involved in protecting children and strengthening families by:
- Calling 311 if they believe a family or its children need assistance from community organizations or City agencies.
- Calling the New York State child abuse hotline at 1-800-342-3720 if they have reason to believe children are being abused or neglected.
- Calling 911 if they witness a child being hurt.
“The life of every child is precious and the safety of children cannot wait,” he said. “It is crucial, to them and to their families, that we take steps now to address this issue head-on.”
Commissioner Mattingly was joined at the announcement by child safety and welfare advocates, including: Philip Coltoff, Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Aid Society; Melba Butler, Executive Director, Harlem Dowling Westside Center for Children; Gail Nayowith, Executive Director of Citizens Committee for Children; Dianne Heggie, Senior Director for Child Welfare Policy at the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies; William Baccaglina, Executive Director, New York Foundling Hospital; Geoffrey Canada, Executive Director, Harlem Children’s Zone; Eric Brettschneider, Executive Director, Agenda for Children Tomorrow; Denise Gaines, member of the ACS Parent Advisory Workgroup and Parent Advocate at the Center for Family Representation; Marcus Walton, Project Manager for the Highbridge “Bridge Builder” project and Francis Ayuso, ACS’s Neighborhood-Based Services Coordinator and Co-Leader for the Highbridge “Bridge Builder” project. Commissioner Mattingly was also joined by Accountability Review Panel Members Katherine Grimm, M.D. at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Manhattan; Judith Flores, M.D., Associate Medical Director at the Sunset Park Family Health Center; Lourdes Rigual-Lynch, Ph.D., Director of Mental Health at the New York Children’s Health Project and Denise Rosario, A.C.S.W., Executive Director of the Coalition for Hispanic Family Services.