ACS Disciplines Staff in Brooklyn Fatality,
Reorganizes Administration to Improve Child Protection Services, and Initiates DOI Investigation
January 18, 2006. The Administration for Children’s Services today announced disciplinary actions against six Children’s Services employees who were working on the investigation into the abuse case involving 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown. ACS took these actions following Nixzmary’s tragic death on January 11, 2006.
John B. Mattingly, Commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, also announced a series of top-level administrative changes to strengthen the agency’s oversight of all child protective investigations.
In addition, Commissioner Mattingly said he had asked the New York City Department of Investigation to conduct its own probe into the fatality to discern if there was any sanctionable wrongdoing by any ACS employee.
Three Children’s Services employees - two supervisors and a child protective worker from Brooklyn - will be suspended immediately without pay pending disciplinary hearings. One of the supervisors was involved in the May 2005 investigation into educational neglect; the other two staffers were involved in the December 2005 investigation into physical abuse.
Additionally, three other employees - two child protective workers and one supervisor - are being disciplined. These employees will be moved immediately under new supervision. One of the employees was involved in the May investigation of Nixzmary Brown and two of employees were involved in the December investigation. The disciplinary penalties may range from reprimands to suspensions or termination.
Commissioner Mattingly also announced the establishment of a new ombudsman unit at ACS where staffers from any City agency or independent foster care and preventive agency can call and get immediate assistance when they have concerns about the progress of a child protective investigation.
“We are taking these actions today because these staff failed to take many of the basic and important steps in this tragic case,” said Commissioner John B. Mattingly. “The staff made poor investigative decisions and gave inadequate attention to clear warning signs of the danger Nixzmary Brown was facing. For example, the staff, for nearly a month, failed to take all the necessary steps to gain entry to the home where Nixzmary was living. In the May investigation, workers failed to make a finding of educational neglect when it was clear that Nixzmary had not been attending school.
“While it’s true that this work is extremely difficult, these are examples of incomplete and inadequate steps. Everyone at Children’s Services must act with urgency and absolute thoroughness when responding to allegations of abuse and neglect. That’s what the City expects and that’s what I expect,” said Commissioner Mattingly.
Commissioner Mattingly further said he was reassigning several top-level administrators in the Division of Child Protection. “I am making these reassignments in order to reinforce and strengthen leadership over this division which is so crucial to the safety of children,” said Commissioner Mattingly. “These experienced and dedicated professionals will see to it that frontline practice - and the supervision of that practice - is everything we demand it to be in each and every case.”
These changes include:
- Executive Deputy Commissioner Zeinab Chahine will be working full time on child safety issues throughout the agency and will take direct authority for the Division of Child Protection;
- Gilbert Taylor, Assistant Commissioner in the Division of Child Protection, will be promoted to Associate Commissioner and charged with the responsibility for overseeing all the borough field offices;
- Associate Commissioner Jennifer Marino Rojas will be appointed to oversee the ACS Child Safety Task Force and administration in the Division of Child Protection;
- Sharon McDougall, who had been Acting Deputy Commissioner in the Division of Child Protection, will resume her duties as Assistant Commissioner and will report to Ms. Rojas;
- Assistant Commissioner Olivia Brown, formerly in charge of overseeing Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island field offices, will no longer serve in her capacity as Assistant Commissioner, and will be responsible for administrative functions in the division. She will report to Ms. Rojas.
The Commissioner said that Children’s Services was making significant progress in its agency wide review of 10,000 open child protective cases. This review will continue and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs will also continue to do the necessary inter-agency fact-finding, to ensure clear procedures and high quality inter-agency communication in all child welfare cases.
In addition, Commissioner Mattingly said that ACS expects that the Accountability Review Panel that is reviewing the fatality of Nixzmary Brown will be finished with its work within two weeks. At that point, ACS will be able to make available a detailed assessment of the Panel’s findings.