MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY TO STRENGTHEN CITY'S RESPONSE TO AT-RISK AND ABUSED CHILDREN
Family Services Coordinator Will Monitor Inter-Agency Performance; $16 Million Investment For New Programs, Worker Training, and Recruitment
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced today a series of new initiatives and investments to strengthen the City's response to child abuse or neglect with a particular focus on enhancing inter-agency coordination to assist children in need. Among the initiatives is the creation of the Family Services Coordinator, a new office under Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, which will work to enhance inter-agency communication and coordination between agencies serving vulnerable children and families. The Mayor also announced that protocols that guide interactions between Administration for Children's Services (ACS) staff and the Police Department, as well as those related to standards for reporting by the Department of Education of educational neglect, will be revised and reissued within the next 45 days. In addition, $16 million in investments in staff, supervisors, and trainings at ACS is intended to decrease supervisory caseload levels, improve the quality of decision making, and strengthen safety procedures. Mayor Bloomberg was joined by Deputy Mayor Gibbs, ACS Commissioner John Mattingly, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt, Juvenile Justice Commissioner Neil Hernandez, Health and Hospital President Alan Aviles, Human Resources Administration Deputy Commissioner Pat Smith, and Department of Homeless Services Acting Commissioner Fran Winter. The strategies announced today were as result of the 10-day review led by Deputy Mayor Gibbs into the failure of City agencies to respond adequately to instances of abuse and neglect in the case of Nixzmary Brown.
"City government failed to meet our most basic responsibility to one of our most vulnerable citizens when 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown died at the hands of her parents," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Nixzmary's mother and stepfather will bear the responsibility for their terrible deeds in a court of law. But the City must be honest about our failings and take steps to address them. Today, we are announcing a series of initiatives to strengthen our ability to protect our children. Our preliminary review has led us to implement several inter-agency measures aimed at tightening the communications and performance of government systems while we increase resources at ACS. Our children are most in need of our protection and we will seal any gaps between agencies so children can't slip through them."
The newly-created position of Family Services Coordinator will assist agencies which serve children and families to resolve interagency practice concerns that are beyond the individual agency's ability to resolve and maintain supervision and review of interagency protocols to ensure that they are current, reflect changed realities, and are being effectively implemented. The office will also help the City move forward with initiatives that integrate the practices of service agencies, such as implementation of the Integrated Human Service Project.
Other new inter-agency strategies include enhancing the policies and procedures that govern the collaboration of personnel at the Police Department, Department of Education and child welfare officials when investigating cases of reported abuse or neglect. Additionally, there will be a review and clarification of standards by which schools notify parents and child welfare officials about a child's excessive absences during a school year.
Improving Practices at ACS and Making Financial Investments
Mayor Bloomberg and ACS Commissioner John Mattingly also announced that the administration will invest over $16 million in new initiatives to strengthen the child welfare system and enhance the protection of children. In addition, ACS will redirect $9 million in existing resources to support services in high need communities.
"These initiatives will strengthen our ability to keep children safe in three critical ways," said Commissioner John B. Mattingly. "First, we will be able to address the increase we're seeing in the numbers of abuse and neglect reports and the investigations that need to be done. Second, we will enhance our ability to supervise the critical work that happens on the frontlines. Third, it will reinforce Children's Services' overall commitment to safety through the new Intensive Family Services Unit, enhanced preventive services, the new Law Enforcement unit, and the new Ombudsman's Office. All of these initiatives will aid us greatly in the work we do every day throughout Children's Services to keep children safe and strengthen families."
Children's Services Budget Initiatives:
1. Reinforcing Child Safety
INTENSIFIED OVERSIGHT OF OPEN CASES
$11 million will be invested to expand oversight of families who have been investigated and assessed by ACS and are in need of ongoing services and supervision, to ensure that children
are safe at home. With an additional 250 child protective workers, the Intensive Family Services Unit, part of ACS's child protective team, will supervise an additional 7,000 cases annually where removal is not warranted.
ENHANCED PREVENTIVE SERVICES
Redirect $9 million in existing preventive funding this fiscal year to preventive programs for communities most in need.
NEW INVESTIGATIVE CAPACITY
20 seasoned law enforcement professionals will be hired and assigned to ACS's 14 field offices around the City. These law enforcement professionals will enhance the investigatory practice in the ACS field offices. Members of this unit will train child protective workers and supervisors in effective investigatory techniques and provide guidance on challenging cases.
OPENING OF OMBUDSMAN'S OFFICE
The Office will provide immediate assistance to City agencies or independent foster care and preventive service agencies that have concerns about the progress of a current or closed child protective investigation, ensuring clear and direct lines of communication to Children's Services concerning child protection investigations and child safety issues.
2. Increase Supervision of Child Welfare Workers
INCREASING SUPERVISION OF FRONTLINE WORKERS
Nearly $3 million will be invested to hire 35 new senior child protective managers to oversee and guide the work of frontline staff. These managers, with extensive professional and educational experience in child welfare practice, will help ensure workers conduct thorough investigations, make nuanced assessments and exercise sound judgment.
3. Decreasing Workers' Caseloads
ONGOING HIRING OF CHILD PROTECTIVE STAFF
Children's Services will hire 325 child protective workers, in addition to 200 workers recently hired and in training, to ensure that caseloads remain at appropriate levels.
ENHANCED TRAINING FOR WORKERS
The City will invest nearly $1 million to hire additional experienced staff to train child protective workers in state of the art investigatory and assessment practices. This training also will be available to workers who have been in the field offices to refresh their knowledge and continue to improve their practice.
NEW FAMILY COURT ATTORNEYS ADD FOSTER CARE OVERSIGHT
The City will invest $1.5 million to hire 32 attorneys to ensure that Children's Services is efficiently handling Family Court cases and to make attorneys more available to consult with Children's Services child protective workers, supervisors and managers.
Stu Loeser/ Paul Elliott (MO)
Sharman Stein/ Shelia Stainback (ACS)