Children's Services Graduates 459 New Child Protective Case Workers
Agency Boosts Investigative Skills to Protect New York's Children
Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly today presided over the graduation of 459 new Child Protective Specialists (CPS) at a special ceremony at Hunter College’s Brookdale Campus, bringing the total number of ACS frontline caseworkers and other child welfare investigators to nearly 1,300. The new CPS workers successfully completed a rigorous 6-week program which trained them to protect children from abuse and neglect through comprehensive investigations and child welfare assessments. The training took place at Children’s Services’ James Satterwhite Academy.
“Today, we celebrate our newest child protective specialists -- courageous men and women who have chosen to dedicate themselves to keeping children safe and strengthening families,” Commissioner Mattingly told the graduates. “In the coming weeks, months and years, each one of you will encounter complex, frustrating situations; you will be forced to make difficult decisions, and sometimes you will feel overwhelmed. But you will never go home at the end of the day wondering if you did anything worthwhile or meaningful. You will know that you performed a vital role in the lives of vulnerable children who need your help.”
ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly (second from left) and
Reverend Alfonso Wyatt (far right) with new Child Protective Caseworkers
Rafael Santiago and Mecca Phinizy.
The Reverend Alfonso Wyatt, Vice President of Fund for the City of New York and Assistant Pastor of Allen AME Church in Queens, was the keynote speaker.
The CPS workers have been deployed to ACS’s 14 field offices throughout the five boroughs. Their assignments were determined by staffing levels and caseloads in each office. In the first eight months of this year, ACS caseworkers investigated about 39,000 reports of abuse and neglect. In Calendar Year 2006, Children’s Services investigated over 63,000 reports.
The new graduating class includes recent college graduates as well as individuals who are making career changes, including some who have previously worked in child welfare. One graduate worked several years as a hospital administrator, while another served in Iraq as an Army National Guardsman. The graduates are ethnically diverse, from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the West Indies, Russia and Africa. Many are native New Yorkers, some of whom will be working in the borough where they grew up and received their education. The graduating class is predominately female, although there are over 50 new CPS men who have joined this very challenging field. One of the graduates, designated to address her colleagues, was herself in foster care.
“Most people think foster children will not amount to anything. My goal was to be someone, and at 16 my goal was to be a caseworker,” said Mecca Phinizy in a speech to her peers. “I am able to get children to open up about the types of abuse that they have been through and I feel I can help them.” Ms. Phinizy has been assigned to work in the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which investigates abuse in child care settings and foster care.
“Being a CPS worker permits me to live for something,” said Rafael Santiago in his address to fellow-graduates. “I choose to be there for people because people have been there for me. I choose to lend a hand, because countless hands helped me and continue to help. People are what I live for.” Mr. Santiago has been assigned to work in the Bronx.
The graduates received training in child welfare practice, law and theories. Specifically, CPS received training to:
- Conduct safety and risk assessments;
- Investigate abuse and neglect allegations;
- Work and communicate effectively with families;
- Operate Children’s Services’ computer databases;
- Make judgments on whether a placement is necessary;
- Reduce trauma to children and families
Once their classroom training ends, CPS workers begin their work in ACS field offices, and deepen their learning by taking on one case each week under close supervision and guidance. Their caseload gradually increases in number and difficulty.
“Today’s graduates join the ranks of new and committed caseworkers hired in the past year. They – along with their more senior colleagues - are the first stop in protection for the children of this City,” Commissioner Mattingly said. “With the successful rollout of ChildStat, the hiring of seasoned law enforcement professionals as Investigative Consultants, the launching of our new Improved Outcomes for Children initiative to improve oversight of children in foster care, as well as several other major reforms, we are making the tough but crucial changes necessary to protect our City’s children.”
Children’s Services’ James Satterwhite Academy was founded in 1984 and
is based at The Children’s Center in Manhattan, with classes also in the Jamaica
section of Queens. The Satterwhite Academy has become a national role model for
training highly skilled, professionalized corps of child protective workers. Its
mission is to promote child welfare as a profession, educate staff with broad
knowledge about the field and provide aspiring caseworkers with the ability to
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