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Press Release
March 31, 2011

ACS AND PUBLIC ADVOCATE BILL DE BLASIO RELEASE CHILDREN’S SERVICES GROUP REPORT ON DEATH OF MARCHELLA PIERCE

-- The Planning Group Identified Areas for Improvements, Building Upon System Reforms Made Since 2006 – 

-- City Council General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma Joins Announcement to Discuss Preventive and Homemaking Services Funding --

New York, NY – The Administration for Children’s Services and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today released a report of the Children’s Services Planning Group (The Planning Group).  The Planning Group conducted an extensive review of ACS policies, practices and case analyses, provided input on steps that ACS was implementing, and made a series of recommendations.  City Council General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma joined the announcement to discuss preventive and homemaking services funding. 

The Planning Group was formed in November 2010 by ACS and the Public Advocate following the death of Marchella Pierce in September 2010, and a hearing held by the City Council’s General Welfare Committee on October 5, 2010.  The Planning Group thoroughly examined the work of ACS, as well as available services for medically fragile children, to identify how to strengthen accountability and better protect at-risk children. 

“The Children’s Service Planning Group carefully analyzed case reviews and practices of ACS.  The Planning Group found that the Marchella Pierce case is not indicative of overall systemic failures.  However, they did recommend to reinforce and strengthen certain already existing practices and policies, and these changes have either been implemented or are underway,” said ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly.  “ACS will also be implementing recommendations to improve the services available to medically fragile children who are in the child welfare system.  We are grateful to the Planning Group, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and City Council General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma for collaborating with us on this important effort to protect our City’s children.”

“The Marchella Pierce tragedy required real changes in how our City protects vulnerable children.  Thanks to months of hard work by our task force, we are increasing accountability in our child welfare system and establishing permanent financial support that will make thousands of children safer.  I commend Commissioner Mattingly for working with us to create a collaborative process that convened stakeholders and led to the immediate implementation of real reforms,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

One of the key recommendations made by the Planning Group is to stabilize the preventive services and homemaking budgets to provide continuing stability for the care of at-risk children, including the medically fragile. Public Advocate de Blasio and the New York City Council, particularly General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma, have advocated that these funds be fully recognized in future budget years as the City moves forward with balancing its budget.  The Mayor agrees that these vital services should continue to be funded.  Accordingly, $11.7 million for preventive services and $2.6 million for homemaking services will be fully recognized in future budget years.

"Last year, the Speaker and I worked tirelessly to restore 2,900 preventive slots with the Council's $11.7 million because we knew how much low-income families depended on them," said Annabel Palma, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. "A preventive slot could be as simple as giving a child a bed to sleep in or saving one from an abusive home. That's why today's announcement that the Administration will now provide baseline funding for both preventive and homemaking services is such a big step forward; it is the acknowledgement that these services are essential to our children's well-being and survival."

Marchella Pierce’s case raised several issues, including the challenges faced by medically fragile children and their families.  Investigation of her case records identified several areas where Marchella did not receive help from ACS or its contracted service provider in the case, the Child Development Support Corporation (CDSC).  When the contract with CDSC was terminated in June 2010, the case was still open within ACS’ Division of Child Protection (DCP).  The case records indicate that ACS staff had almost no contact with the family. 

The Planning Group consisted of child and family advocates, preventive service providers, experts in the provision of services to medically fragile children, and a parent of a medically fragile child.  It conducted an extensive review to determine whether the problems identified in the Pierce case signaled broader systemic weaknesses. 

That work included analysis of the findings of four different case reviews, as well as the examination of practices and protocols related to quality assurance, child protective investigations, and closedown of preventive services cases and providers.

While the case review findings conclude that the manner in which the Marchella Pierce case was handled was not the result of overall systemic failure, they do indicate areas where ACS policy and procedures require strengthening.  Among preventive cases closed during the review period, nearly three-fourths were closed appropriately with less than 5% needing immediate follow-up.  Among preventive cases closed and transferred to DCP, again, nearly three-fourths were done appropriately, with the remaining needing more follow-up.  While the use of Elevated Risk Conferences alone does not provide conclusive information about the quality of a program, nearly half of general preventive services providers held three or more such conferences during the review period.  Finally, over two-thirds of Additional Information reports were handled appropriately, while nearly one-third were identified as needing further follow-up including assessments of safety and risk concerns.

With input from the Planning Group, ACS is already taking a number of steps to strengthen its practices, including enhancing its monitoring of providers, responding to safety concerns in cases, improving closedown procedures, reinforcing supervision of workers, and implementing new documentation requirements.

Other Planning Group recommendations that ACS will be implementing include:

  • Build upon the success of ACS’ ChildStat model for examining data and case practice to institute Preventive ChildStat;    
  • Improve safety assessments to include consideration of whether medically fragile children are in households;
  • Develop a program for tracking medically fragile children in foster care or receiving preventive services;
  • Develop an assessment tool for medically fragile children to determine their parents ability to care for them and what additional services they may need;
  • Engage stakeholders and consult with experts to improve care for medically fragile children.

ACS and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio are grateful to each of the members of the Children’s Services Planning Group who gave of their time and expertise freely to ensure that the best child welfare services possible are being delivered to the most vulnerable children in New York City. 

Contacts:        ACS – Michael Fagan/Elysia Murphy: 212/341-0999

                       Public Advocate Bill de Blasio – Matthew Wing: 212/669-4193

                       Councilmember Annabel Palma – Meghan Lynch: 917/562 3424

 

 


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