De Blasio Defends Child Welfare Reform Despite Resistance from Judges

By Janon Fisher on March 31, 2014 3:01pm 

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 Mayor Bill de Blasio defends his child welfare reform initiatives.
Mayor defends child welfare reform
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MIDTOWN — The mayor's office denied court officials' claims that child welfare workers were undermining his reforms by failing to file required paperwork.

Instead, they say, the problem lies in the fact that the city doesn't have sufficient legal right to force judges to keep abused child cases open, as Mayor de Blasio vowed to do in the wake of Myls Dobson's death. They can only encourage judges to consider keeping the cases open, and hope for the best.

“In the majority of hearings denied, court judges have stated that they are not calendaring the hearing because they have no legal basis to do so, not because ACS workers are failing to complete their paperwork or show up to court," City Hall spokeswoman Maibe Ponet said.

A court administration spokesman maintained that caseworkers often do not file legally required paperwork and, in some cases, are not showing up for hearings that are on the calendar.

"We respectfully defer to New York City Family Courts judges’ independence to make case-by-case determination on the necessity of an end-of-supervision hearing.  Since we began making these requests at the end of January, courts have calendared more than 50 percent of our requests, reviewing the cases of more than 210 children," the spokeswoman said.

Under a mandate issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio in January, all child welfare workers must request an additional hearing at the end of supervision in child abuse or neglect cases to ensure the health and safety of the child.

The reform was prompted by a series of missteps by the Administration for Children's Services in the supervision of 4-year-old Myls Dobson, who was later tortured and died of in Midtown high-rise.

But according to ACS, 48 percent of those hearings are not making it to the court calendar.

Judges have said they refuse to grant the hearings in nearly half the cases because caseworkers are not giving them legal grounds to hold them.

Under state law, ACS supervisors are required to file a report 60 days after the parents and children are released from supervision.

The state Office of Court Administration said that caseworkers not providing sufficient argument to hold the extra hearing, they are not filing the legally required paperwork and, in some cases, not showing up to court when judges do order hearings.

"When ACS has a reason to restore the case, the judges are doing so willingly. However, when judges are simply asked to restore the case without legal sufficiency, some judges are not," Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver, said last week.

After the death of little Myls, who was burned, bound and starved for two weeks in the care of his father's girlfriend, the mayor ordered a review of the case.

The investigation found that ACS workers did not look into allegations of domestic violence in the household and was unaware that the boy's father, his sole custodian, was in jail while he was under supervision.

The girlfriend, Kryzie King, is currently awaiting trial on assault charges. She has yet to be charged with murder.

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