Myls' Law Got 'Lost in the Shuffle' in Albany, Backers Say
MIDTOWN — Myls' Law, the proposed state legislation that would ensure a child is properly cared for when his or her parents get arrested, foundered in committee and failed to pass either house before the end of the legislative session in June.
Upper West Side Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal drafted a bill in February to close a loophole in child welfare law that allowed 4-year-old Myls Dobson to be left in the hands of his accused killer while his father was in jail, but the legislation never moved to a vote because it was deemed too expensive and too burdensome on state bureaucracy.
"That bill stalled and, as things wound down in the legislative session [in June], some things get lost in the shuffle and that's what happened here," Rosenthal said.
At the time the bill was introduced, there was huge political will to do something to prevent any other children from ending up like the 4-year-old, who was found beaten and starved to death in the home of his father's girlfriend, Kryzie King.
She had taken over care for him when dad Okee Wade was arrested on an outstanding warrant.
King has since been indicted on murder charges and is awaiting trial.
The proposed legislation would have required police to find out if a person being arrested is the primary custodian of a child and, if so, to ensure that the child is properly cared for. The bill would have also require officers to inform child welfare services of the arrest.
Yet when the legislation went before the Assembly, children's advocacy groups, lawyers and law enforcement agencies decided that it wasn't viable to tackle all of the 587,866 arrests and the 161,933 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect last year in New York State, Rosenthal said.
"This legislation would overwhelm child welfare agencies in the state," she said. "The system could not handle that type of task."
The Osborne Association, a group that assists children of incarcerated parents, did not support the bill as it was written.
"It is our understanding that the bill is wisely on hold given the various efforts underway to address possible contributing factors to the tragedy," Osborne spokesman Jonathan Stenger said.
State Sen. Jose Serrano, who introduced an companion bill to Myls Law in January, also said he couldn't get the political support to help the bill pass in the Republican-run senate.
"When you have a tragedy of this magnitude, we should codify the laws so it doesn't happen again," Serrano said, but added, "We don't have a lot of power to force legislation."
Will Brown, the slain boy's great-uncle, said he had not been apprised of the bill's status.
"I'm disappointed but not surprised," said Brown, a former Republican district leader from the 70th Assembly District. "Unless that sense of urgency is re-ignited that bill will go nowhere. If there was someone motivated enough to get this bill passed, it would get passed."
If political motivation has waned now, there was no shortage of it in the weeks and months after the boy's death.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered an investigation into the handling of the case and ordered various reforms to the Administration for Children's Services.
The city allocated $25 million to ACS to hire 362 additional case workers across the agency. Caseloads for city social workers that oversee court ordered family supervision were cut from 15 to 8 cases.
The mayor established the Children's Cabinet, made up of 20 city agencies to discuss gaps in child protections and develop better cooperation between law enforcement and child welfare agencies.
Some of those reforms were also met with opposition. An effort to get judges in Family Court to extend supervision by requesting additional hearings met with resistance from state judges who said it further burdened a busy system.
However, Rosenthal said she is still determined to close the loophole — despite the failure of a second bill she introduced in June to authorize state judges to order child welfare agency supervision over any guardian who takes custody of a child after the custodial parent is incarcerated.
She plans to take up the issue again when the legislation begins its next session in January.
"We have to find time to make this something that can be implemented and make it more practical," she said. "An investigation into every parent who is arrested is impossible."
"My intention is to protect children statewide," she added. "It probably needs a few laws, not just one."