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Mayor's Plan For ACS Monitor Was Actually Mandated by State Officials

By Jeff Mays | December 13, 2016 2:57pm | Updated on December 14, 2016 2:42pm
 The head of the Administration for Children's Services resigned after a series of agency failures involving child deaths.
The head of the Administration for Children's Services resigned after a series of agency failures involving child deaths.
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New York City/Mayor's Office

Editor's Note: The mayor said initially on Tuesday that he was appointing a monitor for the Administration for Children's Services. State officials later revealed that they ordered the city to appoint the monitor. This story has been updated to reflect the new information.

NEW YORK CITY — The state has ordered the city to appoint an independent monitor for the Administration for Children's Services as part of an effort to overhaul the agency following the deaths of several children and the resignation of its commissioner.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a press conference Tuesday, said the city was appointing the monitor but did not reveal that the city was ordered to do so by the state Office of Children and Family Services, which has statutory oversight over ACS.

►READ MORE: 6-Year-Old Harlem Boy Endured Months of Brutal Abuse Before Death, DA Says

"Following the death of Zymere Perkins in September, Governor Cuomo directed OCFS to investigate ACS' compliance with regulations and policies in the case. On December 1, those findings were presented to ACS and mandated that ACS appoint an independent monitor approved by OCFS," reads a statement from OCFS. "Today, the Mayor accepted that condition in responding to our findings."

Asked about the discrepancy, de Blasio spokesman Eric Philips continued to deny that the state required the city to appoint the monitor and said the city and state "disagree about the nature of the recommendation," although the mayor agrees that ACS needs a monitor.

The OCFS mandate to hire a monitor came in a report on the death of 6-year-old Harlem boy Zymere Perkins.

Zymere died on Sept. 26 after being beaten by his mother's boyfriend with a wooden broomstick for defecating in the living room, according to police.

ACS officials had five previous interactions with Zymere and his mother, Geraldine Perkins. Her boyfriend Rysheim Smith was also the subject of two of those interactions. Three of the abuse allegations were found to be substantiated by ACS.

The state's report found that ACS workers failed to adequately investigate the allegations of abuse. They did not follow up when inconsistent explanations of marks on Zymere's legs were given by his mother.

In another instance, ACS did not follow up with the medical provider after there were allegations that Zymere had a fractured jaw. His mother claimed her son had been examined by a doctor who determined that his jaw was not fractured but ACS made no effort to speak to the doctor in question.

ACS also did not follow-up on Zymere's excessive absences from school and educational neglect was not noted in the case file.

In another incident when Smith hit Zymere 25 times on the buttocks at a picnic for "not listening," Perkins failed to protect her son. ACS also found that Smith placed Zymere in a cold shower while nude as a form of punishment and that Perkins slapped him during one such incident. The investigative work in that allegation was also not handled, well.

And ACS repeatedly failed to contact Perkins' family to get their assessment of various incidents and to verify certain claims she made about how her son was injured.

The state report largely mirrors a report issued Tuesday by ACS which found that it systematically failed to protect Zymere by not "completely and thoroughly" investigating  "issues regarding the welfare" of the child.

►READ MORE: Child Welfare Agency Did Not Protect Zymere Perkins Despite Abuse Evidence

Perkins and Smith have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child. The Manhattan District Attorney's office is investigating additional charges.

ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión resigned Monday, telling Mayor Bill de Blasio she was retiring after three years at the helm of the agency and 40 years in child welfare because it was "best for my well-being."

She has come under scrutiny during her tenure following the high-profile beating deaths of Zymere, Myls Dobson, and Jaden Jordan.

►READ MORE: Embattled Head of City's Child Welfare Agency Quits

De Blasio continued to defend Carrión, saying her departure had nothing to do with the recent death of 3-year-old Jaden, who died earlier this month at Coney Island Hospital, six days after he was found with a fractured skull and lying in feces in the home he shared with his mom and her boyfriend.

ACS workers had been dispatched to the home after someone reported that a boy was being kept in a dog cage, but they could not find Jaden because they had been given the wrong address. By the time they returned to the correct address it was too late.

'►READ MORE: What Did They Do?' Officials Question ACS Response in Jaden Jordan Case

ACS also had the name of the boyfriend of Jaden's mom who had a long history of domestic violence and some questioned why the NYPD was not involved.

"It's important to understand the human reality of doing this work. Gladys Carrión put 40 years of her life into protecting children and the last three years serving in one of the unquestionably the toughest posts in government — protecting the lives of children everyday," said de Blasio.

The mayor said the media won't report on the "many, many times that lives were saved," although ACS avoids talking publicly about its cases due to privacy concerns.

Carrión had overseen many reforms, especially around training and improving preventative services. The difficult work just finally got to her, the mayor said.

"I think for Gladys, just a life of this very grueling, tough work really, it became a point where she just felt exhausted and she felt she had done all she could do and that she needed to retire," said de Blasio.

"I want to note the people who do this work, it's not easy. It is not for the faint of heart."

Multiple elected officials, such as Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, have all said ACS is in need of major reforms.

James says she called for an independent monitor in an August 2015 lawsuit she filed against ACS and the state Office of Children and Family Services about improving foster care, and the city formally opposed the idea.

“The idea for an independent monitor to oversee ACS was right when we first proposed it years ago, it was right despite the administration fighting against it, and it is right now that the mayor finally agrees," said James.

"I only wish it hadn’t taken litigation and crises involving more dead children to bring about this type of meaningful reform," she added.

Stringer said the monitor is no replacement for an ACS roadmap for reform from the mayor.

"We know lives are at stake and our children are slipping through the cracks. City Hall must put forward a comprehensive plan, which ensures agencies don't work in silos and our most vulnerable children are cared for," said Stringer.

The independent monitor is part of the "mission...to save every single life," said the mayor. The monitor will handle structural issues and not delve into individual cases, de Blasio added.

"We have to think systemically. We have to think about what's going to make this agency stronger given the many, many challenges it faces," said de Blasio. "I think independent eyes on the situation will help us do it."

The mayor said he was looking for an "aggressive leader" to take over as ACS commissioner.