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Running ACS 'Won't Be Easy,' Agency's New Boss Says

By Jeff Mays | February 21, 2017 8:29pm
 New head of the Administration for Children's Services head David Hansell in front of Mayor Bill de Blasio on February 21, 2017 after he is announced as head of the agency.
New head of the Administration for Children's Services head David Hansell in front of Mayor Bill de Blasio on February 21, 2017 after he is announced as head of the agency.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

KIPS BAY — The new head of the Administration for Children's Services plans to increase cooperation with the NYPD while creating a more "metrics"-based management system for the troubled agency.

David Hansell, who formerly worked as KPMG's head of Global Human & Social Services Center of Excellence and as acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families in the Obama Administration, will now take over an agency that is under the oversight of an independent monitor after recent and brutal deaths of children.

In its own report on the beating death of 6-year-old Harlem boy Zymere Perkins, the city noted that ACS and outside agencies hired to monitor the child and his family did not "completely and thoroughly" investigate his welfare or whether his mother could properly care for him despite repeated contact with them.

A scathing May report from the Department of Investigation found the agency "failed to take necessary steps to protect children and at times may actually have put them in harm’s way."

Hansell said he knew what he was getting into taking the job.

"I can't think of a more important public service opportunity," Hansell said after being introduced by Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday at ACS's Nicholas Scoppetta Children's Center. "I know it won't be easy."

Hansell starts in March.

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

In December, the state ordered the city to appoint an independent monitor to oversee ACS after former commissioner Gladys Carrion resigned following another child death.

Three-year-old Jaden Jordan died in December 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

The mayor then announced that he was appointing the monitor, but failed to reveal that the city had been ordered to do so by the state.

De Blasio said Hansell now has one of the most difficult jobs in the city.

"The goal is to save every single child," said de Blasio. "There is no other agency in this city government that I think has such a rigorous command placed on it, such a clear and extraordinary goal that it tries to meet every single day."

Hansell said he planned to work with the monitor and to use the reviews that have been done of ACS to improve the agency and would order a "top to bottom" review of the child protective services unit as one of his first acts.

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

"I think the ones that have been done to date have given us recommendations that I think will be helpful," Hansell said of the reviews, adding that he wanted to immediately ascertain the status of recommended improvements and expedite those that need to be implemented.

Hansell also said he expected "helpful feedback" from the monitor and hoped to work closely with the state while addressing both systemic and individual problems within ACS.

When it comes to working with the NYPD, Hansell said he would seek "closer collaboration" on "internal monitoring procedures," and he mentioned the ChildStat program, which is modeled after the NYPD's CompStat and reviews child abuse cases to make sure they are being handled properly.

"I have some concerns about whether it is actually achieving it's purpose of insuring the kind accountability and quality assurance that we need there," said Hansell who has already met with Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce on how to improve the "caliber" of ChildStat.

DNAinfo New York reported earlier this month that Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters believes that the NYPD needs to be more involved with ACS to prevent child deaths.

►READ MORE: NYPD Could Fix ACS Problems and Save Abused Children's Lives, Experts Say

The mayor said his top three priorities for ACS are reducing the caseload, expanding preventative services and improving training, all areas Hansell said he plans to address.

Hansell, 63, also has experience working for the city and state in a variety of human services roles.

Upon being appointed by former Gov. Elliot Spitzer as Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance in 2007, he became the first openly gay man to become a commissioner in New York state.

Hansell has a law degree from Yale Law School.