Abuse up for ACS children
Montero, Douglas. New York Post, July 21, 2008.
Reports of abuse and neglect of children in city care grew by 12 percent last year, as parents, advocates and investigators keep closer watch on the municipal government's long-troubled child-welfare system.
The number of abuse complaints against foster parents and others asked by the Administration for Children's Services to look after troubled youngsters grew to 1,708 in the 2007 fiscal year, up from 1,525 in 2006, city records show.
In one such case, Judith Leekin, 63, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last week for taking more than $1.6 million from ACS even as she abused 11 disabled kids left in her care when she lived in Queens.
Abuse complaints involving foster parents and other caretakers are investigated by the ACS Office of Special Investigations, an internal affairs unit that was revamped two years ago.
Some 362 of the abuse cases reported in 2007 were substantiated by ACS investigators, meaning that there was enough evidence to take corrective action or forward information about the cases to district attorneys' offices for prosecution, city records show.
Last year's tally of abuse cases showed that 11 kids in city care were sexually abused, 66 were beaten and one endured psychological abuse.
ACS officials say they have a tough job dealing with abuse by people hired to care for children, and note that with 8,000 foster parents in the city caring for 17,000 kids, the rate of substantiated cases is tiny.
Andrew White, who runs the watchdog group Child Welfare Watch, said the rise in abuse complaints is due to the retooling of the Office of Special Investigations, including the hiring of 60 former law-enforcement officers.
"It shows a higher sense of caution and a more rigorous and intense approach to investigating," he said.
But another advocate says greater vigilance by parents angry that their children were unjustly taken has sparked the rise in abuse complaints against ACS.
"Parents have become more outspoken about the abuse of their children. People are fighting back," said Rolando Bini, who heads Parents in Action, a grass-roots group.
Latest figures reveal a growing problem for the city's Administration for Children's Services
Child-care complaints in fiscal year
Substantiated 173, or 17%
Substantiated 362, or 23%