Fury at foster 'abuse;' Parents fume over ACS kids' injuries
Montero, Douglas. New York Post, May 19, 2008.
Sandra Allen first wants to get her son back from the city - then she'll sue.
Allen is part of growing army of irate parents whose kids were abused or injured while in the custody of the Administration for Children's Services.
Allen, who works for the city's Department of Finance, said she learned in early 2007 that her son Stephen Jr., 6, had a fractured skull and broken collarbone when she started getting X-ray bills from her employee medical insurance.
"We still don't know what happened to his head - we need to know," said the teary Queens mom.
Allen still doesn't know who beat up Stephen, and she is forbidden by MercyFirst, the Queens foster-care provider contracted by ACS to take care of him, from questioning him during supervised visits.
"They [ACS] make the Police Department's blue wall of silence look like cheesecloth," said Joseph Kasper, Allen's lawyer.
The "standard practice" requires the foster-care provider to inform birth parents of injuries or abuse "as soon as possible," an ACS spokesman said.
Tell that to Raven Hamlett, whose two sons, then 5 and 2, were sexually abused sometime between February 2004 and June 2006 when she voluntarily put them in foster care to kick a drug habit.
After getting them back, she sought their medical records from ACS because the oldest boy was acting out.
The ACS social workers accidentally "turned over documents saying these kids had been sexually abused" by an unknown man who attacked them in the Bronx foster-care agency caring for them, her lawyer David Lesch said.
"It's a nightmare - I have never seen anything so heinous," said Lesch, who filed a lawsuit last year.
There are 211 pending personalinjury lawsuits against ACS, some dating back to 2003, according to Law Department records.
The city has shelled out $1.8 million to resolve 15 personal-injury cases, including a $1 million payout last year to Antonia Phillips, now 6, who suffered permanent brain damage after being shaken in 2003 by an unknown assailant.
ACS refused to say if any workers or foster-care contractors were arrested or disciplined for the attack.
Phillips' lawyer Derek Sells calls the lack of prosecution "perplexing."
Between July 2006 and June 2007, there were 1,337 complaints that children in ACS care were abused or neglected, and 301 - nearly a quarter of the cases - were substantiated.
Both numbers were up from the previous 12 months where 197 of 1,256 complaints were substantiated. MercyFirst refused to comment.
Sandra Allen learned that 6-year-old son Stephen was injured in city foster care - only after getting his X-ray bills.