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NYCLA ISSUES LETTER TO BLOOMBERG ON ACS INVESTIGATION AND REMOVAL OF CHILDREN FROM THEIR HOMES FOLLOWING THE DEATHS OF TWO CHILDREN
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 10, 2006 – The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) has issued a letter to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expressing concern about the sharp increase in the number of children who have been removed from their homes since the tragic deaths of Nixzmary Brown, 7 and Quachaun Xavier Brown, 4, and commending him for his insistence on a thorough investigation of the function of Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and police personnel in these cases, but cautioning him against overreaction.
The NYCLA letter recognizes the “sensible and balanced policies pursued by [ACS] Commissioner Mattingly, consistent with law…calling for services to families and their children as a first resort–removal and placement of children in foster care as a last resort.” Children who stay with their families are, as the letter notes, “spared the trauma of separation…of being bounced from foster home to foster home…[and] are also spared the very real risk of abuse in foster care itself.” Continuing the long-standing efforts to rely on preventive services to reduce the number of children removed from their families will reduce ACS workers’ caseloads and give them more time to identify and remove those children who are in danger.
The letter points out that efforts to reduce the number of children in foster care have not led to an increase in fatalities. “The number of child abuse fatalities among children previously known to ACS was lower in 2005 than in 2004, and 15% lower than in 1998. That year, the worst year for such fatalities, was also the year in which the most children were taken from their families in more than a decade.”
Hon. Louise Gruner Gans, Chair of the NYCLA Family Court and Child Welfare Committee that prepared the letter, noted that many other groups and professionals involved in child welfare had written letters expressing similar concerns. “Safety of all children must be our concern. A small number of tragic deaths occur every year and we must work harder to prevent them. But we don’t want the hysteria of recent days to hurt other children by pushing them needlessly into foster care.”
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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