Report: Shift in Child Welfare Policy Undermined by Budget Moves

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City Hall/City Limits

Former ACS head John Mattingly, Mayor Bloomberg and new child welfare chief Ronald Richter at the July press conference announcing the agency's leadership change.
A fiscal brief released this week by the city's Independent Budget Office analyzes a decade of direction and spending at the Administration for Children's Services, highlighting a philosophical evolution in the provision of care—and budgetary sinkholes that have unwittingly swallowed potential savings.

The IBO found that many fewer children are placed in foster care than were a decade ago—evidence of the agency's commitment to preventive services, which permit families to remain intact with varying levels of support, over foster care, which had been the norm before the mid-90s.


Human Factor Looms Large In ACS System

It's been almost 100 years since New York City's government made protecting child welfare part of its job--a job now carried out by the Administration for Children's Services, or ACS, an agency which, with a 2010 budget of $2.6 billion and nearly 6,100 full-time staffers, carried out nearly 60,000 investigations of possible child abuse or neglect last year.

Most of ACS's cases never make the papers. But sometimes high-profile cases do surface – Nixmary Brown, Marchella Brett-Pierce, and just last month, Kymell Oram, an 18-month-old boy born addicted to heroin and apparently beaten to death by his foster-mother's teenaged boyfriend. With the media attention often comes calls for reform of the system--or, as in the recent indictment of two ACS workers in Brett-Pierce's death, demand that individual decision-makers be held accountable.

Veteran Provider Takes Big ACS Job

The Administration of Children’s Services has announced the appointment of Charles Barrios, a licensed psychotherapist with decades of service at Good Shepherd Services in Brooklyn, as Deputy Commissioner for Family Support Services.

Barrios’ former employer, Good Shepherd, works with ACS and other city and state agencies to provide services and support to troubled youth and families. Barrios’ portfolio at ACS charges him with similar responsibilities, including the administration of a “wide range of programs that support and strengthen families, prevent child abuse and neglect, and reduce the need for foster care placement,” according to ACS.