Caseworkers Suspended for Dropping Ball

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The ACS office.

    NBCNewYork has learned that two Brooklyn ACS workers  have been suspended without pay for failing to follow standard policies and procedures.

    They're accused of dropping the ball while assigned to monitor the home of Marchella Pierce, a 4 year old who died on September 2, after allegedly being tied to her bed with twine.

    City Child Welfare Workers Suspended after Death of Girl

    [NY] City Child Welfare Workers Suspended after Death of Girl
    Two city child welfare workers are suspended. A little girl under their supervision died, and officials tell News 4 they failed to do the minimum amount of work to protect her. Melissa Russo reports. (Published Thursday, Sep 23, 2010)

    Prosecutors say the child was painfully malnourished, weighing just 18 pounds and covered in bruises.  

    Marchella was a medically frail child who had to breathe through a tube. Her mother was a known substance abuser.   And the case had been assigned to the Brooklyn field office.

     It's the same ACS office that was allegedly reformed after a spike in Brooklyn child fatalities, including Nixzmary Brown.

    Sources tell NBCNewYork that after Marchella's death, top ACS officials were alarmed to find the Pierce family's file virtually empty and contained limited documentation that any workers had been visiting the home or checking on the family.

    Sources say the workers insisted they had been visiting the child even though they failed to document it in the computer system.

    But ACS bosses weren't convinced; a high ranking official tells NBCNewYork they don't believe workers made the minimum number of visits.

    Two sources tell NBCNewYork the workers could also face charges of falsifying records. The case workers union declined to comment.

    The caseworker has two years on the job and the supervisor is a ten-year veteran.  

    An ACS spokesman also declined to answer most of our questions, but issued this statement: "There were lapses in front-line child protective practice on this case... As the investigation continues, we will take other immediate appropriate actions as necessary."

    This statement is a big shift from the agency's initial response which was to warn that this was a very sick child who was likely to have died for medical reasons, not because of unchecked abuse or neglect.

    Child advocates worry the ACS safety net may be tearing under the pressure of budget cuts. Jennifer March-Jolly of Citizens Committee for Children said this about the ACS safety net: "Our big concern right now and concern over the last two years is that ACS has been subject to a very high level of budget reductions during the economic downturn."

    Marchella's mother has been charged with assault and child endangerment, but those charges could be upgraded depending on the outcome of an autopsy.