ACS Head on Death of Boy, 6: ‘One Fatality is One Too Many'

What to Know

  • ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion said that the agency is still grieving the death of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins
  • The boyfriend of the dead child's mother allegedly attacked the 6-year-old after he defecated in their living room
  • Carrion said that she's coming to the realization that "you can't" protect every child.

The head of New York City's child welfare services body said Tuesday in a tearful interview that "cases should never slip through the cracks" on the heels of the death of a 6-year-old boy who was beaten with a broomstick before being hung on a bathroom door.

Gladys Carrion, the commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services, told the I-Team in an exclusive interview that she is coming to the terms that she can't protect every child in the wake of the death of Zymere Perkins.

"You can't," she said. "You try, but you can't."

Carrion's tearful interview comes a day before she's expected to make two policy announcement after Perkins' death, according to sources. One of them is new training for frontline staff, in which all child protective specialists and supervisors will attend a refresher course on proper assessment protocols, including cases of suspect abuse. The other will be new guidance for the Department of Education on recognizing educational neglect.

The policy changes come about a week after sources told NBC 4 New York that several people had reported their concerns to police and ACS workers

They included staff members at the homeless shelter where Perkins and her son lived for about a year and a half beginning in 2014, according to sources familiar with the case. The two left the shelter in July.

At one point in April, Perkins ended up at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, where children are evaluated for signs of abuse. He was interviewed and observed by a doctor, an ACS staffer and a representative from the Manhattan district attorney's office, sources said. The child denied his mother hit him, and no physical signs of abuse were apparent so prosecutors did not move forward with the case.

But on Monday, Perkins' mother, Geraldine Perkins, rushed the boy's lifeless body to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. She later told police her boyfriend, 42-year-old Rysheem Smith, beat the boy with a wooden broomstick and hung him from the bathroom door while she read the bible. Smith was allegedly angry at the boy for defecating in the apartment. 

Both Perkins' mother and Smith were charged after the boy died. Smith's family defended the man after his first court appearance, saying he "loves kids" and that "he would never do that." 

Carrion said Tuesday that "just one fatality is one too many" but declined to discuss any details about the boy's case. She said that it was too early to characterize whether her agency dropped the ball and added that the staff who handled Perkins' case are in bad shape.

"The workers are traumatized," she said. "This is a horrific experience."

Five ACS employees were placed on modified duty after Perkins' death, and Carrion didn't rule out the possibility she could be fired.

"Certainly, that's a decision that the mayor can make. And, you know, we can have a new commissioner every single year," she said. 

But she added that despite Perkins' death, there hasn't been an increase in children dying or being abused under her watch.

"We keep children safe," she said. "I mean, but we can't keep every child safe, and why can't we? Right? You struggle with that."

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