New York City's child welfare agency failed to protect two children who died and a third who was starved by his parents and nearly died in 2014, a report released Tuesday says.
The report by the city Department of Investigation found that the children were placed in danger due to lax supervision by the Administration for Children's Services and that the agency, known as ACS, failed to follow its own rules.
"Our investigation demonstrated that in several instances ACS failed to property investigate allegations of child abuse and as a result missed opportunities to protect children," department commissioner Mark G. Peters said.
ACS spokeswoman Jill Krauss said Mayor Bill de Blasio has invested more than $100 million to strengthen the child welfare system since the three cases happened. The new funding has allowed the agency to hire 700 new staff members and reduce caseloads to "a historic low" of 10 to 12 children per caseworker, Krauss said.
The children in the three cases were identified by aliases to protect their privacy.
One of the cases involved a child who was abused and starved by his parents for at least two years before he was removed from the home. The child is now in foster care and criminal cases against his parents are pending.
Another child died at home under suspicious circumstances. During the 12 years prior to his death, ACS had investigated 11 reports of abuse concerning the boy's mother. The description appears to match the death of 4-year-old Juan Sanchez on April 29, 2014. No one was charged in his death.
The third child was beaten to death by her mother, who is now serving a lengthy prison sentence. The girl died despite a 12-year history of interventions by ACS into the mother's parenting ability, the report said.
Some advocates said the focus on tragic deaths of children should not obscure the work that social service agencies do to support families in difficult circumstances.
"It's unclear how much generalizing one can do from three admittedly horrible cases," said Susan Jacobs, special counsel to the Center for Family Representation, which represents parents in family court. "Every single day parents who struggle with the conditions of living in poverty are successfully reunited with their children with the help of many support services and advocacy efforts."
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said that while it's possible to learn from ACS' worst failures, "those failures don't, in and of themselves, tell us what is systemically wrong with ACS, or any other agency."