Damning Report on Zymere Perkins Case Details Months of Abuse, Missed Opportunities

What to Know

  • A state report details the years of abuse 6-year-old Zymere Perkins endured before his death in September
  • ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion resigned Monday, a day before the damning report was released
  • Perkins case involves dozens of missed warning signs and missed opportunities — failings that have led to mandated reforms in the ACS

The city's child welfare agency, the Administration for Children's Services, has come under fire in a state report that has censured its handling of the case of a Harlem boy who was beaten to death. 

The child fatality report of Zymere Perkins reads like an encyclopedia of red flags: dozens upon dozens of missed warning signs and chances to save 6-year-old Zymere from continual, brutal, painful, and ultimately fatal, beatings.

Zymere died Sept. 26 after what prosecutors say was months of abuse by his mother and her boyfriend in their Harlem apartment. Both were arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child.

Feeling the heat since Zymere’s death, ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion resigned Monday, one day before the damning document was released.

Officials from the ACS will meet Wednesday in lower Manhattan to discuss proposals from at least three city councilmembers about how to reform the agency following the state report, which showed glaring lapses in protecting the city's children. 

The report spells out the numerous times people who cared about little Zymere had called ACS to intervene, beginning when Zymere was just an infant.

In June 2010, a caller reported his mother Geraldine Perkins had test positive for marijuana.

More recently, in June 2015, a tipster told the child abuse hotline the mother’s boyfriend Ryshiem Smith had hit Zymere at least 20 times at a picnic while his mother did nothing to stop it.

At first Zymere and his mother denied the claims, but in the 15 months before his death, Zymere periodically admitted to caseworkers that Smith beat him with belts and held him down under cold water as punishment.

Caseworkers observed what looked like burns on his mother. They knew Smith had a history of domestic allegations but failed to dig deeper.

If those flags weren’t enough to move Zymere out of harm’s way, the homeless shelter where Zymere and his mother were living told ACS that they had repeatedly called police about violence and neglect by his family.

And then there’s Zymere’s school, which reported 24 absences and a slew of suspicious injuries over a period of months, including a time his top teeth were knocked out and another time when his jaw was fractured. His legs were also found bruised and he had red blots in his eyes.

Zymere’s mother refused drug treatment for herself and medical treatment for her son.

The report finds despite dozens of documented visits and contacts with this family, workers from ACS and the St. Luke’s preventive services agency dropped the ball, missing deadlines and failing to make sure Zymere saw a doctor.

Zymere’s mother insisted her son was just accident-prone. An ACS caseworker suggested his mom should buy him a helmet before prematurely closing his case.

Along with detailing failings by the ACS, the state Office of Children and Family Services also ordered Mayor de Blasio to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the agency, among 15 other reforms.

On Tuesday, de Blasio announced his plan to appoint that independent monitor. He is also vowing to improve the casework at ACS, where nine employees now face disciplinary action connected to Zymere’s case. 

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