Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a powerful statement at a press conference to announce immediate reforms to the Administration of Children’s Services following the death of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins: “The buck stops here.”
During a Wednesday afternoon press conference at City Hall, de Blasio and ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión laid out a series of strategic reforms to increase the administration’s ability to protect children subject to abuse and to strengthen oversight into the administration.
Some of the new reforms will be in place as soon as next week, and the rest will be adopted in coming months, Carrión said.
Strategic reforms in place by next week:
- A sufficient number of experienced NYPD and ACS personnel to jointly investigate cases of children suspected of having endured serious abuse;
- End contracted services in cases that involve allegations of serious physical abuse against children;
- Strengthening oversight of child protective staff by appointing a team outside of their division to hold them accountable, to review work, to do audits and to do case reviews.
Reforms to be adopted in coming months:
- Working with the Department of Education to set guidelines for when a series of absences should trigger an investigation;
- Conducting ongoing, enhanced training for all caseworkers on how to handle suspected physical abuse;
- Establishing dedicated liaisons to work with each of the five district attorney’s offices to share information and enhance investigations.
“The death of one child is one too many,” Carrión said Wednesday. “There’s no excuse, there never is, no child should fall through the cracks in our city.”
The set of reforms was announced a week after the death of Perkins, who was rushed from his Harlem home to the hospital after enduring months of abuse. Perkins’ mother, Geraldine Perkins, and her boyfriend, Rysheim Smith, were arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
During the investigation into Perkins’ death it was revealed that his mother and her boyfriend abused him for months prior to his death, according to a criminal complaint. The ACS was made aware of the potential abuse of Perkins and knew that the child had not attended school for a period before his death.
As a result of the ACS’s failure, five staff members involved in Perkins’ case have been placed on modified assignment, Carrión said during Wednesday’s press conference. Those place on modified duty include two child protective specialists, two supervisors and one manager, Carrión said.
“I want to make this plain — anyone on my staff who failed their duty to protect this child will have to answer to me,” Carrión said Wednesday. “I will hold them personally responsible.”
At Wendesday’s press conference, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Hermina Palacio announced that she will lead a multi-agency investigation to determine why the city failed to protect Perkins. Palacio also said that each involved agency will also be required to conduct an internal review.
The City Council also announced on Tuesday they would hold an oversight hearing on Oct. 31 at the Committee on General Welfare to address “how the city responds to allegations of child abuse and neglect.”
“One of our top priorities as a city must be keeping our children safe and this hearing will examine just how effective a job the City is doing to protect those who are most vulnerable,” Harlem Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.
This weekend city Comptroller Scott Stringer announced his office will conduct a follow-up investigation of ACS. In June, the comptroller’s office issued an audit which identified, “shoddy, inconsistent, and incomplete investigations into child abuse,” were being conducted at ACS.
“The bottom line of this investigation is simple – ACS made promises, and New Yorkers deserve to know if they’ve made progress. With children’s lives on the line, we cannot wait another day for this agency to make fundamental reforms,” Stringer said in a statement.