Monday, January 2, 2017

Child welfare in New York City: “I am scared of ACS”

In January, 2006, NCCPR and several New York City advocates held a news conference in response to a foster-care panic – a sharp sudden surge in removals of children from their homes following a high-profile tragedy. In this case the panic followed the death of Nixzmary Brown.

At that news conference we distributed a written statement from a 14-year-old who had been wrongly removed from her home and placed in foster care by the city child welfare agency some years before by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). She wrote about being abused in foster care and about how the fear of being taken again never left her.

To protect her privacy the 14-year-old did not appear at the news conference, and her name was not used.

Sadly, more than a decade later, her statement is relevant again, so we reprint it here:

 “I am scared of ACS”

I am scared of ACS.  All the news reports of the deaths of kids scares me. 

My Mom is being investigated by ACS now because the Board of Ed can't keep track of our home school records.

I'm scared because no one cares that Mom and Dad are not abusing me and my brother.  Nobody cares the only abuse I got was in the foster homes they put me in.  ACS took me from my family and put me with people who told me and my brother my family didn't want us.  I knew they were lying.  I knew my Mom would get us back.  That’s what I held onto during night after night of sexual abuse.

The foster parents didn't feed me and my brother all the time.  One time my brother took a cookie out of the fridge because he was hungry.  The foster mother beat him with a shoe.  I yelled at her I was going to tell my Mom because we were going to have a visit with her the same day.  The foster mother grabbed the broom and as I tried to run she hit me on top of my head.  Blood ran down my face and covered my shirt.  She put me in the bed and put a towel on my head.  It kept bleeding.

She took the other two kids for their visit with their Mom.  Later that night the agency caseworker came and took me to the hospital.  We never went back to that foster home, thank God.   I still have a big mark on my head were my hair won't grow because of that.  Later I found out the other foster child told the caseworker what happened to me.  The foster mother had called and said she couldn't make the visit. 

My Mom never beat us, she just made us turn the TV off and read.  I got beat in the foster homes they put me in but no one cared. The foster parents told me I was ugly and stupid.  My Mom always told me I could be anything I wanted to be in life, all I had to do was try. 

I never wanted to talk about what happened to me in the four foster homes I was in because I was ashamed.  I didn't want people to know what happened to me.  I wanted to write a story so everyone could understand there are kids who are scared of ACS.  ACS was not a savior to me.  I hate them so much but my Mom tells me not to hate.

Why do they do this to kids?  I had a Mom who loved me and took care of me.  Even if my Mom couldn't take care of us, we have a big family that would.  Instead, ACS put us in hellholes and for what? 

ACS sees all parents the same once the call is made.  My Mom and dad then have to prove why they should be allowed to keep us.  I think ACS should have to prove why they should be allowed to take kids.
We just moved downtown to a nice area.  I thought I could put all of the bad ACS memories behind me.   ACS called my new school and I don't want to go back there.  I don't want everyone looking at me like I'm an abused child.   I don't want them asking: Is everything ok at home?

We just moved into the building so everyone knows when ACS comes a knocking.

People always know.  I feel ashamed.  I want to leave New York City.  I want to leave so ACS can never take me and my brother again.  My Mom said we can't leave just like that while the case is open. 

I'm scared when I hear a hard knock at the door. I think they are coming.  I was scared to go to school because they will come to the school and remove me and put me in a foster home.  All because if my Mom and Dad don't do what they want, never mind they are not abusing us. 

I feel safer at home.  I feel like my Mom and Dad could keep them from taking me.  I failed a test I had to take for my new school on purpose because I'm scared ACS will come to the school and take me.  My head started to hurt every time it came time to leave the house.  Every morning I was sick throwing up and diarrhea.

I will be so glad when I am 18 and my brother is 18.  Then I know ACS will never be able to put us in a foster home again.

When I started to write this story, my Mom asked me: If I had a chance what would I say to ACS and people who read this?  I wanted to say please leave me and my brother alone and other kids who don't need to be put in foster care. ACS don't take us and put us back in those bad homes.  I want to be with my Mom and Dad.  I want to be a normal kid.  I don't want to be scared to go to school.  I don't want to jump every time there is a knock at the door.  I want to feel safe in my own home without worrying that acs is coming.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer... Psalm 18:2