Thursday, June 2, 2011

Foster care in New York: John Mattingly’s broken promise, and the children hurt by it

The New York Daily News ran an excellent story Monday about schools using “educational neglect” charges to harass families, or simply to protect themselves, not the children.   The story documents case after case of children needlessly harmed by trumped-up charges. One school practically admits that the people reporting these families know that a lot of the reports aren’t really necessary:

"If we don't make a call when a student has been absent an excessive amount and something happens to the student when they should have been at school, then it will come back to us," said Achievement First [school] spokesman Mel Ochoa.

Then comes the usual boilerplate from the city child welfare agency, the Administration for Children’s Services:

 “ACS is appropriately required to investigate concerns of educational neglect when a parent is not making sure that a child is going to school, particularly when the concerns involve younger children."  

The best that can be said about this is that the flak who said it, Elysia Carnevale Murphy, is too new to the job to know better.  At least I hope that’s the explanation. Because she is flat wrong.

 ACS has to do something. While half the states are wise enough not to include educational neglect in the mandate of their child welfare agencies at all, New York State is not one of them. 

But New York City and the county agencies that handle child abuse allegations in the rest of the state no longer have to launch full-scale investigations.  They have the option of using an approach called “differential response.”

As Ive noted in previous posts to this blog, more than a year ago ACS Commissioner John Mattingly promised to try differential response in some educational neglect cases  – as recommended in a report from the Vera Institute of Justice.  Then, Mattingly reneged. 

The Daily News story gives some idea of the suffering Mattinglys broken promise has caused for New York City children.

ON MONDAY: How much has child welfare really changed in 84 years?