Public Advocate Bill De Blasio Criticizes The City for Criticizing His Report On Child Deaths

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Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who plans on running for mayor in 2013, released a report over the weekend on child deaths in the City -- calling on the Administration for Children's Services to implement a more comprehensive system for assessing cases of abuse and neglect.

De Blasio argued that there are some alarming trends in the child deaths that have occurred in the child welfare system, and that ACS can do more to address these problems systematically. The public advocate's report, based on a review of 75 child fatality reports released between January and December 2011, got some press over the weekend -- which gave the City a chance to fire back at de Blasio. In this New York Times piece published on Saturday, officials from A.C.S criticized the report, calling it "disingenuous and misleading."

"A.C.S. has been working for the past several years to counter the trends alluded to in this report," Michael Fagan, an agency spokesman, told the Times. He cited several strategies, including a weekly review of cases, a new public service announcement campaign on safe sleeping for infants, and the addition of 60 former law enforcement officers to the 50 already on staff.

Runnin' Scared reached out to de Blasio's office today to touch base about the City's response to his report. He's not pleased.

We didn't have a chance to get him on the phone, but his office sent along a statement to Runnin' Scared that jumped on the City for its defensiveness.

"We have to treat every one of these deaths as preventable," he said. "I don't know how anyone can read these 75 reports and come away feeling we did everything humanly possible to save these kids. I thought the City's official response to our research was out of touch," he said in the statement.

The report found that fatalities often occur following multiple reports of abuse and that deaths occurred in families with an average of more than five reports (Four families had over 15 accounts). Additionally, mothers were found to have a history with the child welfare system themselves as children. De Blasio also argued that unsafe sleeping arrangements and a lack of stable housing were common amongst these families.

With those findings, de Blasio recommended ACS create a system that triggers comprehensive assessment of cases involving multiple reports. He's currently pursuing City Council legislation to set up a "High-Risk Review Panel" that would be made up of outside experts. He also called on ACS to broaden outreach on safe infant sleeping arrangements. Finally, he recommended ACS partner with the Dept. of Homeless Services to review families in shelter and identify those facing multiple risks.

De Blasio's office said that the public advocate, who has been a loud critic of the mayor on many occasions, was disappointed with the City's response to the report, which was released six years after the death of Nixzmary Brown, a 7-year-old beaten by her stepfather.

De Blasio's office did make an effort to be cordial with the City in its statement to us today, adding, "We commended ACS for the progress it's made since Nixzmary's death, but we need the agency to do better and act on some of these red flags sooner. That's an honest critique that they should take seriously."

[SamTLevin / @SamTLevin]


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