The 10-year-old girl's mother thought she was doing the right thing when she revealed to her NYC ACS caseworker that she often felt frustrated with her daughter's tantrums.
The girl had been diagnosed with ADHD. The agency had been involved with the mother due to the domestic violence she and her daughter had suffered at the hands of her former boyfriend. The agency was supposed to be providing "preventative services" to the mother and child. These would be things like assistance with counseling, transportation and housing. She never dreamed that confiding in the child welfare worker would result in her daughter being taken from her. But it's been nearly five months now that her daughter has been in foster care, and her mother is still fighting to get her back.
Our Bronx ACS lawyers recognize that this may be an all too common scenario. Case workers are trained to work closely with families in need. They gain the trust of the families with whom they work. The problem is that many of these caseworkers are often over-worked and underpaid. They don't always have the time or resources to launch a proper abuse or neglect investigation. But they don't want to be the one left holding the bag if something happens to the child. Believe it or not, it becomes easier to simply have the child removed.
As was recently reported by Al Jazeera America, the majority of families ensnared in New York's Administration for Children's Services arm are economically disadvantaged minorities. In addition to being misunderstood by case workers, they can be targeted by vindictive exes, nosy neighbors or well-meaning but mistaken teachers.
One option for children fighting to regain custody of their children is a program called the Child Welfare Organizing Project. It's a peer-to-peer guidance and counseling operation that offers an outlet for parents accused of neglect or abuse. Fellow graduates are then asked to attend the child safety conferences of their peers.
The program was founded in 2007 in Harlem. Records show that in looking at data from 2010 to 2012, those parents who were involved in CWOP lost custody of their children in 15.5 percent fewer cases. A similar program offered by the Center for Development and Family Services Inc. is available in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan.
What is likely to help to an even greater degree would be the involvement of a Bronx attorney experienced in handling ACS cases. While a parent peer advocate can attest to the judge your commitment to improved parenting, your attorney can aggressively challenge any unsubstantiated claims, request certain claims be returned unfounded and ask that your record be expunged.
The good news is that the ACS workers have become less inclined than they were just a few decades ago to put children in foster care. Where there were 50,000 children from New York City in foster care back in the early 1990s, that figure is now down to about 12,100.
Still, for those families embroiled in the system, it can have a profoundly damaging effect.
We are dedicated to helping families reunite - and remain together.
If you are the subject of an ACS investigation in the Bronx, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
Can parents accused of neglect redeem one another? Oct. 9, 2013, By E. Tammy Kin, Al Jazeera America
More Blog Entries:
Brooklyn Child Custody and Abuse Claims: Proving Your Case, Sept. 18, 2013, Bronx ACS Lawyer Blog