A recent report has found that public complaints of child abuse increased in the wake of two high-profile cases from 2016 involving New York City's Administration for Children's services (ACS).
Within the last three months of 2016, investigations of suspected child abuse or maltreatment rose by 1,383, a ten percent increase from the same period of time in the previous year. It is certainly no coincidence that this trend began immediately following the deaths of six year-old Zymere Perkins and three year-old Jaden Jordan - two unrelated incidents that occurred despite calls received by ACS about these children beforehand.
We have seen increased reporting after such tragedies before. What else happened as a result of the two high-profile cases being in the news?
- The number of abuse reports that were substantiated also rose by twenty percent compared to the previous year—from 19,980 to 23,981.
- ACS records show that 2,303 emergency removals – which take children from a home before the case is brought to a family court judge– took place between October 2016 and May 2018. This represents an increase of almost 30% compared to the previous 20-month period, according to the report from The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs.
- City spending on ACS investigative staff increased in the wake of the tragedies. Despite the fact that budgeting for investigative staff was a projected $105.3 million, actual spending totaled $127.8 million.
According to The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs:
Many say the surge of cases is driven by heightened anxiety and caution – both among members of the public, who are calling in more reports of possible child abuse and neglect, and among child welfare staff, who are responding to those reports more aggressively.
“At this point everybody’s so afraid, they’d rather cover their butts,” one caseworker who requested anonymity said in the report. “Take the case to court and let the judge say no (to an emergency removal). Then we can document we tried ... Nobody wants to end up with their face in the Daily News. They don’t want to face criminal charges.”