Parents and Politicians Battle NYC ACS Abuse

 
Human rights advocates attribute these findings to a substantial increase in children being seized by ACS from families on false or flimsy evidence of “abuse” and then being put into a traumatic and abusive foster care system. Parents of these children have taken a proactive stance in their fight to regain custody of their children and have begun to expose the systemic failure of ACS.

Amber James
Amber James
July 24, 2008

Parents and Politicians Battle NYC ACS Abuse
By Amadi Ajamu

The New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) recently acknowledged that abuse and neglect complaints of children in foster care rose 12 percent last year (NY Post 7/21/08). Human rights advocates attribute these findings to a substantial increase in children being seized by ACS from families on false or flimsy evidence of “abuse” and then being put into a traumatic and abusive foster care system. Parents of these children have taken a proactive stance in their fight to regain custody of their children and have begun to expose the systemic failure of ACS.

Lateefah Carter, a member of the Masses United for Human Rights, said “ACS is making money off of our children. Many corporations, universities and religious institutions are involved in the exploitation of Black and Latino children in foster care. Victimized parents are beginning to understand the need to organize and fight together instead of individually. We are stronger when we unite.”

A July 2008 report by NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, “Calling in Abuse,” acknowledged an increase in false reports of child abuse, particularly in case where domestic violence is involved. “One phone call, one malicious report (to ACS), can keep a victim trapped in a cycle of abuse and harassment for years.” False and unsubstantiated reports of child abuse can occur in hospitals, schools, and with vindictive individuals. Gotbaum is calling for “making false allegations of abuse a felony offense.”

Republican State Senator Owen Johnson and Assemblywoman Michelle Titus have also entered the fray to quell abuse of children and families by ACS. The State Assembly recently passed legislation requiring th e state to conduct criminal background checks and reject foster care applicants convicted of violent crimes.

Titus joined Senator Johnson on his bill (S7963-A) to make it harder for the government to take custody of children whose parent is suspected of suffering from a very rare mental illness called Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Persons diagnosed with the disease are said to deliberately make a child sick or exaggerate symptoms in order to get attention from doctors.

Senator Johnson’s bill calls for a court hearing prior to the removal of a child based on an allegation of Muchausen and the child’s pediatrician or primary care physician would be allowed to rebut the allegation at the hearing. It would apply to any child currently in protective custody at this time.

Dr. Eric Mart, a forensic psychologist and internationally known expert on Muchausen questions its scientific and legal basis. “A wide variety of unsubstantiated or untested treatments and psychological tests have flourished in recent years. It is disturbing that the frequency of their use greatly outstrips their evidentiary base.''

Many families have been torn apart by this illusive disease. Last year, Marvin and Vanessa James lost custody of their six year old daughter Amber, after ACS alleged Vanessa had Muchausen. Vanessa has been repeatedly psychologically evaluated with negative diagnoses.

“We are very glad that Senator Johnson and Assemblywoman Titus have put forward these bills and would like them to be put on a fast track for passage. It has been a nightmare for us. We just want our daughter back,” said Marvin James.

Amber James has been in several foster homes and evidence of physical abuse in these homes has been reported.

A broad coalition of organizations and individuals will rally in front of ACS Headquarters on Wednesday, July 30, 2008at 12 PM, at 150 William St, Downtown NYC. For information call (718) 398-1766.

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