child welfare agency criticized in audit News

| 06 Jun 2016 | 12:10

New York City’s child welfare agency failed to properly oversee a citywide juvenile justice program when its workers didn’t make required visits to group homes or routinely check on the condition of children who were sent to the homes, the city’s comptroller said in an audit.

The audit alleges that workers for the city’s Administration for Children’s Service, which oversees a program known as Close to Home, routinely failed to meet with children in the program and their families, or ensure that they were getting help from the providers who were contracted by the city. The program tries to house minors between 7 and 15 years old in residences near their relatives and schools instead of in far-off detention centers.

The agency “abdicated its responsibility to oversee this program and robbed hundreds of New York City children of the opportunity to get back on the right track,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer told The Associated Press. “It is outrageous that ACS has no idea if windows are locked, if children are receiving care or providers are doing their job. They are sounding a loud message that these kids don’t deserve the necessary follow-up.”

Stringer said two-thirds of Close to Home group homes didn’t receive a single unannounced visit in 2014, even though workers were required to make both announced and unannounced visits to every site. He also alleged that workers often failed to make required phone calls and didn’t show up for required visits to check on the children.

“The safety of our young people -- and communities -- is paramount,’’ ACS Deputy Commissioner Jill Krauss said in a statement. “Over the past year, ACS has added experienced staff to monitor the safety of programs, enlisted the NYPD to assess security at all Close to Home sites, and, since 2013, we have shut down three programs that were unable to adhere to our standards.”

Last year, authorities arrested a worker at a now-closed Close to Home program group home after three teenage boys escaped on his watch and raped a woman. Prosecutors said the worker had made false entries in a group home logbook indicating he checked on the boys every half hour and that they were in their beds. Three additional group home staffers were arrested in April. They have all pleaded not guilty. The boys were charged as adults with raping a 33-year-old woman in Manhattan.