New York City's Association for Children's Services (ACS) was in the news again last week after yet another death of an abused child. Last year, severely malnourished four-year-old Marcella Pierce died in her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment weighing a scant 18 pounds and showing signs of other traumas. Her mother, Carlotta Brett-Pierce, was arrested and charged with murder, manslaughter and assault, but recently prosecutors charged three more people, including two ACS case workers and the girl's own grandmother, with contributing to her death. "Baby Marcella might be alive today had these ACS workers attended to her case with the basic levels of care it deserved, or had her grandmother stepped in and put a stop to the shocking abuse she is charged with facilitating," said Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes.
The indictment charges that the grandmother witnessed the little girl being tied to a bed and her crib many, many times. The indictment also charges that former ACS caseworker Damon Adams failed to make nearly all of the mandated biweekly visits to the Bedford-Stuyvesant home, and falsified ACS records to show he did; Chereece Bell, his former ACS supervisor, is accused of failing to properly oversee and monitor Adams' work with Marcella and her family. Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said, “I said at the time we announced the indictment of Marcella’s mother that this was not going to be an investigation that was going away. We are going to find out at long last what they’re doing at ACS to make sure there are no more child fatalities."
This story is so tragic on a number of levels. First, there is the girl's family...how could a mother inflict such brutal abuse on her child? How could a grandmother stand by while this happened? And please don't give me that crap about poverty creating an environment where the mother felt helpless and hopeless...that is pure B.S. How does being poor cause people to torture their children? You want to hold up liquor stores, I can see that. You want to give your child up for foster care, okay. But how does beating and starving a child help your poverty? Anybody who does this has to be seriously evil. I am as far from being a perfect person as anyone, so I have been trying harder not to judge people. I keep looking for mitigating circumstances that might justify such horrifying behavior, but I just can't imagine any.
Another criminal failure is the behavior of the heartless, uncaring ACS workers into whose hands poor Marcella's fate was placed. They must have understood that if this child was in the ACS system, there was a reason. Something about her family, environment or history caused a flag to be raised that warned: look in on this child from time to time. She is at risk for harm to befall her. How could they falsify reports saying they had performed this vital duty when they did not? Don't they have the brains to comprehend that every week that passes without them checking up on this child puts her one step closer to danger? Their caseload was not heavy; they were just too god damned lazy to do their jobs. I'm glad the D.A. is prosecuting, but some slick lawyer will probably get them off with a slap on the wrist.
Finally, the system itself failed Marcella and other children like her. ACS hires people totally unqualified for this kind of work. I'm sure there are good, hardworking case workers, and my thanks goes out to them for doing a very difficult job, but clearly not all can be trusted with the welfare, indeed, the very lives of at-risk children. There needs to be supervision, especially of new workers, until they prove they are competent and caring in working to protect the children placed in their care. Management must diligently make follow-up visits to ensure shortcuts are not being taken. New York City seems more interested in chasing traffic scofflaws than in monitoring the welfare of kids in the ACS system. This is a disgrace and it has to stop.
There are far too many stories in the news of children who are horribly abused by the very people who should be nurturing and protecting them. I hope there is a special place in hell for the monsters who engage in such unspeakable evil. In the meanwhile, if they need someone here on earth to pull the switch that fries these bastards, I hereby volunteer my services.
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