By Laura Nahmias, Politico.com
Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion is resigning from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, City Hall confirmed Monday.
In a letter dated Dec. 12, Carrion wrote that she decided to resign “after much thought and deliberation,” having come to the conclusion “that it is best for my well-being.”
“After 40 years of working on behalf of children and families, it is time for me to retire,” she wrote.
Carrion, who was well-regarded by many children’s welfare advocates, had come under increasing scrutiny in recent months after the high-profile deaths of two children who were involved with ACS: Six-year-old Zymere Perkins and three-year-old Jaden Jordan.
Carrion wept openly at a public City Council hearing in October this year as she discussed the Perkins case, which is under investigation by the City and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
De Blasio vowed reforms in the aftermath of Perkins’s death, and also defended Carrion against calls for her resignation at the time.
In a statement Monday announcing he had accepted her resignation, de Blasio said “Gladys has spent four decades serving the public with excellence and an unparalleled commitment to the children and families of New York. Gladys’ leadership and reforms have ushered in a heightened level of accountability and performance at the Administration for Children’s Services.”
The mayor said that a search is “already underway” for a successor, and “New Yorkers can rest assured that the Administration for Children’s Services will continue to be led by a passionate reformer who demands results.”
In her letter of resignation, Carrion wrote that “my decision in no way negates the tremendous strides that we as an agency have made.”
This year, ACS has been criticized in two separate city reports. A May report from the Department of Investigation identified problems with how the agency handles child abuse investigations. And a June audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer identified 30 cases in which children under ACS supervision had died because of what Stringer identified as poor oversight and bad investigative work.
In a statement Monday, Stringer called Carrion “a dedicated public servant,” but added that the city is “failing our most vulnerable children. Whether its kids being put in dangerous foster care homes, cluster sites with serious violations, or commercial hotels where there are no services, the status quo is unacceptable.”
“City Hall must breakdown agency silos and put forward a clear, transparent plan for reform,” he said.
The deaths of Perkins and Jordan came as the city is opting to send fewer and fewer children into foster care. In Fiscal Year 2016, that number declined 10.6 percent from the previous year, from 11,098 in 2015 to 9,926 in 2016.
Perkins was allegedly killed by his mother’s boyfriend in late September. The boy’s mother, Geraldine Perkins, had been the subject of five separate ACS investigations over the course of her son’s life. ACS has suspended five staff members, pending the outcome of investigations into the circumstances that contributed to Perkins’s death.
Jordan, the three-year-old from Brooklyn, died last week after lingering in a coma following a severe beating from his mother’s boyfriend in late November this year. A tipster called to report suspected child abuse at the boy’s home, but gave the wrong address to ACS investigators.
City data shows that the caseload for ACS child protective workers has been increasing in recent years, from an average of 8.7 cases per worker in Fiscal Year 2012 to 10.6 in FY 2016. And the number of reported abuse or neglect cases also rose slightly last year, from 54,926 in 2015 to 55,329 in 2016, after declining for several years.
In a joint statement Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council General Welfare Committee chair Stephen Levin thanked Carrion for her work in the city and said, “In light of recent tragedies, it is clear that ACS must fully commit to working with the City Council to enact needed reforms to save lives and better protect families.”
Carrion will stay on until a replacement is found and she is not taking another position, so her departure is effectively a retirement from government, a city hall spokeswoman said.