Richard Buery, Children's Aid President and CEO, Responds to Calls for ACS Commissioner's Resignation

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The Children’s Aid Society serves tens of thousands of New York City children every day, including more than 4,000 children and families in the child welfare system. Ensuring the safety and well being of our city’s most vulnerable children is difficult work. It requires serious leadership, and I believe that John Mattingly, Commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), has been such a leader.

Commissioner Mattingly has offered strong, consistent guidance on child welfare and is a recognized national expert in the field. He understands what it takes to work with families in crisis and how to make the difficult decisions that caseworkers make day in and day out. Mattingly has also put in place several mechanisms to strengthen accountability – both at ACS and with private child welfare agencies. These have no doubt strengthened child welfare practices across the City.

The tragic deaths of Marchella Pierce and Kymell Oram have understandably increased concerns about the effectiveness of New York City’s child welfare system. They should. But I disagree with recent calls for Commissioner Mattingly’s resignation. These calls scapegoat the head of ACS instead of confronting the systemic challenges involved in protecting children from abuse. Not the least of these challenges has been the public underinvestment in child protective services.

A recent analysis by the Independent Budget Office of budget cuts at 10 city agencies from 2009-2011 found that ACS received the deepest cut – 26.4% – as compared to 5.9% for the fire department and 6.7% for the police department. Commissioner Mattingly has worked hard to minimize the impact of those cuts, but make no mistake: just as excessively reducing the budgets of the police and fire departments would necessarily impact public safety, excessively reducing the ACS budget impacts our ability to protect and serve New York City’s children. The bravery of child welfare workers is often not seen in the same light as the bravery of our law enforcement, emergency, or military personnel—yet the work they do to protect our most vulnerable populations is as critically important.

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS