Life after Zymere: What it takes to keep NYC's kids safe
Hope in memory of Zymere (Facebook)
Zymere Perkins, only 6, succumbed two years ago today to fatal blows likely inflicted by his mother’s boyfriend — and to neglect by the city Administration for Children’s Services, which had investigated and aided the family only to close their case as dangers intensified.
Failures to follow up on reports of excessive corporal punishment. Failures to probe beyond his mother’s accounts of how Zymere sustained serious injuries. Failures to double-check her made-up story they were moving out of town.
Shock, followed by aftershocks: Jayden Jordan, 3, caged and fatally beaten in Brooklyn while investigators fumbled to find his address on a weekend. Michael Guzman, 5, dead of a medication overdose despite eight substantiated abuse investigations.
So jolting were these boys’ horrible ends, so evasive of accountability was Commissioner Gladys Carrión, that soon ACS had new leadership.
Hats off to David Hansell for turning a bureaucratic corner — not by promising impossibly to end child fatalities, but by fixing flowcharts and upgrading technology so that extended school absences get red-flagged, at-risk kids can be located 24/7 and emergency reports see swift responses.
Bosses set the tone, but then and now, the crucial work of this vital agency is done by the agency’s front-line employees, including 2,100 child protective specialists.
We at the Daily News rush to hold such men and women to account when they fail. We spend too little time and energy commending those who do the quiet, delicate, emotionally exhausting work well every day, making arduous judgments about when children are at such risk they should be pulled from their homes.
So, we asked to meet the people who do God’s work for modest pay. Consider us enlightened by a sit-down this week.
Brooklyn family support staffer Jill Campbell spoke of the Zen mindset needed to stride into any neighborhood and offer help to struggling families even while investigating them.
Supervisor Marie Henry urged parents in custody battles to stop burdening the abuse registry with frivolous complaints.
Emergency Children’s Services Deputy Director Letecia White spoke of the life-in-the balance challenge of fielding an abuse report: “The worst cases are where there’s no information at all” on a family popped up out of the blue.
Their labors enable so many kids whose names we will never know to thrive.