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Category Archives: New York Child Protective Services

NYC Family Court judge denies Child Protective Services permission to enter hotline subject’s home

In a decision posted yesterday, Kings County Family Court Judge, Jeanette Ruiz, refused to grant the Administration for Children’s services permission to enter the home of J. Smith. Children’s Services had applied for a pre-petition ex-parte court order as part of an ongoing investigation which began when someone anonymously called the State Central Register hotline on J. Smith in July of 2009.

To read the rest of this story, please visit the above link

Parents rights activist Murtari imprisoned for chalk protest, and released

Parent activist and founder of, John Murtari was arrested today in Lyons, NY after a peaceful protest for family rights.

Murtari started this protest for the You’re the Parent Notification Act in early Oct. by writing with children’s chalk on the walkway in front of Assemblyman Oaks office. That didn’t end in arrest, so on Oct. 26 he moved the protest to the sidewalk in front of the Village offices police station.

When that didn’t get the result he wanted he moved the protest to the Wayne County Courthouse in Lyons.

Police investigate baby’s death

By Don Lehman

GLENS FALLS — Police and Warren County officials are investigating the death of an 8-month-old baby in a Montcalm Street apartment, a death that happened weeks after the county Department of Social Services removed the baby from the home because of conditions there but then allowed him to return.

A union official said Thursday that he believed “Social Services failed that baby,” at least in part because of job cuts and an agency restructuring that occurred in recent months. The official, labor relations specialist Jon Premo of the Civil Service Employees Association, said Social Services employees had been expressing concern since the summer about being able to do their jobs amid budget cuts.

It has not been determined how the child, Hayden M. Jones, died, Glens Falls Police said. The child was sleeping on a couch with his mother, Amber LaBarge, on the morning of Oct. 11, and when LaBarge awoke, the baby was dead.

An autopsy performed on the child could not pinpoint a cause of death, but the investigation is continuing, said Glens Falls Police Detective Sgt. Paul Frettoloso.

No natural causes for the death were found, but there was no trauma or any other indication of foul play, and no charges were filed, he said. Police have theorized the baby suffocated.

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said authorities are awaiting a final autopsy report.

Hayden had been removed from the home over the summer after the Department of Social Services received a complaint about conditions in the 12 Montcalm St. apartment where he had been staying with LaBarge and at least six other people. Hayden’s father was not among those living there, officials said.

The home was littered with garbage and considered unfit for the baby, authorities said. So the child was given to his father, Joshua Jones of Hudson Falls, until conditions at the Montcalm Street apartment improved.

Glens Falls Police Officer John Norton, who was one of the first officers to arrive at the home Oct. 11, said the apartment had no electricity or hot water, maggots in the kitchen and bathroom, and garbage strewn throughout. He said the conditions were bad enough for officers to notify the city Building and Codes office about apparent code violations.

John Ward, the city’s code enforcement officer, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

It was unclear whether workers with the Department of Social Services checked the home after Hayden was allowed to return to LaBarge’s care.

“I think if they had gone back there they would have removed the kid again, definitely,” Frettoloso said.

“It obviously passed the standard to put the child back in the home, but it didn’t stay that way,” said Glens Falls Police Detective Sgt. Peter Casertino.

Hayden did have a crib and clean clothes, and seemed in good health overall before his death, Frettoloso said. LaBarge did not have her own room or bed, and slept on the couch.

It was unclear when Hayden was returned to the Glens Falls home.

In a phone interview this week, LaBarge, 19, said the baby was returned to the home a few weeks before his death, but she could not pinpoint the date.

She said she had asked the Department of Social Services for help earlier this fall because she wanted to get out of the apartment, which is where her mother lives, because she knew the conditions were bad for the child. She said she was told there was a waiting list for “temporary assistance.”

“I told them I needed to get out of there,” she said. “I did everything I could to get out of that place for my baby.”

Labarge, who works at a local fast food restaurant, said she slept with Hayden on the couch the night of his death because he had been “screaming his head off.” She said she thought he was teething.

She said she understood police were continuing to investigate the death, but said, “I’d never hurt my son. That was my baby. I would have done anything for him.”

Premo, a labor relations specialist for the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents 480 Warren County workers, including employees of the Department of Social Services, said workers in the department have expressed concerns to him about their ability to do their jobs in light of cuts and changes to the department in recent months.

He said five caseworkers quit over the summer after a restructuring that changed the on-call caseworker system.

An agency restructuring last month eliminated six jobs, and some were “direct supervisors” that, Premo said, oversaw and assisted caseworkers. Additional layoffs happened during a round of cuts during the spring.

In e-mails to a reporter dating back to late August, Premo relayed concerns that the apparent problems at the Department of Social Services could hurt the services the agency provides and result in a tragedy.

“I do think this is related to the cuts and restructuring,” he said Thursday. “Everybody has been moved from their chairs. It’s a difficult situation. There seems to be blame all-around.”

He said he had discussed the baby death situation with employees of the department, but was not at liberty to say what he believed happened.

Sheila Weaver, the county’s commissioner of social services, said Wednesday she “could not confirm or deny anything to do with” the Hayden Jones case.

Fred Monroe, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said Weaver briefed him and County Attorney Paul Dusek about the case recently.

He said it is standard practice for the chairman of the board and county attorney to be notified when a child who had been subject to Department of Social Services action died, though it hadn’t happened before during his two-year tenure at the helm of the board.

“They both cautioned me that we couldn’t say much because there are privacy aspects,” Monroe said.

Dusek did not return a phone call about the matter Thursday.

Social Worker Accused Of Scam


Official: Baffi Promised Help for A Price

Kathy Carvajal

MINEOLA, N.Y. – An employee of the Department of Social Services was arrested for taking thousands of dollars from a Peruvian couple with promises to bring their children to the United States.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office says Tula Baffi, 42, “exploited a hardworking couple’s desire to give their children a better life… she preyed on them… she believed they wouldn’t come forward.. she was wrong,” says Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

The couple paid Baffi $11,500 over the course of a year.

Officials say Baffi convinced the family that her government job gave her the authority to bring the children into the United States. She also traveled to Peru at the couple’s expense in July 2006 but did not return with the children.

The D.A. says in 2007, Baffi agreed to pay back the family but only made one payment of $500.

Administration for Children’s Services under fire after Shamar Collins, 9, is struck dead by SUV


Shamar Collins

Shamar Collins

BY Joe Jackson and John Lauinger


Tuesday, August 25th 2009, 4:00 AM

The Administration for Children’s Services is facing tough questions after a Brooklyn child was fatally struck by an SUV driven by a substitute foster parent while his actual foster mother was out of the country.

The vehicle that ran over Shamar Collins, 9, in Suffolk County, L.I., on Aug. 16 was driven by a woman who was caring for the boy while foster mom Maretha Yanaris visited a sick relative in Puerto Rico, advocates said, citing the story ACS told the boy’s biological mom.

Shamar’s 7-year-old brother, Lamar Collins, also a foster child, was in the car and is “traumatized” from watching his brother get run over, the boys’ biological mother, Rhonda Millington, 40, of the Bronx, said yesterday.

Both foster parents were supervised by St. Vincent’s Services in Brooklyn, the advocates said. It was unclear whether ACS or the agency signed off on the substitute arrangement.

Millington has demanded an investigation, saying she was not asked to sign a consent form giving the substitute foster mom, who was not identified, permission to travel with her boys.

“Something is not right,” she said at Shamar’s wake last night. “I am angry because they shouldn’t have had my son out there.”

Advocate Mashon Baines, 39, of the National Action Network said Millington contacted the group after ACS refused to provide her with a police report.

ACS, which is paying for Shamar’s funeral today, released a statement yesterday saying that authorities have ruled Shamar’s death an accident.

“No charges have been filed against the driver of the car,” the statement said.

Read more:

Another Child In ACS’s Care Is Dead

By Donald Winkfield

[On The Spot]

A nine-year-old boy in the care of the Administration for Child Services (ACS), the New York agency, has died, The Black Star News has learned from sources.

ACS, which normally does not disclose such news, confirmed the child’s death when this columnist called the agency. “How did you find out?” a spokesperson asked.

The boy died last Sunday on Riverhead, Long Island. The Black Star News is withholding the boy’s name since he’s a minor. The Family Court entrusted the child’s care to St. Vincent’s Services for Children located in Brooklyn, New York, where he and other members of his family were removed from their home – then placed in a foster home. The child was not with the original foster parent, who was away on vacation when he died.

Both agencies involved were tight-lipped and refused to provide details, citing confidentiality issues, when asked why the boy was in foster care in the first place.

The authorities did not inform the mother of her son’s death for two days, The Black Star News has learned.

St. Vincent made it very clear ACS was answering all questions pertaining to the boy’s death. “I have been told by the Administration for Children Services that because a fatality was involved they would prefer to be the spokespersons. We basically are letting them handle the whole thing,” said Mary-Louise Morgan, spokesperson for St. Vincent’s.

It is the worst fear just about every parent has when their child is taken from their custody; that the child ends up abused, injured, or as in this case, dead.

“Everyone involved with these children has been deeply affected by this tragic accident,” ACS spokesperson Sheila Stainback, said, which is of course small comfort to the parents.

“We at NYC Children’s Services especially wish to express our sincere condolences to the families involved. Authorities have ruled the child’s death an accident and no charges have been filed against the driver of the car. We are providing crisis and bereavement counseling for the family, and we are working to ensure the safety and well-being of the surviving sibling.”

It’s only through these comments that this columnist learned that the death had apparently been caused by an automobile, which raises many other questions.

Where was the boy at the time of the death? Was he struck by a vehicle? Was he a passenger? Was he under adult supervision? On what basis was the death ruled an “accident”? Was the driver tested for alcohol level? Certainly the parents are entitled to answers to all these questions.

The Riverhead Police Department did not return my call, seeking more information about the boy’s death, before publication time.

Contact Winkfield’s press number: 646-387-8964; Email: for his consideration regarding covering your own story or mail documents pertaining to your case to: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423; or; call (212) 481-7745.

Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

Child protective services records requested by Wimmers’ attorney


Daniella Marie Sapienza

Daniella Marie Sapienza

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) – The Deerfield woman accused of killing her infant daughter was in Oneida County Court Thursday.

LeeAnn Wimmers’ attorney requested records from the Oneida County Department of Social Services – specifically, records from child protective services.

The judge ordered the records and said he would look them over and decide which are relevant to the case.

He should have those records within a week.

Authorities say the death of her daughter, Daniella Sapienza at their then-residence on Fineview Drive in Deerfield in April 2008 was ruled suspicious.

According to relatives, after the baby’s death, Wimmers was not only thrown out of the house, but later confessed to the crime.

In June, Wimmers, who at that point was living in Asheville, North Carolina, waived her extradition rights. With that, Oneida County Sheriff’s Deputies flew to Asheville to bring her back. That process took about 10 days, and she returned in July, where she appeared in Town of Floyd court, pregnant again.

She waived her felony hearing in Floyd Court and the case was then sent to an Oneida County Grand Jury for action.


Investigators await extradition of mother in 2008 infant death


Story Created: Jun 12, 2009 at 5:11 PM EDT

(Story Updated: Jun 12, 2009 at 11:23 PM EDT )

DEERFIELD, N.Y / ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office has charged a former Oneida County resident, now living in North Carolina, with second-degree murder in connection to the death of her infant daughter in Deerfield last April.

Authorities investigated the suspicious death four-month old Daniella Marie Sapienza on Fineview Drive in Deerfield on April 17, 2008. The investigation remained open, and now, 14 months later, the girl’s mother, LeAnn Wimmers, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder, which is a reckless murder charge, with depraved indifference to human life. That charge is a specific murder charge when the victim is an infant.

Wimmers currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and was charged by Oneida County Sheriff’s Investigators, who traveled to North Carolina this week in the suffocation death of her infant daughter.

Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Dawn Lupi, says Wimmers case has been adjourned for 30 days, because she is fighting extradition, and law enforcement needs a warrant to bring her back to New York.

According to Lupi, Wimmers lived on Fineview Drive with her daughter and the family of the child’s father at the time of the alleged murder. It is unknown, however, when Wimmers left New York State for North Carolina.

A look at Wimmers’ MySpace page shows a picture of her daughter, with the letters “RIP” in the upper right hand corner. Her photo albums also show numerous photos of both Wimmers and her late daughter.

Lupi says she credits the Sheriff’s Office’s diligent work over the last year in bringing an arrest in this case.

“In these kinds of situations, when it’s the death of an infant that appears suspicious, they can take quite a bit of time,” Lupi said. “There is a lot investigation that needs to be done, there are a lot of people who need to be talked to.”

Oneida County Sheriff Daniel Middaugh said that his investigators are currently in North Carolina, working to get a warrant to bring Wimmers back to Oneida County and face the second-degree murder charge.

The District Attorney’s office says that could take up to several weeks..

New York’s child abuse hot line can shield false complaints



First published in print: Friday, July 31, 2009

 Someone is saying terrible things about Nicole Rera.

What’s worse, they’re saying them to the state of New York via the hot line set up to collect anonymous reports of child abuse.

So far, none of the three sets of complaints against Rera, who lives in Gloversville, have been substantiated; the first two have been officially recognized as “unfounded,” while the third is still under investigation.

Rera’s trouble started in January, after she separated from her husband. The couple, originally from Long Island, had been together for 10 years and married for three. Rera says the marriage became increasingly stormy, leading to her decision to move from Florida back to New York with her three children, ages 6 to 10. Rera’s daughter and two sons have conditions that put them on different points of the spectrum for autism.

Not long after she initially settled in Troy, Rera was visited by investigators from Rensselaer County’s Child Protective Services, who said that a call had been referred from the state abuse hot line alleging that she had committed acts of sexual and physical abuse against the children.

Those charges were determined to be unfounded; a few weeks later, another complaint was received, investigated and classified as unfounded. A third complaint was made in May.

“It’s hell,” Rera said. “It’s frustrating. It’s living on pins and needles waiting for these people to show up.”

Needless to say, family services investigators don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which complaints to follow up on: They’re legally obligated to respond to every complaint of possible abuse. And that’s how it should be.

The baroque nature of the complaints against Rera — I’ll spare you the details, which are stomach-churning — suggest they come from someone with knowledge of family medical history. (Rera is unable to work due to various ailments, and lives on Medicaid and Social Security benefits, along with SSI payments to support her children.)

Rera’s husband could not be reached, either through conventional means or a database search.

Rensselaer County District Attorney Richard McNally says his office doesn’t currently have sufficient evidence to bring charges against anyone for filing a false abuse claim against Rera. In a two-decade career, McNally has never seen anyone charged with filing a false abuse claim.

There are two predominant reasons. First, the intentional filing of a bogus complaint is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail — a crime, to be sure, but not one likely to draw much attention from local enforcement agencies with limited resources and long to-do lists.

(Page 2 of 2)

Also, it’s nearly impossible to build a strong case that someone is abusing the system. Even after a complaint is determined to be unfounded, it would have to be flagged as either egregiously false or part of a pattern. Then local investigators would have to track the complaint back up the chain by matching phone records to the state hot line’s intentionally incomplete records. In order to preserve anonymity, the hot line itself makes no record of the incoming phone number, although the agency does note the time a complaint is received.

But even if law enforcement can link a complaint to a specific phone, they’ll still have to prove the identity of the person using it at that moment.

Like all systems that rely on guarantees of anonymity, from the Internet to government whistleblower programs, the abuse hot line is itself open to a different sort of abuse. The greater-good argument, however, is fairly bulletproof: Even people kind-hearted enough to call the authorities — about hearing terrible sounds coming from the apartment upstairs, or the unexplained bruises on the child who lives next door — need to be assured that an alleged abuser isn’t going to try to exact retribution against them.

Similarly, it’s hard to determine when multiple reports from the same source constitute a pattern of lies. If the fifth complaint turns out to be genuine, it doesn’t necessarily mean the first four weren’t bogus.

Regardless of how many intentionally false claims are made every year — the number could be dozens or hundreds — it’s certain that every one takes time away from the pursuit of genuine cases of abuse.

Any effective solution would have to protect the anonymity of callers to the hot line. A partial remedy the state could take immediately would be to reclassify an intentional false report — something clearly done with malicious motive — as a Class E felony, which would have a deterrent effect on perpetrators and could go a long way to encourage prosecutors.

The state hot line can be reached at (800) 342-3720. If you think a child is being abused, use it. But if you’re thinking of using it to get back at someone, do us all a favor and find another method.

Casey Seiler can be reached at 454-5619 or by e-mail at


Federal Court refuses to grant immunity to NYC Child Protective Services caseworker in lawsuit

The U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York has refused to grant immunity to a Child Protective Services caseworker from New York City in a lawsuit. Normally Child Protective Services caseworkers are granted limited immunity in lawsuits arising from their duties. However, the court on July 21, 2009 denied immunity to Marcos Cardenas for withholding information from his supervisors in a neglect proceeding.

Steven Friedman sued the New York City Administration for Children’s Services in 2005. Friedman had been the subject of a neglect proceeding brought by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. The information that Cardenas used in investigating Friedman came from Doctor Daniel Cohen. What Cardenas did not tell his supervisors, and did not include in the neglect petition, was that Doctor Daniel Cohen was involved in a romantic relationship with Steven Friedman’s estranged wife’s sister, Jennifer Masnick.


Op-ed column: No way to save children


Child Protective Services is a punitive and ineffective system

Sunday, July 19, 2009


When Child Protective Services in Montgomery County says, “Jump!” you are supposed to respond by asking, “How high?” If you don’t, they will try to make your life miserable. I know because I just ended a five-year battle with them. I was reported to Child Protective Services three times. The first time the investigator said there was no credible evidence to support a charge of neglect. The second and third times, she said there was, but she was overturned by an administrative law judge at fair hearings held by the Office of Children and Family Services.

Never in my life have I encountered the level of rudeness, deception, abuse of power and outright lying that I experienced in my dealings with Montgomery County Child Protective Services. Nevertheless, people continue to write letters to the editor of this newspaper accusing columnist Carl Strock of exaggerating and being unfair when he exposes Child Protective Services. I can tell you from experience that Carl Strock has yet to sound the bottom of the child protective cesspool, if indeed there is one.

Final insult

The final insult from Child Protective Services came at the first part of my last hearing, which occurred in April of this year. When administrative law judge Susan Preston asked each side to turn over the evidence they would be presenting at the hearing, Montgomery County’s Senior CPS investigator, Marsha Benjamin, handed over material that was part of my last hearing, material which had been sealed by the state. The distribution of sealed material is, if I understand the law correctly, a Class A misdemeanor.

My lawyer wrote a letter to the Department of Social Services notifying them that the material was from a sealed case. The department quickly withdrew from the hearing, and we received a letter from the state a few weeks ago notifying us that we had won the hearing.

I’ve written about Child Protective Services a couple of times in the past few years, and the conclusion that I came to in the past still remains: namely, that CPS needs to be overhauled. I’m not alone in that conclusion.

Buried deep in the enormous bowels of the Internet, I found a New York state-appointed organization, the Citizens Review Panels of Child Protective Services. I was amazed to find that there are three panels that regularly hold hearings about CPS, review CPS agencies and make recommendations to the Office of Children and Family Services. I read several of their annual reports and was pleased to find that many of their recommendations to New York State line up with mine.

Their recommendations include eliminating anonymous reporting, letting school districts deal with educational neglect, focusing on prevention, and revising civil service requirements for investigators. I highly recommend an article in the 2007 annual report which asks, “Is it time to rethink our child protection system?”

It essentially argues that in 1979, the child protective system was cobbled together in a hurry, changes over the years have made the situation worse, and only systemic reform will make a difference. Much of the article is summarized in the following paragraph:

“Today, Child Protective Services is a system to receive, investigate, and make determinations of reports of suspected child maltreatment.

 Originally conceived as a way to protect children by helping families to take better care of their children, the system has increasingly failed to achieve that goal. We pour billions of dollars into our child welfare system. And yet the deaths still come; after four decades, the number of deaths of children due to abuse has hardly changed. Indeed, experience has shown that highly-publicized deaths lead to more reports and more removals. Some observers have noted that greater removals, rather than making children safer, leads to more deaths.”

Fundamental questions

The panels state clearly that we don’t need any more Band-Aid solutions, such as laws named after dead children that make legislators look good but don’t answer the fundamental questions, which are as follows:

“Are New York’s children and families better off because of contact with Child Protective Services? For far too many, the answer is no. We call for a fundamental review of statute, policy and practice. Can a structure such as CPS really keep children safe? Can families needing help and engagement possibly be served by a punitive, criminal-justice model system? How can we mobilize other institutions to improve the lives of families and reduce maltreatment? And finally, how can we conscientiously separate the good elements of our current system from those that need improvement, and build upon the good?”

It is not just obscure people like me, or columnists like Carl Strock, who are asking these questions. The panels issuing these reports are made up of social workers, lawyers, educators, non-profit child welfare agencies and the like. Each panel is about as close to a blue ribbon panel as you can get.

They are asking the right questions. But is anyone in New York state’s Office of Children and Family Services or in the New York state Legislature listening?

Daniel T. Weaver lives in Amsterdam and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.


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