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Dead Corona baby inspires ACS law

In the wake of an 11-week-old baby's death in Corona at the hands of his mother, the city Administration for Children's Services has revised its policy on children born to families with previously removed children.

The ACS's policy gives child welfare workers the authority to remove newborn infants from homes that already have had a child removed.

ACS Commissioner John Mattingly said the new regulations would make removing the baby the default action with such households, The New York Times reported last Thursday.

The text of the new policy appears to support Mattingly's comments, calling a caseworker's decision to allow the newborn to remain with the parents "the extraordinary instance," and requiring the review and approval of the ACS borough commissioner.

Rosemary Ewing-James, director of foster boarding home and adoption services for the Forest Hills-based foster agency Forestdale, said she did not believe the policy change would create any great increase in the number of newborns removed to foster homes.

"It's not been that common," she said, noting her agency handles around 150 cases a year. "We haven't had a tremendous number of babies coming into care."

The Queens case that brought these circumstances to the forefront involved 23-year-old Kiana Paez of Corona, who has been charged with second-degree murder by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. If convicted, she faces up to 25 years in prison.

Ewing-James said high-profile cases sometimes do cause changes in the way ACS handles cases, noting the number of removals have increased since the January 2006 murder of Nixzmary Brown at the hands of her stepfather.

"You begin to carefully scrutinize the cases that are coming in," she said. "Where in the past you might have been willing to put preventive services in or family preservation, you might make a decision to remove and give the family the opportunity to work on the problems."

Paez, whose previous child was removed by ACS a year ago, brought her son Pablo, then 6 weeks old, to the hospital April 3 around 9:45 p.m., authorities said. Doctors found the baby had a fractured skull, head trauma, bleeding on the brain, fractured ribs, cuts and bruises, Brown said. Police arrested her shortly thereafter.

City officials said Paez had passed all of her drug tests while pregnant, The Times reported. ACS declined to comment.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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