Some of our most-often overlooked first responders are getting their due after Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday declared June 3-10 appreciation week with child protective specialists being honored for the first time citywide.
There are 1,700 child protective specialists who work at 17 field offices across New York City, as well as 500 supervisors and managers who oversee these teams of first responders. They investigate nearly 60,000 cases of child abuse, neglect or work to help struggling families with children, according to the Administration for Children’s Services.
In Queens there are three offices in Jamaica consisting of 67 supervisors and 16 assistant supervisors who manage 308 child protective specialists in the borough, according to Chanel Caraway, a city ACS spokeswoman.
Some specialists focus on helping families in need of support services or work to protect children in sex abuse cases, while other units of responders are based in hospitals, or respond to cases of neglect or abuse on weekends or overnight, Caraway said.
One of the specialists being recognized this week is Edgar Kab from Forest Hills, who works at 92-31 Union Hall St. in Jamaica. He has worked as a child protective specialist at the Administration for Children’s Services for seven years.
“Children are our most vulnerable population,” said Kab. “If there is abuse going on in the home, they often can’t verbalize it and child welfare is relatively new in this country.”
The Administration for Children’s Services, the government-sponsored body tasked with protecting city children and families in need with kids, was established in 1962. It investigates and reports suspected cases of neglect or abuse of children, and if kids are being mistreated, the agency intends to put them in better homes.
“It wasn’t too long ago that there were orphans in the streets,” said Kab. “There used to be no oversight that the needs of our most vulnerable children were being met.”
Kab works with the hospital unit for ACS.
“There is this wonderful training I did on forensic interviewing and analysis with the NYPD,” said Kab. “For instance, in hospital cases, there are burns that are commonly associated with abuse and there are burns that are accidental, so we learn to identify if a burn is consistent with what a parent is saying and how a child became injured.”
Caraway and Kab want to use this Child Protective Specialist Appreciation Week to raise awareness about ACS’s other role, which is to help families on the brink.
“If you need support or resources, we are here,” said Kab. “We provide childcare vouchers, we purchase cribs, baby supplies, and we will advocate for you.”
In 2016, city Comptroller Scott Stringer accused the agency of not doing enough check-ins at troubled homes or follow-ups in cases of domestic violence situations.
Last year, the agency took steps to address those issues by hiring 600 more child protective specialists. They will employ an additional 400 in the coming months, according to ACS.
There will be a newly created quality assurance team that will provide real-time feedback on safety assessments, the decision-making of CPS staff and the service that they provided.
The agency has hired 28 percent more investigative consultants who are former law enforcement officers handling the most serious child abuse cases, and case aides will carry out more administrative tasks or help to supervise visits in order to help specialists.
ACS will also provide more counseling, substance abuse treatment, parental coaching, and other preventive services to over 20,000 families.
“CPS workers are first responders for children experiencing abuse and neglect, and the compassion, patience, and understanding they bring to these challenging situations help to put young people on a path to a better and brighter future, ” said de Blasio.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose
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