NYC Parents Unite: Taking Legal Action Against Child Services

NYC Parents Unite: Taking Legal Action Against Child Services

In a recent turn of events, Shalonda Curtis-Hackett, a mother of three residing in Brooklyn, has initiated a class action lawsuit against the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) in New York City. The lawsuit, represented by the Family Justice Law Center, alleges illegal searches and coercive tactics employed by ACS in child protection investigations.

Curtis-Hackett’s ordeal began in 2021 when she received a call from an ACS worker, notifying her of allegations against her children. The ACS caseworker’s approach, described by Curtis-Hackett as bullying and coercion, resulted in a violation of her privacy, leading her and eight other parents to seek legal recourse.

The Family Justice Law Center, dedicated to preventing unnecessary family separations, is spearheading the class action lawsuit against ACS. David Shalleck-Klein, the founder and executive director, underscores that the legal action aims to address what he deems as illegal searches conducted by ACS during its investigations.

These allegedly invasive searches include looking under beds, pulling out drawers, reading labels in medicine cabinets, and even demanding that children lift their shirts and pull down their pants.

In response to the allegations, Marisa Kaufman, an ACS spokesperson, emphasized the agency’s commitment to ensuring children’s safety while respecting parents’ rights. ACS aims to enhance parents’ awareness of their rights, provide critical services, explore alternatives to child protection investigations, and collaborate with key systems to reduce unnecessary investigations.

Despite these assurances, concerns persist about the impact of ACS investigations, which total over 50,000 annually, with approximately 28% resulting in findings of child neglect.

NYC Parents Unite: Taking Legal Action Against Child Services

Disturbingly, recent city data reveals that Black and Latino families make up around 80% of reported cases, highlighting a significant racial disparity. Furthermore, the city’s report suggests that a Black child has almost a 50% chance of becoming involved in an ACS investigation by their 18th birthday.

Curtis-Hackett asserts that the family policing system, along with Child Protective Services (CPS) and ACS, treats Black families differently than their White counterparts, contributing to the disproportionate number of investigations involving Black children.

Curtis-Hackett’s case unraveled when an anonymous caller accused her of child neglect, an accusation later deemed baseless by the ACS investigation. However, the emotional toll on her and other parents involved in the class action lawsuit persists, with ongoing nightmares and a sense of violation lingering.

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As this legal battle unfolds, it sheds light on the methods employed by child services agencies and raises questions about the need for a more equitable and respectful approach to child protection investigations. The case underscores the complex intersection of child welfare, parental rights, and the imperative for systemic change within child services agencies.

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