New York City’s history of failure to prevent fatal Child Abuse
” It’s been a series of broken promises between the city and many of its abused kids.”
*In 1874, a missionary named Etta Wheeler heard that a 9-year-old girl, Mary Ellen Wilson, had been routinely beaten by her guardians in their Hell’s Kitchen apartment — and no one could stop them.
Wheeler turned to the only organization able to help at the time — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
An ASPCA lawyer found a legal mechanism that allowed Wheeler to free Mary Ellen — and for the first time politicians began focusing on child protective services.
Eventually the city formed the Bureau of Child Welfare. In 1969, it was renamed Special Services for Children — the first of many reincarnations for the agency now known as ACS.
*On Oct. 6, 1987, cops responded to an anonymous call that said a child needed help inside a Greenwich Village apartment. Upon arrival, police found a 6-year-old girl, Lisa Steinberg, beaten to a bloody pulp and unconscious. A 16-month-old boy, Mitchell Steinberg, was tethered to a chair and covered in his own filth.
Police arrested lawyer Joel Steinberg, 46, who had illegally adopted both kids, and his partner Hedda Nussbaum, 45. Lisa died a month later and Mitchell was reunited with his biological mom. Steinberg was convicted of manslaughter in Lisa’s death. He served 16 years in prison and released on parole in 2004. Nussbaum testified against Steinberg and was not charged.
Soon after, Mayor Ed Koch renamed the agency to the Child Welfare Administration.
*On Nov. 22, 1995, horrified city officials reported the “worst case of child abuse they had ever seen” — and admitted they had been warned five times but failed to act. Elisa Izquierdo, 6, born to a crack addict, died after enduring years of physical, sexual and mental abuse at the hands of mother Awilda Lopez, who was convinced the girl was possessed by the devil.
Lopez made Elisa eat her own feces, mopped the floors with the girl’s hair and let her husband, Carlos Lopez, physically abuse the girl.
Elisa died after her mom threw her into a concrete wall. Lopez left the girl overnight while brain fluid slowly leaked from her nose. Lopez was convicted of second-degree murder. She is up for parole in 2018.
The city passed Elisa’s Law, which restructured city protection rules, after the girl’s death. Mayor Rudy Giuliani also renamed the agency yet again. The Administration for Children’s Services was formed and given its own commissioner. Just two years later, tragedy struck again — and repeated with frightening regularity.
* On March 29, 1997, 5-year-old Daytwon Bennett was found starved and beaten to death — under the nose of a city caseworker who visited his home 13 times but failed to notice his suffering.
His mother, Jocelyn Bennett, 27, had an eight-year history of child abuse. Daytwon’s emaciated body was covered in welts, including rope burns on his wrists. He was pronounced dead when his mother, using a fake name, took him to a hospital claiming he had a virus.
*On Nov. 8, 1997, Sabrina Green, 9, was beaten and burned to death by her older sister Yvette Green and Yvette’s boyfriend, Daryl Stephens. Sabrina was placed in her 32-year-old sister’s care in March and never showed up for school in September.
Attendance teachers, required to make a home visit after 10 absences, made only phone calls and never attempted to verify Yvette Green’s story that the girl was sick. Green had 10 kids of her own and ACS did a background check — even though Green was already under ACS investigation for abuse of one of her own children.
* On Dec. 3, 2000, a 15-month-old boy, Kyron Hamilton, died after he was beaten and whipped with a belt by his mother, Nicole Hamilton, 25. She said she beat him because he was annoying her while she tried to watch TV. ACS had investigated Hamilton in 1999 after an anonymous caller said she left her infant twins and Kyron’s older brother Tyon alone while she got high.
ACS closed the case after she attended parenting class and was referred to a drug treatment center. Hamilton pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Kyron’s death.
*On June 28, 2001, a 2-year-old Queens girl, Sydney Achan, died six days after she was found unconscious in her mother’s apartment. Sydney died of multiple skull fractures and brain injuries, the result of whiplash and blunt impact trauma.
Her mother, Deborah Achan, 29, hired a lawyer and refused to speak to cops, as did her boyfriend Israel Lopez.
Sydney’s father eventually sued ACS, claiming the agency overlooked his reports of suspected abuse. He noticed bruises on his daughter’s neck during a visit and took her to a hospital, then filed a report that he said the ACS caseworker, a new hire, had ignored.
~ To be continued… ~