Flora Markaj 0

We will no longer remain silent

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Please sign the following petition to demand the release of Damon Adams and Chereece Bell and that the criminal charges against them are dropped.  Copies of this petition will be sent to the local newspapers, the Brooklyn D.A’s office as well as the City Council Speaker’s office.  Copies could be provided to whoever would like to mail copies to their locally elected officials.


We will no longer remain silent

We demand that Mr. Adams and Mrs. Bell are released and the criminal charges against them be dismissed.  This type of "tough on crime" rhetoric is expected from an elected official but Brooklyn DA Hynes has seriously crossed the line.  Hauling social service workers in front of spectators and into criminal court is disgraceful and reminiscent of a witch hunt.  DA Hynes should be ashamed of himself for manipulating the law to placate a mob mentality.  As an employee for the Administration for Children's Services, our goal is to ensure the safety of the children we come into contact with by using the tools and resources available to us.  It is a daily battle.  The DA has single-handedly redrawn the line in the sand by indicting our brother, Damon Adams, and our sister, Chereece Bell, with criminally negligent homicide.  Repeatedly, ACS workers deal with hostility from the public.  We are expected to tolerate that.  Then ACS staff are assaulted by police and we are expected to tolerate that.  Now ACS employees are being charged with a crime and we are expected to tolerate that as well?  Not anymore.  We will no longer be silent.  We are not criminals. 


These are individuals who chose to serve the public in one of the most difficult social service positions, Child Protective Specialist and Supervisor.  The Commissioner testified in front of the City Council last week that the average CPS worker has 10.1 cases.  These numbers do not fairly depict the average worker's caseload since there are additional cases that are not calculated due to court involvement as well as the work that is expected of the CPS on each of their cases.  For instance, court orders from a judge are considered priority.  Therefore, court cases where the judge orders certain actions to be taken by the CPS team will immediately impact the ability of the CPS to work on their other cases since that court order will be the highest priority.  Therefore, prioritizing work becomes very challenging.  The list of expectations of what is to be done on each case, including court orders, is vast and too lengthy to mention here.  That list grows with every budget cut.  The comment that frontline staff will not be affected by the previous budget cuts or upcoming budget cuts must be a joke.  The consolidation of ACS with the Department of Juvenile Justice merged two large agencies under one Commissioner yet support staff were cut.  How is cutting staff not going to impact the frontline?  Certain tasks must continue to be completed so who will complete those tasks when the support staff is cut?  The frontline will be expected to complete those tasks as well.  And the list grows further.  Budget cut after budget cut seriously diminishes our ability to work efficiently and effectively with these families. 


Who are these families?  Most are families in some sort of crisis.  This is no surprise to CPS staff since we entered into this employment contract in an attempt to help people.  People have a variety of options for employment in NY from small business owners to the corporate staff of the financial district.  There are a small portion of New Yorkers willing to accept the grueling and thankless battle for social justice.  Let us not be under any illusion that this is an easy job where employees are twiddling their thumbs and intentionally ignoring the cries for help that we hear on a daily basis.   Let us also keep in mind that these families have rights and that ACS is expected to respect those individual and parental rights.  There have been many cases where ACS has attempted to remove children from a home with a parent that has mental health issues when a family court judge will return the child to that home and expect services to mitigate the danger.  This is also tying our hands when we see risk in a home but cannot violate a parent's rights.  We do not live in their homes and cannot monitor them endlessly.  These are daily struggles we face and help as many families as humanly possible.  We are not criminals.  


We are on the frontlines dealing with families in crisis and we enter these homes armed only with our social work skills to attempt to alleviate whatever crisis may be occurring at the time.  It is still not a felony to assault a CPS worker but the MTA bus drivers have that protection.  We have been physically attacked by irate parents, physically attacked by rash police and now physically imprisoned by the DA.  How many times must we redraw the line in the sand before entirely retreating from the social justice battle and leaving this career altogether?  There is already a high turnover in this field.  There will be a mass exodus as well as a serious difficulty in recruiting people.  Who wants to risk being charged with a crime and have to go through a legal defense of their actions when all they wanted to do was help people?  We are not criminals.   


The charge of criminally negligent homicide is stretching the definition of the charge and applying it against people who attempt to help society.  According to the NY Penal law: § 125.10 

A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person. Criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony. Criminal Negligence is defined as a gross deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person that is manifest in a failure to protect others from a risk (as of death) deriving from one's conduct and that renders one criminally liable. 


The key phrases here are “causes the death,” "gross deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person" and "deriving from one's conduct."  These social service workers are being charged with a felony.  This explanation does not account for the unreasonable expectations CPS staff face on a daily basis or the fact that one ACS worker cannot save a child's life.  Family law plays a large part in the removal of children from a home.  We can attempt to remove a child from harm but we cannot guarantee a child will be safe.  It is alleged that Mr. Adams did not do his job by not visiting this home.  Even if he did visit this home, the child could have been killed immediately after he left.  We do not live in the homes of our clients.  Applying this unprecedented indictment to social servants for a tragic death is a serious manipulation of the law.  Will the NYPD, FDNY and EMS be charged with criminally negligent homicide when someone dies because they were too busy to respond to the call for assistance?  I do not think so.  However, our colleagues are being charged with felonious crimes when they are not equipped with the same resources that the other departments have at their disposal.  Or, this could be an expansion of criminal charges into the civil servant fields.  This would coincide with the attack on public employees and the working class that is occurring across this country.       


Governments across the country are calling for budget cuts.  Many people support this move but do not realize the impact it will cause on society and social services.  ACS is overworked and understaffed as it is.  This is something hard to believe without working for the agency considering that the media only focuses on the tragic death of children that were in contact with ACS.  The media does not focus on the multitude of families that have been adequately serviced by ACS.  It is understandable to place blame on all parties involved however it is unrealistic to believe that ACS workers have super human abilities.  Child Protective staff have been demonized by many.  CPS only ask that law enforcement respect the workers’ individual rights as human beings and not attack their individual freedoms based on a manipulation of the law.  We are expected to abide by the law and expect the same in return.  We will not remain silent as our rights continue to be violated.  This attack on public servants across the country has met its match in NY.  Our voices will be heard throughout the demonstrations all the way to the voting booths.  We are not criminals.  We demand that Mr. Adams and Mrs. Bell are released and their criminal charges are dropped.




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