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NYC parents file class action suit against child services

A Brooklyn mother, and eight other parents are represented in a new class action lawsuit in federal court by the Family Justice Law Center.
NYC parents file class action suit against child services
Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 26, 2024

Shalonda Curtis-Hackett says her pain is still intact.

"I wake up sometimes from dreams about having to go get my children from a place or from a stranger," she said. "I'm never in a space of healing. This is not a 'healed thing.' I'm not over it."

The mother of three in Brooklyn says her family’s nightmare began in 2021 when she received a call from New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services Agency. 

"I received a phone call from an ACS worker stating that there is an allegation against me pertaining to my children," she said. 

Curtis-Hackett says the ACS caseworker bullied, deceived and coerced her way into her home.

"She did state that she would have to come see my children and that if I didn't allow her to come, she would have to come with the police," she said. 

The Brooklyn mother,and eight other parents are represented in a new class action lawsuit in federal court by the Family Justice Law Center, an organization dedicated to preventing unnecessary family separations. 

David Shalleck-Klein, founder and executive director at the Family Justice Law Center, says the lawsuit isn’t intended to stop ACS investigations, it’s intended to crack down on what he calls illegal searches.

"By using these highly coercive tactics to enter homes and search homes, is harming the very children who they're tasked to protect," he said. "They look under beds. They pull out drawers. They read labels in medicine cabinets. They demand their children lift up their shirts and pull down their pants and disrobe." 

In a statement to Scripps News, Marisa Kaufman, an ACS spokesperson, said "ACS is committed to keeping children safe and respecting parents’ rights. We will continue to advance our efforts to achieve safety, equity, and justice by enhancing parents’ awareness of their rights, connecting families to critical services, providing families with alternatives to child protection investigations, and working with key systems to reduce the number of families experiencing an unnecessary child protective investigation." 

Every year ACS conducts over 50,000 investigations. According to the latest city data, a little over 28% of those inquiries resulted in findings of child neglect. ACS annual data shows Black and Latino families made up about 80% of reported cases last year. 

The city itself has reported that a Black child has an almost 50% chance of ending up in an ACS investigation by their 18th birthday. 

"The ways in which the family policing system, CPS and ACS deals with Black families in particular is very different than the ways in which they deal with it with White families," Curtis-Hackett  said. 

Curtis-Hackett said she found out that an anonymous caller had accused her of child neglect. Shalleck-Klein says the city agency’s investigation later found the accusation to be baseless.

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