By MIKE LEE
The new commissioner for the Administration for Children’s Services is ready to work with the union in helping the embattled agency, and he promised new money in the mayor’s executive budget for additional Child Protective Specialists, members of SSEU Local 371.
These workers endure low pay and heavy caseloads, while doing some of the most dangerous jobs in New York City: investigating cases of child abuse and monitoring at-risk families.
ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell took over the agency in March after the resignation of Gladys Carrion, who left in the wake of high-profile child deaths, most notably Zymere Perkins in September 2016.
Hansell has a distinguished three- decade career in public service. Before being named by Mayor de Blasio to head ACS, Hansell worked for President Barack Obama at the Dept. of Health and Human Services and also served as chief of staff of the Human Resources Administration under Mayor Michael J. Bloomberg. He recently headed KPMG’s Global Human and Social Services Center of Excellence.
At a hearing before the City Council’s Juvenile Justice Committee at City Hall on March 27, the new commissioner laid out new ideas to increase the budget at the agency, including more support for the workforce, as well more money for preventive services and other reforms.
Acknowledging that the high-pressure workloads of ACS caseworkers and other workers has created a 15 percent staff attrition rate, Hansell told the council members that he received assurances from the mayor that he supports providing more help for ACS.
At the press conference when Hansell’s appointment was announced, the mayor said an additional 100 caseworkers would be added by April.
The frontline jobs — daily protecting children from harm — have added undue stress on these workers. When Hansell was hired, ACS had a staff of 6,ooo during a time when reports of child neglect and abuse have increased since last year.
Hansell spoke highly of DC 37’s efforts in advocating for the ACS workforce. He said he looked forward to working with the union to improve conditions workers and the children the agency is responsible for protecting.
“Our staff carries out some of the toughest, most challenging work in this city,” Hansell said, adding that he will be spending time with frontline staff on visits to every borough office of the agency.
SSEU Local 371 President Anthony Wells, who worked with Hansell when the latter was at HRA, spoke favorably of his appointment.
“I am looking forward to working with the new commissioner,” Wells said. “David Hansell has decades of experience as an activist and professional in social services. We are cautiously optimistic that David will make a difference at ACS and be very supportive of the workers.”
This article appeared previously in the May 2017 issue of Public Employee Press, the official publication of District Council 37, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.