New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio recruited Gladys Carrión, the head of the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to serve as commissioner of the city Administration for Children’s Services, the agency that oversees child welfare and juvenile justice.
Carrión was appointed to lead OCFS in 2007 by Eliot Spitzer, and served him and two others (David Paterson and current Gov. Andrew Cuomo). In 2010, she took the lead in push to shut down several juvenile detention centers in the state. Many of the facilities had been included in a Justice Department investigation into abuse of juvenile inmates by corrections staff.
Carrión decried the conditions of several facilities, which actually came under the jurisdiction of her as OCFS director. In perhaps an unprecedented move, she sent a letter to juvenile judges in the state instructing them not to commit juveniles to her own facilities.
Carrión garnered national attention for her aggressive tactics, though some closer to the situation were frustrated by the Carrión’s lack of interest in engaging and negotiating with the local politicians and unions that stood in the way of a facility closures.
While this happened, the city withdrew somewhat from the state. Gov. Cuomo included funding for The Close to Home Initiative in his 2012/2013 budget, under which most juvenile offenders came under the jurisdiction of the city Administration for Children’s Services.
Now, only New York City juvenile offenders in need of secure confinement are placed in state facilities. ACS handles placements for all juveniles designated for “non-secure” or “limited secure” placements.
On the child welfare side, de Blasio has suggested that ACS had moved mostly in the right direction under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but that he might be interested in increasing attention at the agency to preventive services.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change