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New Class Of Children's Services Workers Graduates

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A new class of Administration for Children's Services workers graduated Tuesday as part of an initiative to improve the system following the death of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown in January.

About 175 new child protective case workers graduated in a ceremony at Hunter College after completing six weeks of training and another three months in the field.

Following the death of Nixzmary Brown in January, the city announced a plan to overhaul ACS and gave the agency $16 million to hire 525 more workers.

ACS officials say they want the new case workers’ foundation to be rock solid.

“You will make decisions that in some cases will literally mean the difference between life and death for a child or survival or collapse of a family. That is a staggering responsibility,” said ACS Commissioner John Mattingly.

Caseloads increased by 40 percent since the Nixzmary’s death. But these new workers say they're ready to work hard.

"At first it was a little nerve wracking, but with the information that we've obtained through training I feel good about it," said ACS graduate Duane Ancrum. “Every day is a challenge. It's about breaking down barriers of people knowing exactly what we're there for. So it's a challenge, and it's not going to be easy by no means. [But] I'm ready. I'm ready.”

"There's no telling what the road may bring, but definitely there’s going to be challenges and their preparing us to handle everything," said fellow graduate Shantae Dukes.

ACS says the average caseload for a worker is about 18 families. Some were swamped with as many as 30 cases.

Prosecutors say Nixzmary was abused and killed by her stepfather.

The city admitted ACS missed opportunities to save her from abuse.

Meanwhile, some current ACS case workers feel they are being mistreated by management. They say that since Nixzmary's death there has been a 40 percent increase in work load and they are being unfairly scrutinized and disciplined.

They will hand out leaflets at ACS field offices on Friday to bring attention to their plight.
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