New York City's public advocate on Wednesday sued the city for maladministration of its foster care system, alleging that widespread abuse of children and failure to reunify them with their parents or find permanent placements are the result of "structural deficiencies."

Public Advocate Letitia James alleged in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, that the 11,000 children in the city's foster care system spend twice as long there as children in the rest of the state and country, and children have one of the worst rates of substantiated maltreatment in the country.

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"Our foster children are suffering physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a result of a system that fails them every single day," James said in a statement.

But the city's Administration for Children's Services called the lawsuit an unproductive step, complaining that the number of children in foster care has been drastically reduced since the 1990s and the de Blasio administration already has additional reforms underway.

That view was seconded by the Legal Aid Society, which represents children in foster care proceedings in Family Court.

"The filing of this lawsuit is shortsighted," said Tamara Steckler, attorney in charge of juvenile rights. " . . . Foster care numbers are at an all-time low and collaboration is at an all-time high. We are concerned that this development may stall the progress being made."