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LI foster home sexual abuse case prompts inspections by NYC

Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, of Ridge, was arrested in

Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, of Ridge, was arrested in March and is accused of abusing at least five boys, and endangering two more. Credit: SCDA

The New York City Administration for Children’s Services will be inspecting about 500 foster care homes operated by the nonprofit that had overseen the Suffolk county foster parent charged last month with abusing boys in his care.

ACS last week suspended new placements of foster children with SCO Family of Services — which serves Long Island and the city — pending further investigations.

The agency has also requested documentation from Suffolk investigations into the foster home of the man accused of sexually abusing at least five boys, and has asked the city to conduct an independent review.

Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, of Ridge was arrested last month and accused of abusing at least five boys, and endangering two more. He is charged with 13 counts of felony sexual abuse and three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment after Suffolk police investigated complaints of abuse. He has denied he is guilty and is being held on $1 million bond.

SCO removed two boys from his house after the allegations emerged in January and placed them in other foster homes in the county.

The case revealed lapses in communication and oversight as more than 100 boys, most from New York City, were placed in his home despite a record of complaints and the decision by Suffolk more than a decade ago to stop placing foster children in his home.

In a broader policy change, the city will now contractually require all foster care providers to inform it of arrests and investigations of foster homes and parents, as well as actions taken by other jurisdictions concerning homes in which New York City children are placed.

ACS is putting those stipulations into effect while it asks the state to require them through “clear regulations,” for all jurisdictions, a city spokesman said Thursday.

It has asked the state Office of Children and Family Services to require all jurisdictions to notify other jurisdictions of State Central Register reports of abuse and of investigations in which both jurisdictions are involved.

“This would create greater regulation, building on new requirements that ACS is already placing on our providers until the state implements new regulations,” said the city spokesman in an email. “Our providers’ failure to self-report arrests, complaints and investigations could jeopardize their ability to continue providing services.”

In a statement, the city agency said: “Since ACS learned of these allegations, we have been collecting and reviewing pertinent information and, based upon what we have learned to date, ACS has made the decision that SCO’s intake will remain closed until ACS completes its investigation, the state completes its investigation and SCO implements a corrective action plan.”

It continued, “Closing intake at a foster care agency is a serious step that ACS does not take lightly. In this case, as part of ACS’ investigation, we will be visiting every foster home that SCO oversees. ACS contracts with 26 other foster care agencies, who will take in additional children as necessary, given the closure of SCO’s intake.”

Foster care placements in SCO group homes and with relatives are not being suspended.

SCO said it has been working closely with local authorities and law enforcement to “better understand the scope” of the case, and has asked an abuse risk management firm to recommend changes.

Rose Anello, a spokeswoman for SCO, has said its policy was to inform the city of abuse allegations after informing the state Office of Children and Family Services.

She issued a statement that said: “SCO has been working closely with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to review the situation. For the time being, a decision has been made to temporarily stop any new intake into a segment of our foster care program, while an assessment of our program is completed.”

The state has also ordered restrictions on placements by other local child welfare agencies with SCO, which was responsible for licensing Gonzales-Mugaburu.

Past allegations did not lead to arrests. Over the years, he adopted eight foster children and was regarded as being willing and able to deal with emotionally troubled children, most of them Latino.

CORRECTION: The agency that removed two boys from a foster home in Suffolk County was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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