New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday named David Hansell, a former Obama administration official, to lead the city’s child protective services agency as it grapples with the fatal beatings of two boys last year who had been under the agency’s watch.
Hansell, a former assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will take over the Administration for Children’s Services, which has 6,000 social workers tasked with investigating about 60,000 child abuse claims annually.
“It takes someone with extraordinary compassion and extraordinary drive to keep working through these issues because bluntly, this means looking into some of the worst challenges of humanity,” de Blasio said at a news conference in Manhattan.
Hansell replaces former ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión, who resigned in December amid a public outcry over the fatal beating of Zymere Perkins, 6, of Harlem in September, and the beating death of Jaden Jordan, 3, in Brooklyn two months later.
Both boys had been under the watch of the agency. Child advocates and city lawmakers questioned why more had not been done to safeguard the children before their deaths.
ACS also has come under scrutiny from the city’s Department of Investigation, which last May issued a report outlining systemic failures at the agency such as caseworkers failing to properly track and follow up on abuse complaints.
Hansell oversaw child welfare programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and also served as commissioner of the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Hansell said he would conduct a “top to bottom” review of ACS “to strengthen what’s working and change what isn’t.”
He pledged to “do everything in our power to protect all of our city’s children,” and said he would work closely with NYPD officials to “identify opportunities for closer collaboration.”
The mayor said the agency’s overhaul would concentrate on “three immediate areas.” These include reducing caseloads for social workers, increasing funding for child abuse preventive programs, and improving training for caseworkers, he said.
Hansell, a graduate of Yale Law School, will assume his new post March 6, city officials said. He currently works for the consulting firm KPMG where he led the company’s Human and Social Services division, according to the company’s website.
Also Tuesday, the mayor headlined a town hall forum in the Bronx, where residents raised concerns about the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement plan and the president’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
De Blasio told the audience of nearly 300 residents the city would continue to fight the federal government’s plans, noting that NYPD officers will not serve as immigration enforcers.
“We don’t know where the federal government is going on all these issues...we don’t know how far they’re going to go, we only know what we will do, and what we won’t do,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said despite Trump’s calls to repeal the Affordable Care Act, recent protests throughout the country objecting to the repeal signal “the ball game is far from over.”
“The outcry is getting bigger and bigger...so I think there’s a very good chance that the changes to Obamacare will be fewer than projected,” de Blasio said.