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Foster fiasco Boy on run two years after child protection lies in court

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on Fri, 03/16/2012 - 19:12


It’s a colossal foster-care nightmare that ended with the disappearance of a 7-year-old boy two years ago — and it didn’t have to happen.

Top-notch lawyers appointed by a judge to represent the interests of missing Patrick Alford claim that the child, who vanished from his Brooklyn foster home, could have been safe today if not for glaring missteps by city child-welfare workers.

The lawyers argue that the employees with the city’s Administration for Children’s Service outrageously misled the Family Court in their bid to prove the child was in danger and even required placement in foster care in the first place.
SAD: Mom Jennifer Rodriguez hopes for the return of Patrick (below), as ACS is under fire for putting him in foster care.
NY Post: Chad Rachman
SAD: Mom Jennifer Rodriguez hopes for the return of Patrick (below), as ACS is under fire for putting him in foster care.

It’s not clear why the workers did what they did to justify taking the boy. But they failed to disclose to a Family Court judge that, at the time, the child had actually been living at an aunt’s house and not with his mother, who was battling drug-addiction problems, lawyer Jonathan Lerner argued in papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

Child-welfare workers lied in a sworn affidavit by “falsely representing to the court” there was “an imminent danger to the child’s life” if he was not immediately removed, “when in truth” young Patrick “was in no danger, imminent or otherwise, from continuing in his aunt’s care,” the documents state.

Lerner, a senior attorney at the white-shoe firm of Skadden Arps now serving as pro-bono counsel for the child, said ACS “made no assessment” that the aunt’s temporary custody of the boy “posed any danger” when its workers decided to seize Patrick on Dec. 29, 2009.

When ACS workers met again with the aunt two weeks later, they even deemed her suitable to serve as a temporary guardian for the boy. But for reasons that are unclear, the child nevertheless continued to remain in the foster home until his disappearance, Lerner wrote in the scathing court papers.

Patrick, who would now be 9 years old, was last seen on the night of Jan. 22, 2010, after he apparently slipped off while taking out the trash with his foster mom at her East New York home.

Adding to the debacle, ACS put him with a foster mother who spoke only Spanish, even though Patrick spoke only English.

The child, who had documented emotional and educational issues, was so unhappy that he began to experience psychiatric problems and tried to run away on several occasions.

Despite a psychologist’s assessment that the boy urgently needed medication and psychiatric care, ACS failed to take immediate action to help the boy, Lerner charged.

This chain of events prompted a federal judge overseeing the lawsuit about the child’s disappearance to suggest that — if proven — the city could be liable for damages.

Lawyers for the city strongly dispute the claim that ACS workers deliberately misled a Family Court judge and contend that facts arose that led them to believe that leaving Patrick with relatives was not a good option.