rules to Faheem Williams
celebrating the restructuring of DYFS and the reform
of Human Services,
someone in Trenton should come up with a way to
the 7-year-old boy who died tragically in Newark
early last year.
McGreevey signed the reform legislation that
overhauls the overwhelmed
and embattled Division of Youth and Family Services.
The measure should
be called Faheem's Law.
1,000 caseworkers, which should relieve the constant
were spread too thin because each caseworker was
overloaded with work.
Additional support staff positions were also
it sweeping reform legislation or a bureaucratic
Band-Aid, the plan
would have come into being had it not been for the
untimely death of
Williams. McGreevey held a bill-signing ceremony
Friday at St.
AME Church in Orange.
there cannot be a legacy greater than fixing a
system that was clearly
broken and, God willing, to save one child's life,"
out from behind the shield of silence he's built up
around himself to
questions about his private life.
there to talk
about how the new law would restructure DYFS and
and tragedies like Faheem, whose emaciated and
lifeless body was found
stuffed in a plastic storage container. In previous
years, his family
been visited by DYFS caseworkers, who failed to
detect the abuse and
adopt corrective measures, but deaths due to abuse
mounting. Toward the end of 2003 the agency faced
case in South Jersey - 18-year-old Bruce Jackson and
- where caseworkers failed to notice four starving
boys at a home
visited for several years.
or retooling seems to be enough put a major dent in
Faheem Williams died in January 2003, setting in
motion a flurry of
designed to prevent such things from ever happening
again, yet by
end the number of dead kids was 37 - a five-year
has included drowning, beating, stabbing, fire, or a
injuries and sex abuse were horrendous, but not
21 deaths have been reported to DYFS, nine of which
as abuse or neglect.
of Faheem's death was blunt trauma to the stomach,
and a cousin was
with aggravated manslaughter.
not monitoring the boy's home life, and two
caseworkers took the fall.
The agency had closed his case file without
accounting for the welfare
of Faheem, his twin brother Raheem, and other
children in the
Eleven months later, police found his body after
being alerted by a
who had discovered his two brothers in a basement
and starving. If there is any consolation in
Faheem's death, it's that
it lit the fire under the administration, which was
forced to take a
look at DYFS dysfunctions and make some radical
be permanently memorialized and given official
credit for making 2003
watershed year in child protection.
the government to stop contesting the Children's
Rights Inc. suit filed
on behalf of New Jersey's children, enter into
consent decree, and
the slow process of building a structure that could
from abuse and death. Eventually, in the most
perfect of worlds, the
reforms sparked by Faheem's death will prevent the
deaths of the
other vulnerable children.
children are riding on fixing a system that the
hasn't worked in the past decade, and hasn't worked
to prevent dozens
deaths since Faheem's.
Aaron can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
hide details of DYFS' role in child deaths
constitute a trend?
July 28, 2009
Under a new state
when a child under state supervision dies, details of
the actions of
child welfare workers responsible for that family's
case will no longer
be made public. Instead officials plan to compile
periodic reports on
any "trends" they spot in the handling, or
mishandling, of child abuse
and neglect cases that end in fatalities.
of the Child Advocate has generated individual
that detailed how the Division of Youth and Family
what went wrong and what lessons could be drawn from
plan will have
the Child Advocate and DYFS work with yet
another state panel, the Child Fatality and
Near-Fatality Review Board,
to issue periodic reports on statistics and trends in
cases. Details of individual cases will remain
that's been made in reforming DYFS over the past
six years, this marks a step backward from public
the death of
7-year-old Faheem Williams in 2003 that drew back
the curtain on dysfunction within DYFS. After his body
stuffed in a closet at his aunt's house, it turned out
that the agency
had lost track of him and his brothers and closed out
without knowing what was happening to them.
death and the exposure of DYFS's failings result
in a major overhaul of the agency, it prompted a
in calls to the state's child abuse hotline.
the state wants
the public in the dark. No more details about
interventions that did
not work. No more information about children who were
not removed but
should have been. No more reports on families who were
we won't learn
more about, for example, the case of 9-year-old
Jamarr Cruz, beaten to death in March, allegedly by
boyfriend. Jamarr had been under DYFS supervision
since 2007. Agency
records show the caseworker failed to visit the Cruz
home one last time
before closing the case last year.
individual cases is not a good way to tell if
the system is working and that its new policy is
designed to protect
families from harmful publicity. But when a child dies
from abuse or
neglect, particularly when that child has been under
the supervision of
DYFS, the public has a right to know just what went
wrong and why, and
who is accountable.
is its own tragedy. Each case should be fully