A surge in child abuse and neglect reports in the year since Nixzmary Brown was killed has overwhelmed judges and lawyers in New York City Family Court, says the New York Times. A grim picture of crowded and harried courtrooms emerged from a hearing yesterday, the first anniversary of the killing of Nixzmary, whose death at age 7 despite repeated warning signs of abuse galvanized calls for child welfare reform.
Last year, the number of children involved in new abuse filings rose 63 percent, to 1,285, and the number involved in new neglect filings soared 163 percent, to 11,224. The number of Family Court judges – fixed in state law at 47 – has not changed since 1991. The state's child abuse hot line recorded an 11.5 percent increase in calls last year. Ronald Richter, who oversees lawyers who represent the city in Family Court, said the agency had expanded training for lawyers, had given them BlackBerries to communicate better with the court and had lifted a residency requirement to make it easier to recruit and keep lawyers.