Stella Porsenna, a child protective specialist for the New York City Administration for Children's Services, was striking out trying to track down a man who had drug problems and a history of abusing the mother of his 1-year-old daughter. So she turned to George A. Flores, a retired New York City police officer. With a quick check of law enforcement databases, Flores discovered that the man was due in criminal court on a trespassing charge in September. Flores, whose soft voice masks a tough investigative mind, is one of 60 former police investigators whom Children's Services has recruited in the past year and a half to bolster the agency's 1,300 caseworkers, reports the New York Times.
They help locate hard-to-find parents. They give safety tips to caseworkers for volatile domestic situations. They tweak interview techniques. And they serve as a bridge to active law enforcement when child welfare and crime overlap. In addition to having special access to databases like domestic incident reports, the former investigators have much more expertise in interpreting records that are sometimes written in arcane code. The infusion of law enforcement expertise was part of an overhaul of the child welfare agency in response to the case of Nixzmary Brown, a 7-year-old who was beaten to death by her stepfather in Brooklyn in January 2006 after missed warning signs and bureaucratic lapses.