The Smallest Victims

Two more New York children are dead,

allegedly at the hands of their abusive parents. In both cases, the system

designed to protect them failed, and once again questions are raised about the

way in which we look after the most innocent among us.

Sylena

Herrnkind, 3 years old, was beaten to death in the Staten Island home she

shared with her parents and four siblings. Her plight was not unknown to

authorities. Investigators from the city’s Administration for Children’s

Services first visited the Herrnkind home three months before Sylena was born.

Later, Sylena and her siblings were placed in foster care when investigators

found that the oldest child had been abused. Sylena was eventually returned to

her parents, who, police allege, were soon

administering cruel punishments. The child died only 11 days after city

investigators decided-after once again visiting the household-that Sylena’s

bruises were the result of an accident, not of beatings. The investigators got

it wrong, and Sylena died.

In the

other tragedy, a 4-year-old girl, Signifagance Oliver, was drowned as her

mother allegedly attempted an exorcism ritual. The child had been removed from

her parents’ care in 1999 and was sent to Virginia to live with an aunt. City

officials could not explain how the child wound up back in her mother’s home.

Under

Nicholas Scoppetta’s leadership, the city’s child-welfare bureaucracy has been

making strides in overhauling a deeply flawed system. But the appalling deaths

of these two little girls speak volumes about the continuing

failure and stunning incompetence of those whose job it is to protect the

city’s most vulnerable residents.

As

Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg prepares to bring new ideas to City Hall, he must

resolve to devote more time, talent and resources to the city’s child-welfare

agency. Innocent lives depend on it.

Fortune Fawns Over Levin

If you happened to glance at

the latest cover of Fortune magazine,

you might have done a double-take: gazing out at readers under the headline

“The New Future” was none other than Gerald Levin, the chief executive of AOL

Time Warner-the company which just happens

to own Fortune . In a startling

departure from journalistic integrity, the editors of Fortune went ahead and put their own boss on the cover, hailing

him-along with former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State

Madeleine Albright, Walt Disney Company chairman Michael Eisner and Sun

Microsystems chief scientist Bill Joy-as one of the “smartest people we know,”

whose thoughts on the future should command unblinking respect and

admiration.

One hardly knows where to start untangling the

conflicts of interest in Fortune’s

seedy maneuver. AOL Time Warner is a publicly traded company, and Fortune’s well-being is directly tied to

AOL Time Warner’s prestige. By splashing Mr. Levin’s face on the cover, Fortune used its trusted brand name in

financial journalism to plump up the stature of its own C.E.O. The magazine’s

editors decided that they could get away with turning the cover of the magazine

into a promotional tool for its own corporate interests. But by doing so, they

insulted the intelligence of their readers and cast serious doubt on the

trustworthiness of the rest of the magazine. One would expect Fortune to report on such conflicts of interest-not

embody them.

There is also some old-fashioned sucking-up going

on. The editor in chief of the Time Warner magazine stable, Norman Pearlstine,

is apparently not averse to using one of the magazines to kiss up to his boss,

Mr. Levin. One must ask why Mr. Levin failed to see that by taking part in this

charade, he was actually eroding confidence in Fortune, and hardly improving the magazine’s reputation or value.

Without objectivity, journalism quickly loses its right to a reader’s financial

and intellectual investment.

Inside the magazine, Fortune introduces its article on Mr. Levin, Mr. Clinton et al. by

saying, “This is the start of a big conversation, about the shape of the new

future.” If Fortune’ s “new future”

includes more of this sort of ethical slipperiness, its readers may soon be

longing for a return to the past.

Trauma and New York’s

Children

In wake of the horrific

events of Sept. 11,  perhaps nothing is

of more concern to New Yorkers than the long-term effect on the city’s

children. Fortunately, some organizations have wasted no time rushing to help.

The New York University School of Medicine’s Child

Study Center

has brought aid and comfort to hundreds of children around the city who were

directly or indirectly impacted by the terrorist attack. In addition to

providing hands-on treatment, the center is offering its resources to the tens

of thousands of parents and teachers who are grappling with how to address the

trauma of the young ones in their care.

The

center’s mission is to apply the best of modern science and medicine to the

problem of mental illness in children. It has grown and flourished under the

visionary leadership of executive director Harold Koplewicz, M.D., and

chairwoman Brooke Neidich. The center’s many areas of activity include finding

the best and safest medications for children; working with public and private

schools to eliminate barriers to learning; training pediatricians and nurses in

understanding the environments in which kids live; examining how children’s

breathing patterns are influenced by anxious parents; developing violence-prevention

programs for pre-schoolers; and looking at brain differences in children with

mental disorders. After the World Trade

Center attack, the center published

a manual to help children cope and distributed it to 15,000 pediatricians and educators, and it is currently

working with the federal government and private foundations to develop a full

mental-health recovery plan for children who have experienced trauma. Since

Sept. 11, more than 300,000 parents and teachers have visited the center’s Web

site, http://www.AboutOurKids.org, for scientifically sound advice on how to help

their children.            

Those who wish to help the center with its

remarkable work may call 212-263-6622.