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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Those who wish to help the center with its
remarkable work may call 212-263-6622.