Local 371 of District Council 37 is urging the Administration for Children’s Services to do more to protect its employees after a March 4 assault on a Child Protective Specialist.
Police hadn’t yet arrested a suspect by March 14, but Local 371 said the perpetrator was the victim’s former client.
Ambush at Mom’s Place
Patria Ayton, an employee in ACS’s Staten Island office, was attacked inside her mother’s Lower East Side building at about 6:30 p.m., according to a police report and an account from the local. She was using her phone in the lobby when the female attacker slapped it from her hand, cracking the screen, police said. The assailant also hit her in the face, inflicting bruises and scratches, and struck the victim again in the elevator.
The local met with the employee soon after the attack.
Local president Anthony Wells, who in the 1980s worked at what was then the Bureau of Child Welfare, said tensions can run high when ACS employees visit clients’ homes, particularly when they need to remove children. But he called this incident particularly chilling because it seemed premeditated.
“I’ve never heard of a worker being attacked in their private residence,” he said.
Mr. Wells said the client was no longer part of her caseload, and presumed she found her personal information on the Internet. The former client sent Ms. Ayton letters, harassed her on social media, and even went to the office looking for the worker.
Wants Workers Protected
Ms. Ayton was also attacked last year, but couldn’t identify her assailant at the time, he said.
The local president said he planned to meet this week with ACS management to recommend safety-related improvements. He said the agency should adopt a policy to respond to threats and should intervene more when clients harass members. The local also wants the agency to allow assistance from co-workers on calls, if necessary.
“An attack on city workers doing their job is an attack on the public,” Mr. Wells said. “Because that’s who she was serving: the public.”
Governor Cuomo in 2012 signed a bill that make assaults on social-services employees at ACS, the Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration a Class D felony.
In 2011, 61 social-service workers were attacked while performing their duties.
Mr. Wells said ACS seemed supportive of the union’s concerns.
ACS: Won’t Tolerate Attacks
“The Administration for Children’s Services is committed to ensuring the safety of all our staff, on or off the job,” said ACS spokeswoman Carol Cáceres. “Although incidents of workers being attacked at their residence are rare, we will not tolerate violence against our staff. We are working with the NYPD and District Council 37, Local 371 to ensure we’re taking every measure possible to prevent incidents like this.”
The union said another CPS on Staten Island had her tires slashed March 3. In 2013, another Staten Island-based CPS was thrown down the stairs by a teenager during a home visit.
Mr. Wells said that ACS workers are often subject to a one-sided dynamic, citing an employee who was recently accused of stealing money on a home visit and arrested within two hours. He said it was urgent that Ms. Ayton’s attacker was caught.
“This is an escalation,” he said. “If nothing happens to this client, why wouldn’t another client be empowered and emboldened to do the same thing?”