FOSTERING DISCORD

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Nicholas Scoppetta, czar of the oft-criticized Administration for Children Services, had a chance recently to make points with some of his harshest critics: the parents and families of children in foster care.

In March, members of the Child Welfare Organizing Project, led by Michael Arsham, met with Scoppetta to discuss forming a Parent Advisory Committee. The idea was that the relatives of children placed in foster care, who have keen personal insight into the system, might be able to provide useful feedback on the agency’s ongoing reforms through this forum.

But the deal’s already fallen through. Scoppetta, it seems, hates criticism–even the constructive kind.

What set the commissioner off was a critical letter that Arsham wrote to Currents, the publication of the National Association of Social Workers. Arsham wrote the letter in January, but it wasn’t published until April, after the preliminary conversations about the new committee.

And that was the end of the potential partnership. In June, the director dashed off a blistering letter to Arsham that made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with CWOP. Speaking of “partnerships” and “trust” and “respect,” Scoppetta derided Arsham’s letter as “inconsistent with [ACS’] values.”

“Instead of recognizing the potential of such a group as a positive force for system change, they only saw a threat,” said Arsham. “This was their loss.”

ACS spokespeople did not specifically address the collapse of the committee, but forwarded a three-page reply letter that Scoppetta wrote to Currents defending ACS.