Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference on Friday with Gladys Carrión, left, the commissioner for the Administration for Children’s Services. He announced the preliminary findings of an inquiry into the death of Myls Dobson, and proposed changes to the system for protecting vulnerable children. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times 


After an inquiry into the death of a 4-year-old boy uncovered several holes in New York City’s safety net, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday proposed a raft of changes to close some of the gaps and improve communication between the criminal justice system and the agency charged with preventing child abuse.

“We can’t look at a situation like this and say business as usual is acceptable,” the mayor said in a news conference at City Hall.

Still, city officials said their preliminary review had found that the boy, Myls Dobson, was healthy and well cared for during the year that officials from the Administration for Children’s Services were monitoring his father’s parenting.

That period ended on Aug. 17, six months before Myls was tortured to death by a caregiver while his father was in jail, prosecutors said. The inquiry found that city social workers were unaware of the extent of his father’s criminal issues.

Nonetheless, Gladys Carrión, the newly appointed child services commissioner, reminded reporters that “the father did not kill this child. I think we need to remember that.”


Myls Dobson

Mr. de Blasio said that most of the problems uncovered in the review had to do with a communications breakdown; many of the proposed changes seemed as if they were a direct response to Myls’s death. Among other things, Mr. de Blasio proposed changing state law to give social workers access to arrest records and to require Family Court judges to hold hearings when periods of supervision end, to make sure children were well cared for.

He also called on the Family Court system to notify the State Parole Board and the city’s Probation Department when a parent on parole or probation is awarded custody of a child. In addition, he said, correction officers should routinely ask new prisoners what arrangements they have made for child care.

To bolster communication among agencies on child abuse cases, the mayor said he would form what he called a children’s cabinet, with representatives from the Police Department, the health department, the Administration for Children’s Services and other agencies. “The issue here is how to improve our practice,” he said. “We have to try to learn and do better.”

Myls was found dead on Jan. 8 in the bathroom of a luxury apartment on West 48th Street, where he had been living with his father’s friend, Kryzie King, for three weeks. His emaciated body was covered with bruises, burns and abrasions.

Prosecutors said Ms. King, 28, a transgender woman, had beaten the boy repeatedly with a belt buckle and an electric cord, and had seared his legs with a hot oven rack. Myls lost 20 pounds in her custody because she denied him food, they said. She also forced him to stand on a balcony in frigid weather as punishment.

“We lost a child in such a horrible manner,” Mr. de Blasio said Friday. “Every parent in this city feels as I do,” he added. “It is very, very painful to know that this child went through such agony, that a child was lost that we believe there was more than one opportunity to save.”

Ms. King is being held at Rikers Island in a male wing on charges of assault and reckless endangerment. A grand jury has filed an indictment, but the charges have not been made public.

The boy’s father, Okee Wade, had left him with Ms. King in mid-December just before the police arrested him on charges in connection with a fraud in Atlantic City. He was in a New Jersey jail when his son died.

Myls’s mother, Ashlee Dobson, lost custody of him after the city accused her of neglect in September 2011 and asked a Family Court judge to remove the boy from her custody, court records show. Ms. Dobson, according to court records, is mentally handicapped, has a personality disorder, suffers blackouts and had tried to commit suicide.

In August 2012, the judge, Stewart H. Weinstein, awarded custody of Myls to Mr. Wade, even though he had been in and out of prison for a decade. But he ordered city social workers to monitor Mr. Wade for a year and told them to “consult with his parole officer.”

That never happened, city officials said. The mayor’s office said Mr. Wade was incarcerated again from September 2012 to February 2013, and social workers did not know, despite visiting his home nine times.

“Every time we went to that home to visit, the child was with a caregiver and was well cared for,” Ms. Carrión said. “Every time our workers went, we were told the father was working. Working very long hours. Should we have done something differently. Yes, we should have.“

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