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May 28, 2009 permalink
Instead of conducting home visits, New York child protective worker Stephanie Sabouni enjoyed the beach. She is now being prosecuted for falsely recording visits to her wards. The administrators and legislators responsible for creating a dysfunctional system are not being prosecuted.
Former child welfare caseworker played hooky - and forged documents to cover it up, authorities say
BY Veronika Belenkaya and Stephanie Gaskell, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS, Thursday, May 28th 2009, 4:00 AM
A soon-to-be-married former child welfare caseworker entrusted with checking on truant kids played hooky herself - and forged documents to cover it up, authorities said.
Stephanie Sabouni, 27, of Brooklyn, filled out seven forms claiming she had visited three different families whose children routinely missed school while she worked for the city's Administration for Children's Services from 2005 to 2007.
The bride-to-be was charged Wednesday with seven first-degree felony counts of tampering with public records. Each charge carries up to seven years behind bars.
"Covering up misdeeds by faking official computer records is a serious crime and this case is even more troubling because it involves allegations that children in need were ignored," said state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
The forged documents were found shortly after Sabouni left the ACS to become a teacher at a Brooklyn middle school, authorities said.
"After several Brooklyn families told ACS employees that they had never met the former child protective specialist who had written about her supposed visits to their homes, ACS alerted [us]," said city Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.
Sabouni - who recently posted racy pictures of herself on her Facebook page - has been fired from her teaching job.
Sabouni, who attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice and earned a master's degree in education from Touro College in Manhattan, denied the charges.
"ACS is at fault for everything," she told reporters after her arrest. "I'm just being used."
Her lawyer Arnold Keith argued that the documents were not public records.
"Nobody was injured as a result of these [documents]," he said. "The children she worked with are fine."
Keith said his client "went to some [homes], but not other homes."
He also said Sabouni didn't know she was being investigated when she was questioned.
"She made a statement and the statements are being used against her," he said.
"If you go in and you don't know you're being investigated and you're told you can't leave until you make a statement, I think that brings a question of knowing and a voluntary waiver of your rights," he said. "I think she may have incriminated herself."
Sabouni, who is planning to get married on June 27, was released on $1,500 bail and ordered to hand over her passport, putting her Mexican honeymoon in question. "She is upset," Keith said. "She's destroyed over these allegations."
Source: New York Daily News
Addendum: An insider has offered a different view of this story. Many senior social workers defy orders from superiors to unnecessarily harass parents over trifles, such as teenaged truancy. Fake records are a consequence of this practice. Stephanie Sabouni was not one of the four-week wonders, but a degreed educator. She had enough education to know when home visits were doing more harm than good, and enough credentials to shift to another profession, which she did. Prosecuting a social worker is highly unusual. Maybe she was a thorn in the side of the agency.