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Lose Kid, Jail Mom

January 29, 2010 permalink

New York ACS took Patrick Alford from his mother and placed him in foster care in another part of the city. They lost track of him when he ran away. After police searched a swamp for his body using boats and helicopters, his name got on our list of dead foster kids. So did ACS apologize to the mother? Of course not. They have put her in jail until she reveals the whereabouts of her son. It could be a long wait if the boy is in the swamp.



Judge jails mother, believes she knows location of 7-year-old Patrick Alford

BY Barry Paddock, Michael J. Feeney and Jonathan Lemire, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS, Friday, January 29th 2010, 4:00 AM

Jennifer Rodriguez
Oates for News
Jennifer Rodriguez, mother of missing 7-year-old Patrick Alford (below), is escorted by police from Staten Island Family Court.

Patrick Alford

The biological mother of a 7-year-old who vanished from his foster home last week has been jailed by a judge who insists she's hiding the child.

Patrick Alford disappeared Friday night from the Brooklyn apartment building where he was placed with a foster family three weeks earlier.

His mother, Jennifer Rodriguez, 23, lost custody after she was arrested on theft charges and the Administration for Children's Services decided she had neglected her son.

The NYPD believes the boy may have run away alone and could be in danger. They deployed boats in the swamps near the foster family's Starrett City home and helicopters in the skies to search for him - but Patrick has yet to be found.

ACS officials and Staten Island Family Court Judge Terrence McElrath - citing Rodriguez's statements to case workers and court officers - insist that Rodriguez knows where Patrick is.

McElrath sent her to Rikers Island on Tuesday - and said yesterday he's keeping her there on contempt charges until the boy turns up.

"Did she comply with order to produce the child? No," McElrath said.

Being led out of the court, Rodriguez blurted out to reporters, "Get me out of here - call my aunt, she has him, she knows where he is."

The aunt, Blanca Toledo, 51, told the Daily News from her Brooklyn home last night that she doesn't have the boy - and has already told that to cops multiple times.

"My niece and I have a love and hate relationship," she said through tears. "I guess she has nothing else to say."

Toledo, who cared for Patrick before he was put in foster care, said the family is furious at her because she told ACS about attempts Rodriguez allegedly made to "kidnap" the boy.

Cops also interviewed a relative in Baltimore based on a tip - but he wasn't there, police said.

Patrick was last seen with his foster mother, Librada Moran, 58, in the lobby of the Spring Creek Development at 9p.m. Friday, police said.

"The foster mother was putting out the trash," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "Next thing you know, he's gone."

With Sarah Armaghan

Source: New York Daily News

Addendum: Mother Jennifer Rodriguez was released from jail on February 2.

Addendum: Litigation two years later claims the ACS committed multiple errors in the Alford case.



Foster fiasco

Boy on run two years after ‘bungle’

It’s a colossal foster-care nightmare that ended with the disappearance of a 7-year-old boy two years ago — and it didn’t have to happen.

Top-notch lawyers appointed by a judge to represent the interests of missing Patrick Alford claim that the child, who vanished from his Brooklyn foster home, could have been safe today if not for glaring missteps by city child-welfare workers.

The lawyers argue that the employees with the city’s Administration for Children’s Service outrageously misled the Family Court in their bid to prove the child was in danger and even required placement in foster care in the first place.

Jennifer Rodriguez
SAD: Mom Jennifer Rodriguez hopes for the return of Patrick (below), as ACS is under fire for putting him in foster care.
NY Post: Chad Rachman
Patrick Alford

It’s not clear why the workers did what they did to justify taking the boy. But they failed to disclose to a Family Court judge that, at the time, the child had actually been living at an aunt’s house and not with his mother, who was battling drug-addiction problems, lawyer Jonathan Lerner argued in papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

Child-welfare workers lied in a sworn affidavit by “falsely representing to the court” there was “an imminent danger to the child’s life” if he was not immediately removed, “when in truth” young Patrick “was in no danger, imminent or otherwise, from continuing in his aunt’s care,” the documents state.

Lerner, a senior attorney at the white-shoe firm of Skadden Arps now serving as pro-bono counsel for the child, said ACS “made no assessment” that the aunt’s temporary custody of the boy “posed any danger” when its workers decided to seize Patrick on Dec. 29, 2009.

When ACS workers met again with the aunt two weeks later, they even deemed her suitable to serve as a temporary guardian for the boy. But for reasons that are unclear, the child nevertheless continued to remain in the foster home until his disappearance, Lerner wrote in the scathing court papers.

Patrick, who would now be 9 years old, was last seen on the night of Jan. 22, 2010, after he apparently slipped off while taking out the trash with his foster mom at her East New York home.

Adding to the debacle, ACS put him with a foster mother who spoke only Spanish, even though Patrick spoke only English.

The child, who had documented emotional and educational issues, was so unhappy that he began to experience psychiatric problems and tried to run away on several occasions.

Despite a psychologist’s assessment that the boy urgently needed medication and psychiatric care, ACS failed to take immediate action to help the boy, Lerner charged.

This chain of events prompted a federal judge overseeing the lawsuit about the child’s disappearance to suggest that — if proven — the city could be liable for damages.

Lawyers for the city strongly dispute the claim that ACS workers deliberately misled a Family Court judge and contend that facts arose that led them to believe that leaving Patrick with relatives was not a good option.

Source: New York Post

Addendum: Three years after Patrick's disappearance lawyers for Jennifer Rodriguez are proceding as if Patrick is dead.



Staten Island mom has given up hope of seeing her son, Patrick Alford, alive

Jennifer Rodriguez with picture of Patrick Alford

Jennifer Rodriguez has given up hope of seeing her son Patrick Alford again. He was in foster care when he was last seen on Jan. 22, 2010.

Advance File Photo

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - A New Brighton woman, whose son vanished three years ago from a Brooklyn foster home, has apparently given up hope of seeing him alive.

Jennifer Rodriguez, 25, recently amended her federal lawsuit against the city and other parties, to include a wrongful-death claim.

Her son, Patrick Alford Jr., then 7, was last seen on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, at 9 p.m. in the vicinity of 130 Vandalia Ave., in East New York's Spring Creek Development. About three weeks before, the boy had been placed in the foster care of Librada Moran, who lived at that location.

Under state law, a person missing for three years "whose absence is not satisfactorily explained ... after diligent search" is presumed dead.

The boy was put in the foster home after Ms. Rodriguez, his biological mother, lost custody of him and her two daughters after she was arrested on theft charges. Patrick was placed with Ms. Moran.

Ms. Moran told police Patrick was with her when she took out the trash, then disappeared when she turned to answer her cell phone.

Ms. Rodriguez was jailed a week later by a Family Court judge who believed she was involved in Patrick's disappearance. She was released after several days when the city Administration for Children's Services determined that was not the case.

Ms. Rodriguez later sued the city, Ms. Moran, the foster care agency and others in Brooklyn federal court, accusing them of negligence.

The boy's father, Patrick Alford Sr., has filed a similar federal lawsuit. Both actions are pending.

According to Ms. Rodriguez's lawsuit, Patrick was "extremely distraught" in foster care and tried to run away several times. He allegedly attacked other children in the foster home and "engaged in destructive acts toward property" there.

On the day before he disappeared, Patrick screamed that he wanted to go home and tried to cut open his arm with a large pair of scissors, allege Ms. Rodriguez's court filings. Ms. Moran restrained him, according to those documents.

Ms. Rodriguez further alleges there was a communication problem between Patrick and his foster mother. Ms. Moran didn't speak English; Patrick didn't speak Spanish, she alleged.

Robert Osuna, a lawyer for Ms. Rodriguez, did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the amended complaint, which seeks unspecified monetary damages. Attempts to reach Ms. Rodriguez by phone were unsuccessful.

James R. Lambert, the lawyer for Patrick Alford Sr., said his client doesn't plan at this point to amend his complaint to allege wrongful death.

"We hold out hope he's still alive and the police will find him," said Lambert, who is based in Dongan Hills. "My client hopes the boy will walk through the front door."

In a court filing, a lawyer for the city said the Police Department "continues to vigorously pursue" the probe into Patrick's whereabouts and will do so until there's a resolution.

Attorney Suzanne M. Halbardier said the city would not oppose the family's petitioning the Surrogate's Court to have Patrick declared dead and an administrator appointed for his estate.

However, she also said it would be "premature" for the federal court to approve Ms. Rodriguez's amended wrongful death complaint.

The attorney at the law firm representing Patrick's interests could not immediately be reached for comment on the amended complaint. 

Source: Staten Island Advance