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Death Files of Abused Children Shrouded in Secrecy Despite Law for Disclosure
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Elisa’s law, a result of frustrations of legislators in failing to hold New York City officials accountable in child abuses deaths, continues to be bypassed citing the same reasons – need of confidentiality- the exact reasons that Elisa’s law was created to battle.

 
Albany passed Elisa’s Law to loosen the secrecy rules in child-abuse investigations, requiring a public accounting of the chain of events leading to the death of an abused or neglected child in New York State. However, city officials have continued to flout the law and keep up attempts to thwart the law both through formal and informal means.

 
Elisa’s Law was the result of statewide public outcry in 1995 over the death of Elisa Izqueirdo, a 6-year old by her mother. Eliza, described by her teachers as radiant and happy child who lived with her father was transferred to the custody of her mother, Awilda Lopez, a confirmed drug-addict, when Eliza’s father died of cancer.

  
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Awilda Lopez, wild on crack cocaine saw the devil when she looked in the face of her little daughter. Awilda regularly beat the little girl, sexually abused her, subjected her to unnerving hurt and humiliation – and finally she smashed little Eliza’s head against concrete and left her to die. After remaining unconscious on the spot for two days, Eliza left hell.

 
Buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens, her epitaph cries, “World Please Watch Over the Children.”
But the New York City officials remain adamant and find ways to work around the law for public disclosure and accountability in child abuse deaths.

 
The fatality reports required by Eliza’s law are meant only to allow public inspection of the performance of child welfare authorities and their role in child-abuse deaths, the reports according to Eliza’s Law

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  • Do not identify deceased children, their caseworkers, or any person by name
  • They only include the list of complaint of abuse or neglect involving a child, the child welfare’s response to the complaints, and an evaluation of the adequacy of the response by city officials

 

 
However, according to a recent report by the New York Times, “for the last five years, the state’s Office of Children and Family Services has been working quietly and persistently to limit access to those case reports, which in most instances are the only record of the circumstances leading to deaths.”

 
Though Eliza’s law provides enough safeguards to prevent disclosure of individual particulars, city officials argue that they are withholding records to safeguard siblings of the deceased.

 
But the city officials have been trying continually to bypass the safeguards of Eliza’s law and make it ineffectual in as much as it compels city officials to disclose and own up to their roles and responsibilities with regard to child-abuse deaths.

 
In 2007, the Office of Children and Family Services tried to have Eliza’s law changed. When the legislators failed to agree, the office passed its own rule in September 2008 that it will not release fatality reports mandated by Elisa’s Law if there are siblings or other children in the home, – thus in effect promoting the risk and neglect of those other children.

 
Whether such moves to keep the death of abused children shrouded in secrecy are in the best interests of survivors or not, they definitely serve the interests of those active in defeating the purpose of Eliza’s law and in preventing official negligence from being called to task in case of child-abuse deaths.



 

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