NBC: I-Team: Alleged ACS Neglect May Have Helped Lead to Teen's Disappearance

The New York City agency assigned to protect children from neglect is being accused of neglect by attorneys for the Legal Aid Society.

Heather Saslovsky represents a 17-year-old girl in ACS care who has been missing since December of 2018 after running away from an emergency children’s housing center.

“ACS has no idea where she is and hasn’t looked for her,” Saslovsky said.

Saslovsky said ACS case workers repeatedly failed to show up in court or provide any documentation of efforts to try and find the teen over a period of months.

ACS said it filed a missing person’s report and that a case worker visited the apartment of a family friend, Laquana Clotter, who had offered to become the teen’s guardian.

Laquana Clotter told the I-Team, “No one from ACS ever came to my door.”

She says that last fall, she told an ACS case worker she would take in the girl and provide whatever background was requested. Clotter claims no one followed up and that the case worker dissuaded her from getting involved. “She said that if my friend’s daughter messed up in some way, they could remove my kids from my home.”

“ACS has thwarted every effort by the one person she has for her to have a place to be that is safe,” Saslovsky said.” An ACS supervisor recently acknowledged in family court that no one made any effort to clear Clotter before the girl disappeared. The supervisor also said no one ever personally contacted any NYPD detective until just before the hearing, and additionally that a report was not filed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is required for a missing child in ACS care.

A spokesperson for ACS said that ensuring the safety of children is a priority and that the agency is working closely with law enforcement.

Referee Jessica Brenes agreed that ACS should be sanctioned for violating a court order. The case is back in family court on June 17th.

Clotter said she would still like to step up and care for the teen, but believes she is worried about causing problems for the family.