His name was Zymere Perkins. He was 6 years old.
Now, the young boy with a sweet smile is dead. All because many New York City officials didn’t do enough to save his life.
It’s a tragic and all-too-familiar story that highlights the inability of the city’s Administration for Children’s Services to protect vulnerable children.
Even worse was ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion’s tone-deaf initial response. “We can’t keep every child safe,” she said. But ACS could have saved Zymere, who died after allegedly being beaten with a broomstick by his mother’s boyfriend while his mother did nothing but pray.
ACS had investigated concerns about him five times. Other city agencies also knew about this little boy. What did the Department of Education, the Department of Homeless Services, the NYPD and the Manhattan district attorney’s office do to save Zymere?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough.
Every decade, we are shaken to the core by the horrific and preventable death of a child already in the city’s case files. Two years ago, it was 4-year-old Myls Dobson. In 2006, it was Nixzmary Brown. In 1995, it was Elisa Izquierdo. In 1987, it was Lisa Steinberg. There are many others whose names we might not know, including eight who died between August 2014 to September 2015, according to a report by city Public Advocate Letitia James.
Each time, there are promises that the response will change. Mayor Bill de Blasio said his deputy mayor will investigate. That isn’t enough.
For starters, the city should implement the recommendations from the Department of Investigation and from Comptroller Scott Stringer. Better management, coordination, and communication among agencies is needed. Someone has to be accountable for the handing of each and every case. There should be a way to monitor and keep track of each child’s wellbeing.
This is not the time for small steps or slow changes. Let Zymere Perkins be the name we remember.
We have to stop letting children die.