In New York, child welfare authorities have broad discretion to disqualify a prospective adoptive parent if an adult in the person’s household has already been charged with a crime.
Foster parents in the city are generally vetted by nonprofit foster care agencies under contract with the Children’s Services Administration. An official from one such nonprofit who spoke anonymously to candidly discuss how the system works said it would be entirely possible for an expectant parent to cheat the agency.
Intended parents are required to complete a form and attest to its veracity, he said. But, he added, it is possible to lie on the forms, and although authorities conduct a “home study” that includes a home visit before approving someone as a foster parent, authorities social workers do not check families with random home checks.
The official said the state does not allow foster agencies to conduct criminal background checks on relatives of prospective adoptive parents whose legal residence is other than the intended parent’s home. Social workers at the nonprofit will ask people who live in the house for information about relatives who may visit them, including their criminal records. But people can also lie about it, he said.
A Children’s Services Administration spokesperson said state law prohibits the agency from sharing information about individual cases, but he said, “We are immediately reviewing the allegations made by the Manhattan District Attorney and are cooperating fully with the investigation.”
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell were arrested separately on Wednesday. She was taken into custody at her home in the Bronx, while Mr Mitchell was arrested after leaving an area known to be used for prostitution and returning to a hotel room where he had been staying, have prosecutors said. A handgun was recovered from the hotel room, prosecutors said.
Judge Felicia Mennin ordered that Mr. Mitchell be held without bail and that Ms. Mitchell be held on $500,000 cash bond, $1.5million insurance company bond and bond partially guaranteed $2 million.