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Mayor, DMC take stand on caregiver abuse

The recent killings of children by caregivers in Queens and throughout the city prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hollis hip-hop artist Darryl McDaniels and a bevy of other officials to launch a citywide campaign in Forest Hills last week urging parents to be cautious about those looking after their little ones.

“Very few people believe that someone they love or trust could ever hurt their child, but sadly it happens,” Bloomberg said last Thursday at Forest Hills’ Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Center, which cares for about 1,100 children under the age of 12 who have been sexually or severely physically abused. “Choosing an appropriate caregiver is one of the most important decisions a parent can make, and just because someone is a relative or close friend does not mean they are capable of taking care of a child.”

Since January nine children under the age of 2 have been killed in the city while left in the care of their fathers, mothers’ companions or a baby-sitter, according to city statistics. In 2009, there were only three such fatalities in the city.

The most recent suspicious death of a baby in Queens was in April, when 20-year-old Larry Greene allegedly punched his 8-month-old son in the chest while watching him at the child’s mother’s home in St. Albans, according to the Queens district attorney.

According to DA Richard Brown, who was at the campaign launch, Greene allegedly became angry when the baby began to cry after his mother left and believed the baby preferred her to him. Greene allegedly told the 8-month-old to “toughen up” and then punched him in the chest, the DA said.

Incidents like these prompted city officials and others to create the “Be Careful Who Cares for Your Child” campaign, which includes a radio ad that features McDaniels, formerly of the band Run DMC, and Julie Kavner, who performs the voice of Marge Simpson on the TV show “The Simpsons.” As part of the campaign, city officials will distribute posters in subway cars, barber shops and beauty salons, bodegas, high schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals and prenatal clinics beginning in August.

“This is a really serious issue and it’s important for people to know babies, and children in general, have nothing to do with the problems in the world today,” McDaniels said. “Violence against little defenseless babies cannot be tolerated.”

Brown, city Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly and Ariel Zwang, chief executive officer of Safe Horizon, reiterated the sentiments of Bloomberg and McDaniels.

“The fragility of a child cannot be emphasized enough,” Brown said. “Yet, there have been a frightening number of incidents in Queens County within recent months in which a caregiver has been criminally charged with violently assaulting or even killing a child — the vast majority of whom were under the age of 2.”

Mattingly also noted that Queens has been “particularly hard hit by families who have hurt their children so badly they’re now fatalities.”

In March, Woodside resident Yohani Moran, 37, was arrested for allegedly violently shaking 9-month-old Dilan Criollo while she was baby-sitting him, the DA’s office said. Also in March, 27-year-old Allen Shannon was charged with killing his girlfriend’s 19-month-old baby Anniyah Levant, the DA said. The baby died as a result of blunt impact injuries to the head and torso, the DA said.

Zwang emphasized how important it is for individuals who suspect or know of child abuse to either call 311, the city’s hotline, or 911 if there is an emergency. She noted there are places like the center in Forest Hills where children and their families can receive help.

“There are experts here who know how to talk to the kids to make them feel understood,” she said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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