The Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday eulogized a 4-year-old boy who was found dead in a Times Square apartment earlier this month and called for someone in the city's child welfare agency to be "held accountable" for the tragic death that prompted the mayor to order a review of the case and a list of reforms for the city's children's services.
Standing just feet away from the toddler's small, closed white casket, Sharpton spoke to the roughly 150 mourners who filled the pews at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, as family and friends surrounded the boy's mother, Ashlee Dobson, in the second row of the church's sanctuary.
"This baby represents all of our babies," Sharpton said.
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He said somebody in the Administration for Children's Services needed to be held accountable for Myls Dobson's death.
Dobson, a child said to have a beautiful smile who loved music and dancing, was found dead on Jan. 8, after authorities said the girlfriend of his father, who was jailed at the time, told investigators she had starved him for several days and had also bound, beaten and burned him. She's been charged with assault.
Mayor de Blasio announced the results of an internal review of Dobson's case last week, looking at the interactions between his family and ACS between January 2011, when it first received an allegation of abuse, and last August when it closed the case. The review stopped short of faulting individual case workers.
But the review did find ACS workers missed possible signs the boy was at risk, including that the child's father, Okee Wade, had done a stint in jail after being awarded custody of his son despite visiting his home nine times during that period. Wade's girlfriend at the time — not the woman charged in the death — told them he was at work, officials said.
An ACS spokesman on Tuesday referred questions to last week's announcement of the internal review. The mayor's office didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Wade, an ex-con and parolee, didn't take off his sunglasses during the funeral as he sat in a front pew next to his son's casket.
"This is not about his mother or father," Sharpton said. "This is about how a city protects ... a child."
ACS doesn't require its workers to see, in person, the primary custodian of a child, though it says it's good practice to do so. The agency's head said last week Dobson appeared safe and healthy before the city's supervision ended.
De Blasio said he's ordered a review of all cases that include court-ordered ACS supervision. The agency also said it was strengthening oversight of supervisors and manager training and refreshing guidance on note-taking and documentation requirements.
The changes were supposedly build on changes already in place after the 2006 death of Nixzmary Brown, a 7-year-old who was beaten and starved by her family without intervention by her teachers and ACS workers. Her mother and stepfather are serving long sentences in her death.