From: Greegor on

A 5-minute error, 25 years on child abuse list?: College student who
hoped for teaching career faces off with state over inclusion on


May 24--ALBANY -- The 3-year-old girl was sitting alone on a
playground swingset. A passing teacher knew something wasn't right.
She stayed with her until a day care worker realized her error and
rushed back outside.

It was a mistake that lasted five minutes. The little girl from
Slingerlands, Caitlin, was never in danger.

Twenty months later, the College of Saint Rose honors student whose
part-time job was to keep tabs on a group of toddlers at Albany's
Cloverpatch Day Care Center has found herself trapped in an Orwellian
vortex of government red tape. The fallout has turned her dream of
becoming a teacher for children with special needs into a lingering

Up until that crisp afternoon in October 2008, the background of 21-
year-old Anne Bruscino was, by all accounts, solid. Sunday school
teacher. Volunteer for children with disabilities. Doting day care
worker. Successful college student.

Now, after the incident was reported to a child protective agency as
part of Cloverpatch's standard procedure, Bruscino is listed as
"indicated" for child neglect on the state's Central Register of Child
Abuse and Maltreatment. Unless a court overturns the state's decision,
her name could remain there for about 25 years. In teaching circles
it's the equivalent of a scarlet letter that will show up anytime a
school or child-care provider runs an employment background check.

"If Anne Bruscino is a child abuser we're all child abusers, because
there is not an adult in America who can claim to never have made that
kind of mistake," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, upon learning of the
case. "This demeans the whole notion of actual child abuse and this
entire process has stolen time, money and effort from finding children
who are in real danger."

On the day Caitlin was left outside, Bruscino immediately notified a
supervisor at Cloverpatch, operated by the Center for Disability
Services on South Manning Boulevard.

The child's parents were notified. A report was filed. A child-
protective caseworker opened an investigation, and interviews took
place. Three months later, Bruscino was fired. Then the real trouble

The records show Bruscino and another Cloverpatch worker, Frances
Denham, had been watching seven children when one of the toddlers
urgently needed to use a bathroom. The women hurried the group in from
the playground, but one of the children darted away to greet an
arriving parent.

Bruscino was distracted by the little boy who ran to his mother. She
didn't perform a required head count of the children leaving the
playground. Moments later, as she scanned the children with her eyes,
Bruscino realized her mistake, according to the case file.

"I was upset," Bruscino told a judge during a hearing last year at the
state Office of Children and Family Services. "I realized she must be
on the playground and I ran out to the playground and found her with
another teacher. ... She was not crying. She was not injured. I asked
her if she was OK. She said she was fine."

Denham, 57, who later quit the job she said paid her $8-an-hour to
start, is not surprised the incident triggered an overwhelming
response. "Nobody got hurt, but that's the way they are," Denham said.
"I guess she (Bruscino) was a good kid, but I don't really know
her. ... I had a letter, too, saying something about take it to court,
but I didn't do anything about it."

A spokeswoman for the day care facility said they followed protocol
and strictly adhere to state regulations that require reporting
incidents such as the one involving Bruscino.

The playground is attached to the day care center's offices and not
visible from South Manning Boulevard. The playground is surrounded by
a chest-high chain-link fence that's kept locked. Panoramic office
windows and security cameras overlook the area.

Last November, after a hearing, an administrative law judge for the
state Office of Children and Family Services denied Bruscino's request
to overturn the determination that Bruscino had endangered the child.
The judge's conclusion is that Bruscino should be listed on the state
registry, in part, because of what could have happened. "Clearly,
Caitlin was at imminent risk of harm in this situation," the decision
states. "The fact that the playground was surrounded by a chain-link
fence does not eliminate the risk that Caitlin could have been
abducted. A person with an evil intent could have easily gotten over
the fence or lured Caitlin to the fence."

The administrative judge, Susan Lyn Preston, called Bruscino's
argument "not persuasive" that the child abuse report be amended to
"unfounded because the event at issue was simply a mistake and an
isolated incident."

"One of the purposes of the Central Register is to document isolated
acts of maltreatment so that physicians, police officers, child
protective agencies and other authorized individuals and agencies
investigating subsequent alleged acts of maltreatment by the same
subjects can determine whether there is a pattern of abuse or neglect
warranting family or criminal court intervention," the judge wrote.

For Bruscino and others like her, the state registry does not
differentiate between a case like hers and a parent who leaves a child
at home to go on a drug binge. The state registry only tells a
prospective employer the person has been "indicated." The details of
the incident, state officials said, are left to the accused to explain
or to provide access to the supporting documents.

According to the state Office of Children and Family Services, people
who will work in day care and residential child care settings are
subject to screening through the state Central Registry. The agency
declined to discuss Bruscino's case, citing confidentiality rules.

"A teacher would be subject to screening through the SCR if the
teacher were seeking employment at a residential school operated or
supervised by the state education department or at a special act
school district (which is a school associated with a residential
facility for children)," an agency spokeswoman said. "A teacher in the
public school system is not subject to SCR screening. There is no
legal authority for a public school system to screen anyone through
the SCR."

Bruscino declined to be interviewed for this story. Caitlin's parents
did not respond to requests for comment.

In March, Bruscino filed an appeal of the administrative law judge's
decision. The case is pending in state Supreme Court in Albany. The
appeal is directed against the state Office of Children and Family
Services and the state's child abuse registry. The state is
represented by Robert Goldfarb of the state attorney general's office,
who declined to comment.

Bruscino's attorney, Kevin A. Luibrand, like Wexler, said what
happened to Bruscino could happen to any parent. "The rules used on
Anne apply to parents, so if mom or dad lets little Johnny run around
in a fenced-in yard alone for five minutes, Albany says they have
neglected and mistreated Johnny, and child protective (services) can
knock on the door and put mom and dad on the child abuse list just
like it did Anne," Luibrand said.

He characterized the state as "casual and indifferent" to a situation
that is threatening Bruscino's desire to become a teacher for children
with special needs. Bruscino has shifted her studies away from
classroom settings because the situation has left her unable to
participate in courses that require her to be around young children.
Luibrand said that while the state said Bruscino can explain the
problem to a prospective employer, most employers probably wouldn't
grant an interview because of the stigma.

Bruscino's court filings are augmented with character letters written
by parents of Cloverpatch children, high school teachers from her
former Washingtonville High School in Orange County and college

"She was a very responsible high school student who often worked in
the church nursery or helped out with crafts for the younger students
in Sunday school," said Lynn R. Imperato, Bruscino's 11th-grade
English teacher and an assistant principal at Washingtonville High

"It is an unfortunate situation that Annie now finds herself," wrote
Dawn Girton, a special education teacher at Washingtonville High
School. "I am sure the circumstances of this incident will be resolved
in Annie's favor. I would strongly recommend Annie Bruscino for a job
in any educational setting."

Wexler said cases like Bruscino's were not the intent of the 1985 law
that implemented the child-abuse registry. "Pretending this is child
abuse is a far bigger mistake than Ms. Bruscino's honest error," he
From: Greegor on
Once in awhile a little kid will walk away from a public school.
In one case, a cop found the kid before the school even
called in a report the kid was missing.

On a national basis, this happens a lot.

The school teachers are NOT placed on
the child abuse registry for that.

So why was the woman in this OP story?

An even bigger question is why would parents
be placed on the registry for making the same
mistake that even the ""professionals"" make
on a regular basis?