Boy makes desperate plea to ACS for help

October 25, 2010 8:25:01 PM PDT
It's a heart-wrenching saga.

A 15-year-old boy was desperate to have someone listen and to believe his claims of domestic abuse inside his Bronx home.

The teen reached out to investigative reporter Sarah Wallace who had her own encounter when the family suddenly turned violent.

What are you so afraid of?" asked Sarah Wallace.

"Like going back to my house and they'll start hitting me again," Jesus Velazquez said.

In an extraordinary move, 15-year-old Jesus Velazquez came to family court in the Bronx on his own to plead for help.

Earlier that day, he'd written on his facebook page that he'd rather die than be forced by ACS workers to return to his allegedly abusive home in the Bronx.

He lived there with his mother, Rosa Lopez and his older siblings.

"Have you told them you're afraid to go home? And what did they say?" asked Wallace.

"They tell me I have to go home because my mom's word is bigger than mine," Velazquez said.

"So what do you think will happen if you go home?" asked Wallace.

"I'm going to continue on getting beat up," Velazquez said.

He says he fled to his aunt's house on Staten Island after the latest incident of abuse and took it upon himself to get a bus all the way from there to the Bronx.

"My mother was sitting down while my sister threw a textbook at my face," Velazquez said, "and my brother said if I look at him he going to beat me up and that ACS doesn't really care what's going on."

He was still nursing a nasty knot on his face when he filed a police report, but says his ACS worker still told him he needed to go home.

Later, during Eyewitness News' investigation, Sarah Wallace witnessed first-hand the volatility of Jesus' family.

What's disturbing is this internal ACS report obtained by Eyewitness News reveals that a year ago, the agency was aware of abuse allegations in Jesus' home, "excessive" force as a form of punishment.

His mother often told her other children to physically beat Jesus; the teen allegedly was hit with objects including metal sticks, poles and spatulas.

"These are the bruises," said Jesus' aunt.

His aunt says several months ago, she told her nephew to start documenting the alleged abuse.

"He was beaten with a phone," his aunt said.

Maria Villegas raised Jesus for the first 7 years of his life, and then his mother took him back?

"I'll be happy to have him. The mother does not want him with no one in the family," Villegas said.

After Eyewitness News contacted ACS, a case worker scheduled a conference in the Bronx the next day, but it quickly degenerated, with Jesus' aunt emerging almost immediately.

"And then they come in and told me, 'You could leave. The mother don't want you here'," his aunt said.

Jesus distraught and in tears, came out next.

"They said I've got to go back home and they tried to tell me in a short way that there's nothing they can do about it," Velazquez said.

"You'd be willing to go to a foster home. Were you able to tell them that?" Sarah Wallace asked.

"Yes, I told them. But, they don't want to listen." Velazquez said.

Moments later, Eyewitness News tried to speak with Jesus' mother.

His older sister immediately got violent.

After ACS officials learned of the incident, where the mother did nothing as her daughter struck Sarah Wallace several times, within hours, Jesus' mother had voluntarily given up temporary custody of the boy to the agency.

There's no mention in the ACS report that she denied the allegations, rather she claimed: "She is unable to control Jesus' behavior in the community."

"Down the road, do you ever see yourself going back home? No?" Sarah Wallace asked, "I mean, you've been trying to get somebody to listen for a long time?and now?"

"And now they finally listened. I'm happy for once," Velazquez said.

And for the first time since Eyewitness News met Jesus, he did what a teenager should do, he laughed.

For the moment, Jesus is staying with his cousin.

His relatives plan to ask for permanent custody.

ACS officials could not talk about specifics but told Eyewitness News there is always a balancing act; the goal is to keep a family unit intact, but not at the sake of a child's safety.