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EXCLUSIVE: Man tries to save son from abuse

November 19, 2010 8:26:49 PM PST
An Eyewitness News exclusive where a divorced father in New Jersey is trying to stop what he claims is the abuse of his son, and going to the one place he thought he could find help, The division of youth and family services.

"I'm caught between a rock and a hard place," said Chris Jackson.

As a father, Jackson is supposed to keep his son safe. Lately he says, that has been impossible.

Jackson adds, "Nagee told me he was being abused." both physically and sexually.

His son Nagee lives with his mother and her boyfriend.

Chris says he's complained to the Department of Youth and Family Services several times. He even has pictures of his son injured but says the agency has done nothing to help.

He worries Nagee could end up a statistic like the two most recent faces of a system that failed.

Two-year-old Xavier Gentleman was beaten to death while police say DYFS was looking into allegations of abuse.

Three-year-old Tayshawn Young was also beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend, according to police, just five days after a DYFS case worker saw him and said allegations of abuse were unfounded.

"These employees are human and they can make mistakes... And I see that happening again," said attorney Jeff Advokat.

Advokat has been an advocate for children over the years as an attorney who has filed suit on more than one occasion against DYFS.

Most recently, he reached a $4.5 million settlement with the agency over a case dating back 12 years.

"My client, who was 6 at the time, was physically and sexually abused by one of the foster parents, and a third man a nanny who was brought in," adds Advokat.

All he says, while DYFS was involved and making monthly visits.

The agency went through a major restructuring back in 2003. A $320 million child welfare system reform over a two and a half year period. That was brought on in part by a horrific case of abuse and death in Newark."

Faheem Williams was only seven, his body was found in a plastic container hidden in a basement closet two days after his brothers were found nearly starving in the same basement. DYFS admitted to closing the Williams case without seeing the children for 18 months or verifying an allegation of abuse.

The Department of Children and Families declined our request for an interview with its director, knowing full well what we wanted to talk about.

Instead we got a statement touting improvements made over the last several years. It reads in part "While our system continues to make great strides, there is still more work to be done. Unfortunately, it is not possible to avert all circumstances that can bring harm to a child, and every single time that happens it is a tragedy felt throughout DYFS."

Chris Jackson is trying with all his might to prevent one of those tragedies from happening but he is getting frustrated.

After getting nowhere with DYFS he threatened his son's mother, as he says any father would and now has a restraining order against him.

It's hard to believe Chris is one of the lucky ones. His son is still alive.

Vanessa Gentleman has to visit her son Xavier at his grave.

Teyshawn's mother has met with attorney Jeff Advokat about a possible suit.

All this, while DYFS in avoiding an on camera interview with Eyewitness News leaves so many questions unanswered.

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