- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - Hundreds of foster homes run by a nonprofit that placed children with a man now suspected of child molestation have been given a clean bill of health by New York City’s child protection agency, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The city’s Administration for Children’s Services reviewed conditions at 370 homes operated by SCO Family of Services after one of the organization’s foster parents was arrested last winter on charges he sexually abused seven children in his home in Ridge, on Long Island.

An ACS spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Friday that it found no additional allegations of abuse at any of those homes. “It has not been necessary to remove a single child,” Jill Krauss said.

She said ACS halted new placements of children in SCO foster homes following the January arrest of Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu on charges of sexually abusing at least seven boys in his care, and it commenced a review of all foster homes operated by the nonprofit.

SCO was responsible for placing 72 children in Gonzales-Mugaburu’s care over 20 years, according to the organization’s chief strategy officer, Rose Anello.

In a statement Friday, Anello said an SCO review uncovered no evidence of sexual abuse or improper sexual behavior in the foster home. But, she said, there were other issues with the home, particularly around 2013, “and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time.”

She said the issues involved Gonzales-Mugaburu being uncooperative and unwilling to accept staff guidance on parenting style, but none of the issues hinted at anything like the allegations uncovered this year. She added that as part of its recent review, SCO has restructured oversight of its foster care program.

Gonzales-Mugaburu cared for children in his home until January, when two brothers who had lived there came forward with credible stories of abuse, police said.

Gonzales-Mugaburu, 59, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. He is accused of victimizing children as young as 8. One charge alleges he sexually abused a dog in front of a child.

A Suffolk County prosecutor said Gonzales-Mugaburu earned as much as $18,000 a month as a foster parent, caring for as many as six to eight children at a time. Authorities said statute of limitations laws prevented filing charges involving some accusers.

Since the scandal erupted, separate investigations have been started by state, city and Long Island officials. Because many of the children placed with Gonzales-Mugaburu were from New York City, the ACS and the city’s Department of Investigations are involved.

ACS stopped placing new foster children via SCO and conducted in-person visits to 370 homes caring for 852 city children in family foster care and 133 in treatment foster care. Two remaining home visits are scheduled this weekend to complete the review, Krauss said.

“We also implemented an intensive corrective action plan that requires SCO to retrain staff, to develop clearer safety policies, to create an incident review committee and to improve their foster home re-certification process,” she said.

The ACS contract with SCO is up for renewal, but ACS is renewing it for two years, rather than the standard four years, to continue to closely monitor SCO’s compliance with the corrective action plan, Krauss said.

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Follow Eltman on Twitter at @feltman41

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This story has been corrected to show the suspect’s last name is Gonzales-Mugaburu, not Gonzalez-Mugaburu.

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