Administration for Children's Services filings to remove children from their homes leapt more than 50 percent from September to October, the first full month after the death of a six-year-old child drew harsh scrutiny for the agency's handling of child abuse investigations.

According to data from ACS, the city filed 312 petitions for removal in NYC Family Court in October, up from 199 in September. Removal was apparently ordered in every case.

Under New York State law, child protective service agencies must normally seek court approval to forcibly remove a child from her home and place her in foster care. In instances where a child is said to be in imminent danger of serious injury or death, a protective service agency can preemptively remove the child from the home. The agency must file a formal petition in court within 72 hours of an emergency removal.

A 2004 Court of Appeals ruling set out a high standard for courts to order removal, holding that it should be considered a tool of last resort for child welfare agencies.

The month of October saw the highest number of petitions for removal in all of 2016. February, the month with the second-highest number of removal petitions, had 243. October also saw the highest combined number of petitions for removal and petitions for court-ordered supervision in 2016. The combined figure for October was 1163; no other month had more than 820 such filings.

"What that sounds like is a classic example of foster care panic," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. "Foster care panic means that workers are terrified of having the next high-profile tragedy on their hands. So they rush to remove children needlessly. We've seen this in New York many times before."

Research on child welfare practices has shown that children who are separated from their parents earn less, experience higher rates of teen pregnancy, and are more likely to come into contact with the justice system than their similarly situated peers who remain with their families.

"It is terribly traumatic to separate children from their parents," said Carolyn Kubitschek, a partner at the family law firm Lansner & Kubitschek and the vice president of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, which has studied removal policies in New York City. "Children love their parents even if they're not the best parents in the world—even if they're sub-optimal parents, the child still has a bond with the parents."

Kubitschek, who has worked in New York's Family Court system for more than four decades, said ACS is now seeking removals in ongoing cases it was previously only monitoring.

"Nothing has changed in the lives of these other families. The only thing that's happened is ACS is running scared. So they are removing children who they wouldn't have removed four months ago," she said.

Allegations of child abuse and neglect generally spike after major news reports of the death of an abused child. In New York City, there was a 20 percent increase in incidents of abuse reported to authorities from September to October. While significant, this increase is far less than the increase in removal petitions.

"This doesn't prevent child deaths. The vast majority of the children who are being taken from their families have not been abused and will not be abused," said Christine Gottlieb, co-director of the Family Defense Clinic at NYU Law School. "We're simply inflicting harm on these kids."

In an email to Gothamist, a spokesperson from ACS said there has not been an official policy shift on removals since Perkins' death. "Though ACS has not issued any directives related to pursuing removals more aggressively, highly publicized cases tend to result in an increase of child maltreatment reports, which in turn bring more investigations," the spokesperson wrote. "ACS continues to make all efforts to keep children safe in their homes, and when that is not possible, we seek removal."

Children of color, particularly black children, are vastly overrepresented in the child welfare system nationwide. A 2015 report from Al Jazeera America found that black children in New York City were placed in foster care at a rate more than 10 times that of white children. Because of this disparity, black children are disproportionately impacted by changes in welfare policies.

"The racial disparities of our child welfare system are alarming and certainly should be disturbing to anyone looking at the system," Gottlieb said. "We're disproportionately inflicting that harm on black kids."

In early October, ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion announced that the agency would institute major reforms after news reports that the mother of six-year-old Zymere Perkins, who died in late September due to injuries allegedly inflicted by his mother's boyfriend, had been investigated by ACS on five different occasions. Perkins was never removed from the household.

ACS has been heavily criticized for its handling of child welfare investigations in recent years. In May, the Department of Investigation released a scathing report finding that the agency frequently failed to investigate or report allegations of child abuse and flouted record-keeping and requirements.

Last week, DOI announced it was investigating the agency's handling of the case of Jaden Jordan, a three-year-old child allegedly beaten into a coma by his mother's boyfriend at the family home in Gravesend. Jordan died Monday as a result of his injuries.

ACS has not yet released data on removal filings in November.

A previous version of this article overstated the total number of petitions for removal filed by ACS in October; it is 312, not 1,322. The post has been updated accordingly.

Additional reporting by Erica Siudzinski