Rejecting Marriage

The Elephant in the Room

Remember “Elisa’s Law”?  In 1996, New York Gov. George Pataki signed this legislation, which removed, in the words of then Speaker of the New York Assembly Sheldon Silver, “archaic confidentiality laws” pertaining to juvenile-court and medical records.  The law also extended the period during which records of unfounded reports of child abuse were to be kept on file.  Easier access to private records and an atmosphere encouraging anonymous tips were going to make it easier for child-protection specialists to fight abuse.

The inspiration for the law was the death of a six-year-old Manhattan girl, Elisa Izquierdo.  In November 1995, Elisa’s crack-addled mother, Awilda Lopez, after subjecting the girl to starvation, humiliation, and torture, smashed her daughter’s head against a concrete wall.  Lopez, who is now in jail, appears to have had children by at least three men.  The man with whom she was cohabiting at the time of Elisa’s death was not the child’s father.  In crafting Elisa’s Law, the New York State Assembly declared “that the deaths of children due to abuse, neglect and maltreatment despite the involvement of government agencies charged with protecting these children is intolerable and unacceptable.”

Ten years ago, the government agency that, in spite of its significant involvement in her life, failed to save...

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