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When, in January 2006, seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown was tortured and beaten to death, allegedly by her stepfather as her mother ignored her cries for help, every New Yorker looked at the city's Administration for Children's Services for answers. Conversely, I do not recall any discussion about the failure of charities to adequately provide for the city's abused children. Charities, like non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are not expected to be responsible for systemic problems. They are a moral and social bonus, which fill the gap in discrete areas where taxpayers' money is not sufficient. So I may be accused of having a one-track mind, but I cannot seem to escape the following questions: Why do we even talk about providing social services in the twenty-first century? Couldn't we have had this issue resolved by now? Why don't we have a “sophisticated national system of government departments” charged with this task? Most other Western countries have one. Even corporate America would like the government to be in charge of providing social services for its employees. Instead we find ourselves on the cutting-edge of a newly fashionable neo-liberal government that looks as emaciated as a Hollywood diva and as masculine as a New York City cop. This decade-long transformation comes hand-in-hand with a trend of privatization and an increased reliance on the nonprofit sector, both domestically and internationally.

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