Our Plan for the Child Welfare System

As your City Council Member, I will fight for changes to the child welfare system that will keep families together, address systemic biases, and hold the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) accountable:
  • Prioritize prevention-based approaches that strengthen and keep families together.
  • Tackle systemic biases throughout the child welfare system.
  • Increase ACS transparency and accountability.

Read more below...

The Issues:

As a forensic social worker with extensive experience in the child welfare and criminal legal system, I have seen the devastating links between race, poverty, and involvement with child welfare and recognize the urgent need for change in both systems. The disproportionate number of Black and Latinx youth represented within the foster care system is unacceptable. Studies have demonstrated a strong association between the percentage of Black and Latinx residents in a neighborhood, child poverty rate, and the rate of Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) investigations across all five boroughs.

 

I passionately believe families should be kept together except in the gravest of circumstances. Throughout my professional career I have been at the table for countless meetings where decisions were being made that would have dire consequences for families. The effects of systemic biases in the child welfare system can shape a child’s future. Children in foster care have higher rates of mental health problems, depression, and anxiety than their peers, and are more likely to underperform in school from elementary school through college. 

 

The existing problems with the foster care system have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Across the state 325,000 children have been pushed into poverty since the onset of the pandemic. This is a sobering statistic in its own right, but especially so considering that in 2019, the majority of child maltreatment allegations in New York City stemmed from concerns of neglect due to economic hardship. Furthermore, the Family Court’s restricted operations during the pandemic has meant that fewer adoptions and kinship placements—care by a close family member—were finalized during 2020, a barrier which has needlessly kept families apart and continues on into 2021.

 

These hardships have been felt right here in District 11. Community Board 12 has the second highest number of youth in foster care of anywhere in the city. Overall, The Bronx had the highest number of reported abuse and/or neglect cases of any borough last year. 

 

While some change is happening, more must be done to protect and strengthen families. ACS reported a historic low of 7,800 children in the City's foster care system last year. Yet Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget threatens a 10.7% cut to the State’s Office of Children and Family Services. A system that equates lower foster care numbers with lower funding is not one built to solve the real issues plaguing child welfare today.

Our Solutions:

As your City Council Member, I will fight for changes to the child welfare system that will keep families together, address systemic biases, and hold ACS accountable.
 

To address the repeated victimization of communities of color, I believe all stakeholders involved in the child removal process, from judges to child protective specialists, need more training and support. At the same time, I will fight for policies that ensure families have living wages; good jobs; accessible, affordable, high-quality housing; health care; and child care in order to directly address the root causes of family instability.  

 

As City Council Member for District 11, I will specifically fight to:

Prioritize prevention-based approaches that strengthen and keep families together:
  • Bring CARES to District 11. CARES is a non-investigative approach for cases where there is no immediate danger to children or allegations of abuse, in which ACS works with families to develop solutions to their challenges and connect them with resources.

  • Bring Family Enrichment Centers to District 11. These walk-in centers, tailored to the needs of specific communities and designed with input by neighborhood residents, are a new form of primary prevention. These Centers have proved to have positive effects on social support, family functioning, and offer increased access to resources on parenting, financial planning, among other benefits.

  • Institute continuity of care programs for fragile families.

  • Create financial incentives to get kids back to their families or into other permanent living arrangements and out of foster care.

  • Elevate public housing applications where housing is a barrier to family reunification.

  • Focus on finding families for older kids in foster care.

  • Fund greater support for adoptive families.

  • Advocate for the Human Resources Administration to direct greater Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for kinship placements. 

 

Tackle systemic biases throughout the child welfare system:
  • Advocate for required implicit bias training for all state-mandated reporters, including at the NYC Department of Education, Health + Hospitals, and Department of Homeless Services.

  • Support the City in its implementation of race-blind assessments during ACS child safety conferences that may result in a child’s removal—this includes removing any collateral markers that may suggest a person’s or family’s race, culture, or ethnicity.

 

Increase ACS transparency and accountability:
  • Support proposed City Council legislation such as Intros. 1716-2019, 1717-2019, 1719-2019, and 1727-2019, all of which would require more detailed ACS reporting on disparities within the welfare system. 

  • Support the passage of City Council legislation such as Intros. 1718-2019, 1729-2019, 1736-2019, 1715-2019 and 1728-2019, which would expand parents' legal representation within the system and give parents better information regarding their rights in ACS interactions.