CITY HALL―Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a legislative package that will improve the foster care system for nearly 10,000 children and youth.
The legislation establishes strategic feedback systems, implements evidence-based permanency planning, and expands reporting on health, education, and housing stability outcomes. The seven bills provide the information necessary to strengthen comprehensive services here in New York City and urge systemic reforms at the state level.
Create a taskforce to recommend improvements to our foster care system that will include experts such as child advocates and foster youth (Intro 1192);
Require ACS to create three consecutive five-year plans that will identify and address systemic barriers to permanent placement for children and youth who have spent an extended amount of time in foster care (Intro 1191);
Implement a survey for children and youth in care regarding experiences with foster parents (Intro 1199); and
Expand reporting on foster care regarding educational continuity, graduation success, attainment of government-issued identification, and the number of youth who have aged out of care and who enter a homeless shelter or receive financial assistance such as SNAP benefits (Intro 1190; Intro 1205; Intro 1187; Intro 1197).
“Children and youth in the City’s care are some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that each of them has a safe, loving home and access to comprehensive services,” said Council Member Levin, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare. “These bills are especially important because many of them are a direct response to the firsthand experiences of youth in care. I look forward to continuing to work with young people, advocates, agencies, and my City Council colleagues to improve how our City protects and provides for our children.”
Last year, the Council hosted a Foster Youth Shadow Day at the Council during which members of the General Welfare and Youth Services Committees were paired with a young person who were in or had recently aged out of care. During the event and in follow-up meetings, youth shared ideas about improving foster care in New York City, informed by their own experiences of the system.
“The very system that is meant to protect our children is failing them,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “This package of bills is an important first step to overhaul our City’s broken system and provide the protections that our children need and deserve. I want to thank Council Members Ferreras-Copeland and Levin for their partnership on this issue. We must continue to focus on our children, protect them from harm, and ensure that we transform our system to one that protects and cares for our most vulnerable children.”
“Our foster care youth are some of the most vulnerable populations in our city and after participating in Foster Youth Shadow Day last year, it became clear that we should be doing a lot more as a city to protect them,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “This package of bills is focused on finding the holes in foster care and improving the lives of foster youth, which will ensure that they are no longer left behind in New York City. I'd like to thank Council Member Levin and all my colleagues for working together to secure a better future for children in the foster care system.”
While the number of children in foster care has decreased significantly in the past year, it stands that children in New York City’s system spend almost twice the amount of time in care than children in the rest of the country – 3.2 years versus 1.7 years. There is still much more to be done so that the nearly 10,000 New York City children and youth in care can receive vital services and return to their families or be adopted by lifetime families. The bills considered today underscore areas where data is needed to improve service delivery, such as education and housing.
“All children, teenagers, and young adults deserve to have access to supportive resources, and it is crucial that New York City’s foster care system is improved so that it adequately addresses the needs of our young people in foster care,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Chairman of the Youth Services Committee.
“Every youth, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or background, deserves an equal opportunity to succeed as scholars and professionals. With nearly 10,000 children and youth under the care of the Administration for Children’s Services, we must ensure that the proper resources are in place to support their continued growth and development within and beyond the foster care system. I am proud that my bill, Intro 1205, will enable us to assess the academic progression of high school-aged youth in foster care,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.
It is also essential to reduce the number of youth who age out of foster care without permanent family. In 2015, over 650 young people aged out of foster care, starting adulthood without family or ACS support. The majority of young people, including those that did not grow up in the foster care system, are nowhere near ready to be fully financially independent at 21 – and yet that is exactly what we expect of young people who age out of the foster care system.
“I am happy to support these bills, which will provide much needed information about foster care and the young people in the system,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “We must work together so that all youth receive the support they need to be successful, and these bills will provide us with the data necessary to make the necessary reforms. I also thank Public Advocate James and Council Member Levin for their leadership on this legislation.”
“This joint effort to strengthen NYC's foster care system will improve the lives of thousands of young New Yorkers,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “My legislation will help these youth obtain identification by improving Administration for Children's Services reporting practices. I am proud to be part of this work which will ensure that all those in foster care have equal access to city services.”
“The foster care system is entrusted with the safety and care of some of our most vulnerable children. It’s important that we, as a City, properly protect and care for them. This package of bills will strengthen the foster care system by providing much needed oversight,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik.
Advocates and agencies stood with Council Members to offer praise for the legislative package:
“Today the New York City Council has overwhelmingly passed a package of bills aimed at improving the wellbeing of New York City’s children and youth in foster care. CCC applauds the leadership of Council member Levin and the General Welfare Committee in this effort and we look forward to continuing to partner with the Council and the Administration to improve outcomes for the families who come into contact with the child welfare system,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director, Policy and Advocacy, Citizens’ Committee for Children.
“It is appreciated when the public takes an interest in the finer points of child welfare and we are grateful for the Council’s interest, especially the attention to nuance being paid by Council Member Levin,” said Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), which represents nearly all New York State nonprofit organizations that provide foster care, adoption, and family preservation services. “The information the Council will receive from the required reports should provide a broader picture of the city’s youth and families than is captured in a headline or soundbite. We hope the reports will illustrate some of the successes gained from ongoing system improvement, and also shine a light on the obstacles ACS and the child welfare agencies face in building strong families in New York City.”
With the legislative package, the Council also passed Resolution 1073, calling on the New York State legislature to improve a housing subsidy used by former foster youth in order to reduce their risk of homelessness as they age out of care. Sponsor Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, Jr. said, “This is a package of common-sense legislation that aims to ensure we are supporting our most important asset – our young people.