Modernizing NYC's safety net

Council Member Levin introduces legislation to improve services for vulnerable New Yorkers

Each year, the City of New York supports individuals and families that are working hard to make ends meet by providing benefits such as access to emergency food, rental assistance, and job-training. The Human Resources Administration alone coordinates 12 major public assistance programs that serve over 3 million people. However, our office regularly hears of miscommunications and mistakes in the administration of benefits and services, due in part to antiquated case management systems. This includes, for example, an inability to track documentation to place chronically homeless individuals in appropriate housing, long lags in school transfers for homeless students, and failure to notify clients of appointments critical to the continuance of benefits.

It is essential to maintain and strengthen our safety net by bringing case management systems into the 21st century. My bill, Introduction 1577, would create an Office of Case Management to ensure that we are using the latest advancements in technology to modernize our systems and connect vulnerable New Yorkers to benefits and services that will help them overcome poverty and income inequality.

First, the office would advise and assist service-providing agencies such as the Department of Social Services and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to update case management systems and ensure appropriate integration among agencies. The Office will also be responsible for ensuring that clients can use digital tools to apply for services, upload documents, and receive service updates by text or email. To ensure ongoing quality improvements, the new Office will also monitor and evaluate existing and updated case management systems. Finally, the Office will develop recommendations to the State of New York to encourage coordinated systems development to achieve shared policy objectives and improve services.

If we are to truly tackle income inequality in our City, we must ensure that our agency partners have the best possible tools to meet the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation for Life-Saving First Responder Training

Mayor de Blasio joined by Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Michael and Carmen Ojeda, and Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association. 

Mayor de Blasio joined by Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Michael and Carmen Ojeda, and Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association. 

CITY HALL―Today, Mayor de Blasio signed a bill that will increase transparency about life-saving training for first responders in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Council Member Levin introduced the legislation in honor of 11-year-old Briana Ojeda, who passed away after suffering an asthma attack near her home in Brooklyn. The police officer who accompanied Briana to the hospital did not perform potentially life-saving CPR because he said he did not feel qualified to do so. In September, Briana would have celebrated her eighteenth birthday.

“In order to save lives, New York’s finest must receive the highest quality training in life-saving CPR and AED skills,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “This is a commonsense measure that would help to improve the chance of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. It will ensure that first responders are well-equipped to react with speed and skill so that they can continue to protect and serve New Yorkers.”

In January, the NYPD instituted a new basic life support curriculum, which includes such training as infant and adult CPR, AED use, overdose treatment, and hemorrhage control.  Introduction 83 will require the New York Police Department to publish an annual report on the number of officers and school safety agents who receive high-quality CPR and AED certification to ensure this critical training is ongoing. Today, two NYPD police officers were honored with a Proclamation from the Council for demonstrating the lifesaving power of CPR when they used the skill to rescue an unconscious baby in the Bronx.

“How would you feel if an officer told a frantic mother that she would have to wait for EMS in order to start saving her child’s life, while her child is dying in front of her,” said Carmen Torres, Briana’s mother. “Briana was an 11-year-old baby girl who happened to run into a police officer who couldn’t do CPR. Losing Briana has been a life sentence of depression, anxiety, and a broken heart. By passing this legislation, hopefully no other family will have to endure this pain that will never go away.”

“On behalf of the American Heart Association, I am thrilled at today’s approval of legislation to improve CPR certification for our city’s law enforcement,” stated Melinda Murray, member of the NYC Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association. “Thank you, Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Stephen Levin for your championship of this important issue.  I lost my only child, my son Dominic, to cardiac arrest when he was just 17 years old. We also look forward to the day the Ojeda family finally secures the passage of Briana’s Law. Our hearts beat in unity for our children who were taken far too soon. We call upon the State Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead and help us make sure no more families experience this tragedy. Let’s pass Briana’s Law during this upcoming session.”           

The Council previously adopted Resolution 1181, calling on the state legislature to pass and the Governor to sign Briana’s Law (A. 4364-A/S.6717), a bill that would require that police officers are re-trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation every two years and demonstrate satisfactory completion of such training. Briana’s Law has passed the Assembly for four years, but the Senate has failed to move this bipartisan bill forward.

"It is imperative that police officers are adequately trained in the administration of CPR,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W Ortiz. “This easy to learn procedure has been proven to save lives in emergency situations and could have helped save the life of Briana Ojeda and others. The fact that the Police Academy had to reassign a CPR instructor after an officer recently testified he didn't feel confident in his CPR abilities proves the point that NYPD CPR training is inadequate."

“Briana's Law is all about saving lives,”said Senator Jack M. Martins, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “Police officers guard our safety and are often the first ones on scene whenever trouble occurs. Ensuring that the basic first aid training they already receive in the police academy is enhanced and periodically reinforced will help give them greater tools to save lives in situations where every second counts.”

"The American Red Cross is dedicated to saving more lives from cardiac arrest through raising public awareness and supporting educational programs that train more people in CPR," said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. "Time is of the essence during cardiac emergencies, so the more people and first responders properly trained and certified in CPR, the better the chances of saving a life."

More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home every year in the United States, with almost 90% resulting in death. However, if CPR is performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, an individual’s chance of survival can be double or even tripled. As such, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is supportive of further training for police officers.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Foster Care Legislative Package

Mayor de Blasio signed package of foster care bills almost a year after a "Foster Youth Shadow Day"

Mayor de Blasio signed package of foster care bills almost a year after a "Foster Youth Shadow Day"

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.

Youth Deserve So Much More: Coalition Rallies for a Better Foster Care System

Anna Sanchez, Youth Advocate

Anna Sanchez, Youth Advocate

Ivan Mendez, Youth Advocate

Ivan Mendez, Youth Advocate

CITY HALL―Today, Council Members were joined by a coalition of youth, advocates, and agencies, united in support of legislation to strengthen New York City’s foster care system for nearly 10,000 children and youth. 
 
“There is a strong urgency in this process,” said youth advocate Anna Sanchez. “I spend my time advocating for youth currently in care who don’t understand something that I never had the chance to experience at their age: a chance to have a family. I am someone who knows what it’s like to be in the system and I passionately believe that youth in care deserve to have so much more. I fully agree with all of the bills being considered because they will contribute to a more positive outcome for youth in care.”
 
“As a youth who stems from the foster care system and as an advocate for youth, I can say with the utmost confidence that youth in care do not know that family is their right,” said youth advocate Ivan Mendez.  “It is imperative that we pass these bills in order to help establish stability for youth currently in care.”
 
The proposed legislation would establish new feedback systems and guarantee the necessary data to push for systemic reforms at the state level and ultimately, comprehensive services here in New York City:

  • Create a taskforce to recommend improvements to our foster care system that will include experts such as child advocates and foster youth (Intro 1192);
  • Implement a survey for children and youth in care regarding experiences with foster parents (Intro 1199);
  • Call 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 (Res 1073);
  • Ensure we have the necessary data to push for systemic reforms, especially regarding educational continuity; incidences of abuse and neglect; and barriers to permanent placement (Intro 1190Intro 1196;Intro 1191);
  • Expand reporting on foster care regarding 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 1205Intro 1187Intro 1197).

Council Members developed many of the bills following the Council’s Foster Youth Shadow Day in November. 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.

“Children and youth in the City’s care are some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and it 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 these young people, as well as advocates, agencies, and my City Council colleagues to positively impact the foster care system.”

“The very system that is meant to protect our children is failing them,” saidPublic 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.
“This is a package of common-sense legislation that aims to ensure we are supporting our most important asset – our young people,” saidCouncilmember Rafael Salamanca, Jr.
 
“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,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.  “Through the unwavering commitment and dedication of our city’s advocates, I am proud to introduce legislation in June that will strengthen one of my first bills that was enacted in 2014 by disaggregating the number of foster care youth in high school and on track to graduate in four years by age.”

 “Often times, the most vulnerable of our citizens are the ones who suffer the most, due to being lost within the maze of bureaucracy. I am proud to support this package of legislative initiatives that aims to cultivate a more comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of at-risk children in our city's foster care system. These bills – collectively – seek to encourage a more functional system by mandating more accountability, more transparency, and more coordination between the myriad agencies that are on the front lines of servicing our foster children,” said Council Member Annabel Palma. 

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:
“We greatly appreciate the growing interest from the Council in ensuring the well-being and quality outcomes for foster youth, and look forward to working with Chairman Levin and his colleagues on these critical matters,” 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 power of data cannot be understated, particularly when it is critical information about foster children and youth who are literally in custody of the City of New York. We are honored to join our colleagues in the City Council, the Public Advocate, child welfare providers, and youth who have been in the child welfare system, to support this package of bills that will provide New Yorkers with more information about the needs of foster children and their families. CCC and others will be able to use this information to better focus our federal, state and local advocacy efforts to resolve the barriers we see in the data,” said
Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director, Policy and Advocacy, Citizens’ Committee for Children.