Levin lauds changes to foster care system

Council passes bills aimed at protecting kids

October 28, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Stephen Levin says the bills passed by the council “are a direct response to the firsthand experiences of youth in care.” Photo courtesy of Levin’s office
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A package of bills approved by the City Council on Oct. 27 will improve the foster care system for nearly 10,000 children in New York City, according to Councilmember Stephen Levin, who chairs the Committee on General Welfare.

“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,” Levin (D-Greenpoint-DUMBO-Downtown Brooklyn) said. “These bills are especially important because many of them are a direct response to the firsthand experiences of youth in care.”

Last year, the council hosted a Foster Youth Shadow Day in which members of the General Welfare and Youth Services committees were paired with a young person who was in or had recently aged out of foster care. During the event, the youths shared their ideas about improving foster care in the city.

Here are some of the items that are included in the legislation:

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  • The creation of a task force to recommend improvements to the foster care system that will include experts like child advocates and children in foster care.

  • A requirement that the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) create five-year plans to identify and address systemic barriers to permanent placement for children and young people who have spent an extended amount of time in foster care.

  • The implementation of a survey for children and youth in foster care regarding experiences with foster parents.

  • A call for the New York State Legislature to improve a housing subsidy used by former fostered young people in order to reduce their risk of homelessness as they age out of care.

Something has to be done about the city’s foster care system, according to Public Advocate Letitia James. “The very system that is meant to protect our children is failing them. 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,” she said.

While the number of children in foster care has decreased significantly in the past year, 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, according to figures provided by the City Council.

“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 Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (Flatbush-Prospect Lefferts Gardens), chairman of the Youth Services Committee.

The council is also seeking to reduce the number of youth who age out of foster care without a permanent family.

In 2015, more than 650 young people aged out of foster care, starting adulthood without family or ACS support. Most young people are not ready to be fully financially independent at 21, and yet that is what the city expects of young people who age out of the foster care system, officials said.

Child care advocates praised the legislation.

Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, said the bills passed by the council mark an important step. “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 sound bite,” he said.

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