City failing to fully vet foster care homes, audit reveals
A study released on Monday found that the city agency that certifies foster homes has been doing a shoddy job ensuring the homes meet the required health and safety certifications.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s audit of the Administration for Children’s Services found that 81 percent of sampled foster homes failed to provide proof of at least one aspect of the required training, medical exams, background checks and clearances. The study period covered fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
The organizations reviewed in the report include Catholic Guardian (with 26 homes under their jurisdiction), Children’s Village (51 homes) and Jewish Child Care Associates (33 homes).
Stringer said his audit “shows that ACS’s lack of oversight enables a deficient foster care system, where children can be placed in homes that don’t measure up or meet their needs.”
There are about 17,000 foster kids in New York City, according to the federally-funded organization Adopt US Kids. The Comptroller’s Office cites New York State data showing 4,685 foster homes in the city as of Jan. 15, 2018.
Families wishing to take in children must be certified in foster training, get background clearances from the FBI and the state, cooperate with a home study, and undergo medical exams, including a tuberculosis test.
But according to the audit, 89 out of 110 sampled homes were not cleared in all of the required areas in 2017. Of these, 43 were missing multiple requirements. Most of the foster homes missing certifications already had foster children residing in them — some for months.
In one example provided by Stringer’s office, a certified foster family caring for three children was missing medical clearances and TB screenings (for four of the five household members residing in the home), evidence of training, and references.
In another example, a child was placed into an “emergency kinship” home and resided there for over a year while the home was out of compliance. Emergency kinship homes are required to undergo an emergency home study prior to the child’s placement and a full home study within 90 days of placement — but in this home, no study had been completed at all for more than 11 months.
Stringer wants ACS to hold off on certifying families until they have submitted proof that they’ve met city and state requirements. He also wants them to require already-certified homes to correct deficiencies by set deadlines, and asks ACS to update its system to make sure it checks for all required documentation.
ACS disagrees with Stringer’s claims, however.
“There are significant inaccuracies in this report. Regardless, ACS goes beyond the legal requirements in its oversight of foster homes – and we are already doing everything this report recommends,” an ACS spokesperson told the Eagle.
In a partial rebuttal to some of Stringer’s claims, ACS told the Comptroller’s office that state regulations require that a tuberculosis screen or related tests be conducted only if a medical professional “determines that such a screening is deemed necessary.”
In addition, ACS says certification of foster parents “is the purview of the state, in that the state has empowered authorized agencies to conduct such certification,” and by doing their own certification checks, ACS could interfere with the state.
Stringer’s audit dismissed this rebuttal as “without merit.”
In addition, ACS says they already do set deadlines for certification. Stringer’s office says when it checked to see if the homes actually provided the certification by the deadlines, they found about a quarter of the homes had not complied and had given no explanation of when they would do so.
ACS issued several additional rebuttals.
Updated 5/10/19 with a statement from ACS.
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