Just over 16,000 children are in foster care in New York State. They face greater economic, health, and academic challenges than their peers. Yet, with supported and compassionate caregivers, children in foster care can thrive. It is time for New York to focus on preventing entry into foster care and on recruiting and intensively supporting kin and others who step forward to care for them.  

New York is a leader in many respects in the areas of child welfare.  For example, it makes a substantially greater investment in preventive services than most other states. It is essential that the State begin to collect information about the effectiveness of its preventive services.

New York State has repeatedly — for more than a decade — ranked poorly in a periodic federal review called the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR), which Schuyler Center reported on in April 2016. The State should conduct a root cause analysis to determine why the State is persistently failing to meet national standards on numerous child welfare measures. In the last periodic review, New York ranked last compared to 47 states measured on the rate of recurrence of maltreatment. This means that 17.8% of New York children who had experienced a confirmed case of maltreatment, experienced a second incident within 12 months. The national standard is 9.1%. New York ranked near the bottom on the time it takes for children in foster care to be placed in a permanent home.  In particular, New York performed poorly in terms of finding permanency for children and youth who had been in foster care for more than 12 months. And, New York ranked 46th out of 48 states for the rate of maltreatment while in foster care.

We know that children do better when families are economically secure, have access to affordable quality child care and health care, and when caregivers have the tools and support they need. 

Our colleagues, Richard Heyl de Ortiz and Sarah Gerstenzang, from the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition, recently penned a thoughtful commentary in the Times Union with strong recommendations about how New York can and should do better for children who are in foster care. 

New York – and the country – have a real opportunity with the recent passage of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, to transform our foster care system. Read Schuyler Center’s June 2018 memo about The Federal Family First Prevention Services Act Relating To Child Welfare Financing. Among the Act’s requirements: that all states dramatically reduce their reliance on institutional or group home care, investing more in family-based and kin-based foster care. As a leader of the CHAMPS-NY campaign, the Schuyler Center is working to ensure that New York leverages this opportunity, and uses its considerable resources and expertise to ensure that whenever possible, children who must enter the foster care system are placed with kin or in family-based care, and that foster families are well-resourced and supported.