Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly today announced a sweeping restructuring of New York City ’s child welfare system that will strengthen Children’s Services’ core mission to protect children by providing higher-quality services and oversight; limiting the use of institutional care; and continuing the City’s historic reduction of the number of children in foster care. Additionally, Children’s Services will reinvest millions of dollars a year from foster care savings into family support services and a rate increase for its contract agency partners.
The restructuring is a far-reaching strategy to address the declining number of children in the City’s foster care system, which has decreased to 19,779 today from a high of 50,000 in 1991. That contraction, while good news for children and families, has threatened the health of the overall system because Children’s Services’ contract agency partners have struggled to get by with fewer cases and declining revenue. This has caused some agencies to close, and made it difficult for others to provide a high level of care. Addressing these declining numbers and their effect on providers is urgent: Children’s Services estimates that the foster care population could decrease to 17,000 by June 2006 and anticipates a further decline to 15,000 in 2007.
“It would be a failure of imagination and leadership if we ignored this opportunity to provide the highest level of service to children and families,” said Commissioner Mattingly. “Instead of placing a child in foster care as the first line of help, we will be creating a system that places neighborhood-centered family support at the heart of everything we do. By keeping kids where they belong—with their families whenever it’s safe to do so—we will be generating savings that will be reinvested in preventive services, aftercare, and enhancing foster care rates.”
The initiative, titled “Protecting Children and Strengthening Families: A Plan to Realign NYC’s Child Welfare System,” will be carried out over the next six months to two years and calls for:
- Reassigning an estimated 2,200 children from low-performing agencies to high-performing agencies.
- Terminating foster boarding home contracts with two lower-performing providers: Miracle Makers, Inc., and St. Christopher’s, Inc. [The contract with St. Christopher’s, Inc., to oversee 690 children in foster boarding homes, was cancelled last month following a DOI finding of fraudulent recordkeeping].
- Closing Children’s Services’ Bronx Direct Foster Care Services.
- Reducing the caseload at two of the largest foster boarding home providers that have not demonstrated high performance. Up to 800 total cases from Little Flower Children’s Services and Family Support Systems will be reassigned to higher-performing agencies in the same neighborhoods. The performance of these providers will also be under review going forward.
- Reviewing an additional eight providers with performance scores in the lowest tier. These providers, in addition to Little Flower Children’s Services and Family Support Systems, will be helped with technical assistance for the next three to four months to determine whether ACS should continue using them for foster boarding home services. The programs under review include: ACS’s Brooklyn Direct Foster Care Services; Child Development Support Corporation, Community Counseling and Mediation, Edwin Gould Services for Children, Harlem Dowling Westside Center , Heartshare Human Services of New York, Lutheran Social Services and Protestant Board of Guardians.
- Investing $36 million in city, state and federal funds into preventive care to decrease the likelihood that children will need to come into foster care, as well as for support programs for children who have been returned to their families.
- Raising the performance-based reimbursement rates for higher-performing agencies that provide foster boarding home and congregate care.
- Transferring more children out of group homes. This effort has already been under way for 18 months and has resulted in the closure of 53 sites with 473 beds. This will continue during the next six months; at least 121 additional beds will be closed and youth will be transferred to less restrictive, family-based settings whenever possible.
- Terminating contracts with three residential treatment centers, which provide care for children with more serious needs, for a total of up to 200 beds. These include New York Foundling Hospital ’s St. Agatha RTC and the Edwin Gould Academy RTC, both of which elected to end their RTC programs with Children’s Services. A third center had been operated by St. Christopher’s, Inc. ACS will review these cases and transfer them to high-performing programs.
- Expanding programs to help children and families leaving the foster care system, with special support for teens. These programs will be designed to aid and follow children wherever they go, whether it’s reunification with their families, adoption or other permanency situations.
At a press conference held today at the ACS Children’s Center, Commissioner Mattingly lauded the accomplishments of the entire community of child welfare professionals, providers and organizations who have worked over the past eight years to transform the City’s child welfare system from a troubled bureaucracy into a highly-responsive system that is focused on excellence, innovation and quality.
“If the work accomplished over the last eight years is any indication of what a private-public partnership can do, we have every reason to expect a system that will continue to rise to meet the extraordinary challenges of serving children and families in need,” Commissioner Mattingly said.
He also thanked Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for having the vision to support Children’s Services’ plan to realign the child welfare system, saying, “This plan will help thousands of the City’s children and families, and such a major overhaul would not have been possible without the backing of Mayor Bloomberg and the Administration.”