In recognition of the thousands of New York City families who have been safely reunited after their children were in foster care, the Administration for Children’s Services hosted the first-ever Family Unity Day on Saturday, Sept. 17 in Central Park’s East Meadow.
More than half of the 44,420 children who left the foster care system between 2001 and the first half of 2005 have been returned to their birth families. In 2004 alone, 4,341 children were reunited with their families from foster care.
“Our first job at Children Services is to protect the children of this City from abuse and neglect,” ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly said at the event. “The best way we know to do that is to see to it that children have strong families to care for them. Not bureaucracies, not organizations—families. Today, we are celebrating the love and courage that it takes for families who had been struggling, often with drug abuse and other serious problems, to find the courage to become safe again for their kids.”
Commissioner Mattingly added that the 6,000 committed staffers at Children Services also appreciate the efforts “of all those mothers and fathers in this city who work hard every day to care for their children, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. New York is a city of neighborhoods, but more than anything, it is a city of strong families. Today we thank you all for what you do.”
Family Unity Day provided parents and children an opportunity to enjoy themselves in a supportive, friendly setting that was free to participants. Activities featured salsa music by Sonido Costeno, a basketball show by the Harlem Wizards, and performances by the Badenya Dancers & Drummers, Pepper Steppers Double Dutch Show, Acrobacks and Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre. A petting zoo, caricature artists, face painters, clowns, inflatable castles, a rock climbing wall, miniature golf and tattoo artists were also on hand to entertain the nearly 900 children and parents who were expected to attend. The Family Fun Zone hosted three arts and crafts workshops for creating paper flowers, sand art, visors and percussion instruments.
More than three dozen organizations that provide social and health services also were expected to attend the event to offer information and assistance to families and children. In addition to Children’s Services, the sponsors included New Yorkers for Children, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Fidelis Care and Lands End.
The event was open to families who have responded to an invitation from Children’s Services, as well as to members of the press.