March 19, 2002
ACS COMMISSIONER WILLIAM C. BELL ANNOUNCES NEW CHILD WELFARE ADVISORY PANEL
Annie E. Casey Foundation Will Support New Panel Made Up of Local National Child Welfare Experts
Citing the need to continue reform efforts and maintain public accountability, Administration for Children's Services (ACS) Commissioner William C. Bell today announced the formation of a new Child Welfare Advisory Panel made up of local and national child welfare experts.
The new panel would replace the outgoing Special Child Welfare Advisory Panel, which was created as part of the 1998 settlement between the City and child welfare advocates who had brought the federal Marisol class action lawsuit. The panel of five national child welfare experts closely reviewed ACS reform efforts for two years, and issued several public reports on ACS progress, concluding in December 2000 that ACS had made "remarkable progress" to reform the child welfare system in New York City. For the past year, at the invitation of ACS, the Panel continued to review ACS initiatives and advise ACS on reform efforts. Its concluding public report on the state of reform efforts at ACS is being published today.
Commissioner Bell said, "ACS believes that our reform efforts benefit from the additional public accountability that an advisory panel provides. I have reiterated our commitment to continuing to maintain the standards of excellence that have been established at ACS and its contracted service providers. ACS believes that an ongoing advisory panel can play a major role as we continue our broader responsibilities to protect children and to keep the public informed about those efforts."
Commissioner Bell advanced the idea of a new panel in a March 7 letter to Doug Nelson, the President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation who also served as the Chair of the Special Child Welfare Advisory Panel. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy based in Baltimore, Maryland, has agreed to underwrite the costs of the new Panel and provide technical and other assistance to it.
Gail Nayowith, executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children (CCC), an independent New York City-based child advocacy organization, has agreed to chair the new panel, which will be known as the NYC Child Welfare Advisory Panel. It will be made up of local and national child welfare experts and include a number of members from the outgoing panel.
"I look forward to working with the new panel, the new ACS Commissioner and the new Mayor," Ms. Nayowith said. "I also look forward to being responsive to the broad child welfare community that is committed to making New York City's child welfare system work better for children and families."
The panel will meet regularly with the ACS leadership team, have full access to ACS programs, and will publish public reports on ACS performance.
Commissioner Bell welcomed the outgoing panel's concluding report.
"We agree with the panel report that although tremendous progress has been made by ACS, much remains to be done, especially in the further development of our neighborhood-based services networks throughout the City," Commissioner Bell said.
According to the report: "The Administration for Children's Services is far better managed than its predecessors; it has committed itself to policies, such as neighborhood-based services, that are in line with the best national thinking about child welfare reform; it has added substantial resources in critically needed areas; it is far better able than ever before to hold accountable private not-for-profit agencies, which provide the large majority of foster care and related services; and it is undertaking promising changes, such as the widespread use of family case conferences, to strengthen front-line practice. Mayor Bloomberg's appointment of William Bell, who has played a central role in the system's progress over the past six years, as the new ACS Commissioner, encourages us, and many other observers, to believe that these important efforts can serve as a foundation for even greater accomplishment in the future."
The report also pinpointed six areas where further reform efforts were required. They are:
- neighborhood-based services;
- family engagement;
- better training, supervising, and retaining qualified staff;
- developing a better system of care for teenagers and their families;
- working with the leadership of the Family Court to promote permanency and safety for children; and
- improving the treatment of thousands of children as they come into foster care each year.