August 19, 2003
New York City Child Welfare Advisory Panel Releases Report on Administration for Children’s Services Family Engagement Practices
The first report of the New York City Child Welfare Advisory Panel was released today highlighting the Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) efforts to involve families in decision-making about children who are in or entering the foster care system. Made up of local and national child welfare experts, in March 2002 the panel was invited by ACS Commissioner William C. Bell to continue the work of previous panels in promoting and maintaining the focus on child welfare reform and system improvement.
During the course of their review, the Panel observed five 72-hour and 30-day Family Team Conferences out of approximately 750 that ACS holds monthly and 10 Service Plan Reviews out of an estimated total of 1,650 that ACS case managers attend monthly. The Panel met regularly with ACS Executive staff and held three focus groups - two with parents and one with frontline workers. The Panel also held 81 meetings with stakeholders from the field including parents and parent support groups, legal professionals, Family Court judges, advocates, front- line and management staff in contract and preventive service programs, the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, ACS frontline and management staff, academic faculty and researchers from Schools of Social Work and Schools of Law, union representatives and elected and appointed policymakers.
Commissioner Bell said, “ACS continues to reform and improve the delivery of children’s services in New York City and this effort benefits tremendously from the public accountability that an advisory panel provides. Since ACS implemented Family Team Conferencing and enhanced Service Plan Reviews in our day-to-day practice, we have taken great strides to ensure that decision-making for children when entering and while in foster care is a shared process by ACS and all relevant family members. ACS is proud of the improved participation by families at these conferences over the past several years and we are confident that the process will continue to progress allowing us to best serve the children and families we come into contact with.”
Within the report, the Panel states:
“Today, guided by the strategies and goals outlined in Protecting the Children of New York and The Renewed Plan of Action, the City’s child welfare system is more accountable, children are better protected, ACS workers are better trained, voluntary agencies are more accountable, the services provided are increasingly neighborhood-based and the use of Family Team Conferences and Service Plan Reviews are more prevalent than was previously the case….ACS has developed sound policies around family engagement – case conferencing, visiting – and in this way has taken great strides toward achieving lasting operational improvement in the way families and children experience the City’s child welfare system.”
Among the specific recommendations, the Panel suggests ACS:
- Maximize the use of Family Team Conferences and Service Plan Reviews as decision- making opportunities for parents and as opportunities to develop individualized child and family service plans.
- Streamline and better coordinate ACS case management, case planning and care coordination activities and consider ways to improve care coordination through the use of technology.
- Build on ACS’s work with parents and parent advocates to improve the quality and effectiveness of Family Team Conferences and Service Plan Reviews.
- Continue to promote family engagement practice through training.
- Develop family engagement indicators and release regular reports on progress made.
Funded by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, The New York City Child Welfare Advisory Panel is chaired by Gail B. Nayowith, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC). Nine other national and local experts serve on the independent panel including Steven D. Cohen, Senior Consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Jorge Colapinto, Director, Foster Care Project and Faculty in the Clinical Externship Program at the Ackerman Institute for the Family; Dr. Kathryn Conroy, Assistant Dean, Director of Field Education at the Columbia University School of Social Work and Co-Chair of the ACS Advisory Board; Hon. Richard J. Fitzgerald, retired Chief Judge, Jefferson County Family Court and Commonwealth of Kentucky District Judge; John Mattingly, Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Team Leader for Child Welfare Policy; Ruth Mayden, Director, Program for Families with Young Children at the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Martha Olson, Esq., former President, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York; and David B. Sanders, Director Department of Children and Family Services, County of Los Angeles. Jennifer March-Joly, Associate Executive Director for Program and Policy at CCC, staffs the panel.