Improved Outcomes for Children: The Second Phase of ACS’ Action Plan for Child Safety
The NYC Administration for Children’s Services today announced a plan to strengthen the City’s oversight of preventive and foster care agencies through a comprehensive overhaul of its current system called “Improved Outcomes for Children” (IOC).
This new initiative is designed to improve the results achieved by the private agencies under contract to Children Services. These results include:
- Helping children in foster care to experience fewer moves while in care;
- Finding permanent, safe families in an expedited manner;
- Reducing the frequency of children being placed in group care, rather in family foster care;
- Strengthening the preventive agencies’ work with children and families.
These improvements will be achieved by broader and a more timely monitoring of how the agencies serve the approximately 17,000 New York City children in foster care and 27,000 children receiving preventive services.
IOC is the second phase of Children’s Services’s Action Plan for Child Safety, introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in March 2006 to improve the child protective work of ACS during investigations of abuse and neglect.
“Our goal with Improved Outcomes for Children is to improve the results these agencies achieve for children and families,” said Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly. “Children in our care deserve to be safe, they deserve the best possible help the City can give them, and they deserve to have a safe, forever family without unnecessary delays. I am convinced that the innovations we’re making with IOC will lead to better outcomes for children and families, which is what Children’s Services is all about. I am also convinced that our private agency partners will welcome these new approaches to monitoring and supporting their work.”
As it works now, the private agency makes decisions regarding a child and family. ACS must approve these decisions; and then the help is provided. The redundancy in the process often slows down progress with the family and creates confusion in the Family Court about who is responsible for carrying out the Court’s orders.
Under IOC, teams of child welfare professionals from Children’s Services will participate in key safety decision-making meetings at provider agencies as family conferencing social workers. They will interact directly with children and families and will work in partnership with provider agency staff. This will save time and reduce the duplication that occurs under the current system. The Commissioner, of course, is ultimately responsible for the safety of all the children in ACS’ care. Foster care systems around the country that have instituted similar changes have seen these results:
- Increase in the number of foster homes available
- Decrease in the use of residential care
- Increase in the number of adoptions finalized
- An increase in the stability of adoptions
- Fewer children re-entering foster care within a year of being reunified with their families
- Shorter stays in foster care – children going home safely, sooner
IOC will also involve a major investment by ACS in upgrading the quality and intensity of its oversight of the private agencies. Teams of performance monitors will be assigned to each provider agency to ensure that they deliver high quality services to children and families. Further, ACS technical assistance teams will troubleshoot specific cases and provide training and consultation to provider agencies regarding challenging areas of practice.
On the financing side, contract agencies will have more dependable and flexible financial resources to address the individual needs of each child while emphasizing the quality of care provided to the children in foster care. Agencies will be given the flexibility to make strategic, up-front program investments to improve the stability of children’s placements and expedite return home or adoption.
The first phase of IOC will involve private agencies serving approximately 25% of the foster and 10% of the preventive population and will begin in July 2007. Foster care and preventive service providers will have the opportunity of applying to become part of the initial rollout of IOC in July. The rest of the system will continue to be overseen in the current manner, until entire system is converted to IOC by July, 2008.
“ACS’ progress in achieving the goals of the Action Plan for Child Safety has been gratifying,” Commissioner Mattingly concluded. “We intend to hold onto all of the gains we have achieved. But now we are widening our efforts to encompass all the families already receiving preventive help and all of the children who are already in foster care.”
ACS Press Office: (212) 341-0999