Thousands of Children, Formerly in Foster Care, And Their Parents/Relatives Celebrate Family Unity at Festive Gathering
In recognition of the thousands of New York City parents and children who safely reunite following a child welfare experience, the Administration for Children’s Services hosted the third annual Family Fun Day at Riverbank State Park in Upper Manhattan on Saturday, September 15.
More than half of the 46,624 New York City children who left the foster care system between 2002 and the first half of 2007 have been returned with their birth families. Since 2005, over 9,367 of the City’s children in foster care have been reunited with their parents or relatives. Currently, Children’s Services is helping over 13,000 at-risk families stay together by offering services intended to prevent the need for foster care placements. All of these families, and especially the children, require continued guidance and support as they journey through life.
“Our first duty here at Children Services is to protect the children of this City from abuse and neglect,” ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly said. “The best way to accomplish this vitally important task is to ensure that children have strong families to care for them. Not bureaucracies, not organizations—families. Today, we are celebrating the love, dedication and commitment demonstrated by many families who have dealt with serious problems, such as drug abuse, domestic violence, mental health conditions, lack of housing and other issues. It often takes great courage and resolve for parents to overcome these situations -- to rehabilitate and reform their lives so they can once again have safe, nurturing relationships with their kids.”
Today, we are celebrating the love and courage it takes for families, who have been struggling with personal issues and other serious problems, to rehabilitate themselves, restructure their lives and become safe havens of strength and mutual respect for their kids.
Commissioner Mattingly added that the more than 6,500 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.”
Each year, Family Fun Day is hosted by the ACS Office of Advocacy and the Parent Advisory Work Group, which is made up of birth parents whose children were previously placed in foster care but have since achieved family reunification. This year, former NBA NY Knick John Starks and former WNBA NY Liberty Kym Hampton joined families at the event. The special gathering encouraged over 2,000 children, parents and extended family members to spend quality time together strengthening family ties as they took part in an afternoon of activities, educational offerings and entertainment for all ages. The event theme “Carnivale on the Hudson” was inspired by the festivals of Brazil, the Caribbean, and New Orleans Mardi Gras. Guests enjoyed live stage performances including the Zydeco band “The Doc Marshalls,” “Women in Steel,” playing steel pan sounds of soca, calypso, reggae and other Caribbean-inspired music; the Harlem Wizards basketball show, theatrical storytelling, African drumming and samba dancers, capoeira martial arts, fun-filled games with prizes including Mardi Gras bead toss and a limbo competition, Carnivale mask-making, face painting, tattoo artists, balloon sculptors, clowns, and Caribbean stilt walkers. Families enjoyed a picnic lunch featuring fried chicken and biscuits and Carnivale cuisine. The event also showcased parent-child workshops, a family education zone with the support from United Way of New York City, free health screenings and closed with a Carnivale parade.
In addition to support from ACS, Family Fun Day is made possible through generous donations from many local businesses and through sponsorship by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, Con Edison and New Yorkers For Children.
ACS Press Office: (212) 341-0999