Home Policy Projects New York City At the Crossroads: A Decade of NYC Child Reform

At the Crossroads: A Decade of NYC Child Reform


In July 2007, Children’s Rights issued At the Crossroads — Better Infrastructure, Too Few Results: A Decade of Child Welfare Reform in New York City.

The report, based on information gathered from key stakeholders and analyses of data pertaining to child abuse and neglect investigations, preventive and foster care services, child fatalities, and the Family Court, provides a comprehensive assessment of the performance of the New York City child welfare system, one of the largest public child welfare systems in the country.

Children’s Rights found that, despite a decade of reforms and improvements in the system’s infrastructure and in certain aspects of case practice, safety and permanency outcomes for many children and families have not significantly improved and, in some cases, have worsened.

Key findings include:

  • An increasing proportion of children known to the child welfare system are being repeatedly abused and neglected.
  • There has been a significant reduction in the number of abused and neglected children that New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) deems should be placed in foster care. The report notes that there is no magic formula in terms of how many abused and neglected children should be left at home and how many should be brought into foster care, and that decisions about placement of children in foster care should be made individually, based on good clinical judgment.
  • As the number of children in foster care has dropped, there has not been a commensurate increase in the provision of preventive services to children at home with their families.
  • A growing proportion of children in foster care are experiencing multiple placements.
  • A growing proportion of children in foster care are placed in facilities, rather than family foster homes.
  • Children in NYC stay in foster care longer than almost anywhere else in the country.
  • Foster care worker caseloads in New York City currently average 22 to 24 children per worker — double the national standard — and foster care worker turnover rates are 40 percent annually.

The report indicates that improvements have been made in the following areas:

  • Increased timeliness of abuse and neglect investigations.
  • Fewer cases of confirmed child abuse and neglect closed without providing any services to the family.
  • Frequency of visits between children in foster care and their parents.

The report notes that several ambitious reform efforts are currently underway, which must be carefully monitored to determine if they produce improved results for children and families. At the Crossroads aims to inform and propel those reform efforts, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that children who come to the attention of the New York City child welfare system are safe and have the opportunity to grow up in permanent families.

This report was funded by the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Edward and Ellen Roche Relief Foundation, and the Metzger-Price Fund.


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