Children Are Not Doing Better in New York City Child Welfare System, Despite Ten Years of Reform Efforts

NEW YORK, NY — Outcomes for children and families in New York City’s child welfare system have not significantly improved, despite reform efforts over the last decade, a new study shows. Released today by the national watchdog group Children’s Rights, the report examines ten years of data, including the most recent data available, and concludes that, despite improvements in infrastructure and certain aspects of case practice, problems with ensuring children’s safety and wellbeing and moving them quickly into permanent homes persist, and have even worsened in some areas.

“Our analysis shows that outcomes have not improved for children and their families in New York City and, in some cases, are getting worse,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights. “The poor outcomes that have persisted for tens of thousands of children in New York City for at least ten years constitute a crisis and demand immediate and focused attention from the city, the state and the Family Court.”

The report, entitled At the Crossroads–Better Infrastructure, Too Few Results: A Decade of Child Welfare Reform in New York City examines the performance of New York City’s child welfare system over the past ten years in five key areas: child protective services, preventive services, foster care, the Family Court, and child fatalities. Key findings show that:

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

“The child welfare system’s infrastructure is much improved since ten years ago, but children at home or in foster care are not yet safer and those in care are staying for too long,” said Julie Farber, director of policy at Children’s Rights. “We hope our analysis helps focus and propel the reform efforts.”

The report notes that ACS Commissioner John Mattingly brings a wealth of valuable child welfare experience and expertise to New York City and that several ambitious reform efforts have been initiated during his tenure. Children’s Rights calls for intensive monitoring of these efforts to measure whether they in fact improve results for children and families.

In 1995, Children’s Rights filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City and State child welfare systems, on behalf of more than 100,000 children. Historic settlements were reached in 1999, mandating the creation of an Advisory Panel of experts to aid in the implementation of court-ordered reforms. At the Crossroads is the first comprehensive analysis of the New York City child welfare system since the Advisory Panel’s 2002 review.

Chris Iseli or Brooks Halliday // 212.683.2210