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Recent Data Shows More Work Must Be Done to Bring New York City Foster Kids Home Faster

Advocates, City Officials Host Symposium for Nearly 100 Child Welfare Professionals

NEW YORK – Two years after the release of an in-depth study of children who had spent long periods of time in New York City foster care, Children’s Rights — in partnership with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) — held a symposium today to discuss new data on the issue of long foster care stays and to gain valuable feedback from the nearly 100 child welfare professionals in attendance.

(PDF) provided by ACS and the New York City Family Court shows that while some progress has been made to reunify children with their families more quickly or find new adoptive homes if reunification isn’t possible, nearly 40 percent of children currently in the city’s custody have been in care for more than three years.

Today’s symposium, titled “The Long Road/One Year Home,” revisited the issues and recommendations outlined inThe Long Road Home: A Study of Children Stranded in New York City Foster Care (PDF) released in November 2009. Among many findings, that study reported that in 2008 the average length of stay for children who had been in the city’s foster care system for at least two years was nearly five and a half years – some having lingered in foster care nearly their entire lives.

The Long Road Home study was a call to action, which in turn spurred ACS to take significant steps in improving the city’s ability to bring children in foster care home to permanent and loving families,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights. “However, we cannot stop there. Far too many children languish in foster care in New York City without hope of going home to a stable family, and we must continue to work together to find new and innovative ways to fix this system for those kids.”

A mix of both promising trends and persistent challenges can be seen in the data released at today’s symposium, including:

Symposium participants took part in discussion groups covering a variety of topics, such as how to better use data to improve outcomes for children, how to strengthen relationships with birth parents, and how to better support older adolescents in foster care.

Participants also received an opportunity to pose questions to a panel of child welfare experts, including Children’s Rights Executive Director Marcia Robinson Lowry, ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly, NYC Family Court Administrative Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, and other distinguished professionals. Steven Cohen from the Annie E. Casey Foundation moderated the two panel discussions.

Children’s Rights plans to take the feedback gathered from symposium participants, along with the new data presented, and issue a report of recommendations on how current progress can be maintained for children in New York City foster care, as well as thoughts on how new actions and initiatives could improve the city’s ability to meet the needs of its most vulnerable children.

To read today’s data reports or a copy of The Long Road Home study, and to find out more about Children’s Rights’ child welfare reform efforts in New York City and nationwide, please visit www.childrensrights.org/longroadhome.