Child Advocate Assails NYC Foster Care

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City traps thousands of children in a foster care system that fails to prevent abuse, child-welfare advocates told a federal judge, adding that children remain in custody here far longer than in other states.
     New York City Public Advocate Letitia James filed the class action on July 8, seeking a fix for what she describes as a broken system.
     “Thousands of children in our foster care system have been allowed to languish for years on end in abusive, unhealthy situations,” James said in a statement. “It is clear that we need to significantly reform our foster care system so that children are ultimately connected to safe, permanent homes and have access to the resources they need to be happy and healthy. We must act now to fix this broken system, and hold those who have failed our children accountable.”
     The 108-page complaint details the experiences of 10 children names as plaintiffs in the complaint.
     Some allegedly languished in the system as their parents tried to regain custody without help from the city, while others who should have been made adoptable suffered from the city’s delays in eliminating parental rights.
     A driving factor in the system’s failures is its lack of clear planning for parent reunification or adoption, as well as a lack of oversight of the 39 contracted partners, according to the complaint.
     James says the result is rampant emotional and physical abuse of children, who are left without hope for a permanent home.
     The lawsuit also says New York City’s high rate of foster care transfers prevent children from establishing a permanent home.
     A report James released two days before filing suit found that 57 percent of children in foster care had more than one placement. About 25 percent had at least five placements.
     As of April 2015, there were about 11,137 children in New York City’s foster care system. According to federal data included in the complaint, the average child in New York City’s foster care system spends a median of 12.6 months before being reunified with their parents, compared to a median of 8.6 months for the rest of the country, ranking 48th out of 53 states and territories.
     Of the New York City children who are not reunified with their parents, they spend a median of 55.8 months in foster care before they can be adopted, according to the complaint.
     James says the national median is 26.9 months.
     It takes longer for foster child to be adopted in New York City than anywhere else in the nation, which is a distinction that the city has held since 2007, according to the complaint. James says about 1,000 children never find a permanent home and simply age out of the system, often ending up homeless.
     “Put simply, children in New York are more likely to be harmed while under the state’s protection than children in virtually every other state,” the complaint states.
     The class is represented by Marcia Robinson Lowry of A Better Childhood Inc. in Chappaqua, and attorneys from Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.

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