Schuyler Center Core Focus: Keeping Families Together
One of Schuyler Center’s top end of year priorities is to secure passage of S.8421/A.10513, a bill that would establish annual reporting requirements on utilization of child welfare preventive services. These services include home visiting, housing assistance, child care, day care, homemaker services, parent training or parent aide, clinical services, transportation, job training, education, and emergency services (i.e. cash grants). They are designed to help families deal with any issues which might prevent them from taking care of their children on their own, and provide an environment where children can thrive. Without these services, more families will be separated, with children placed in foster care.
One of Schuyler Center’s core principles is to promote policies that prevent harm to children and families, that strengthen families, and keep families together. Another core focus is holding public systems to account. Tracking data is the first step in improving outcomes. We cannot set a goal to achieve without first seeing our starting point. Getting a clear picture of the status of preventive services in New York State helps to identify the gaps as well. The data that would be collected under this bill will help the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) gain an understanding of how counties implement child welfare prevention. By collecting data on the services available to New Yorkers, OCFS will be able to see how many families are using these services, and for how long, and with what outcome. Do the families stay together, or are children placed with relatives or in foster care?
Providing families with proven supportive services is more important than ever right now. The pandemic and its impacts have placed many New York families—disproportionately families of color—under extraordinary stress. One of the circumstances that often bring families into contact with protective services is poverty. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1 million children have had a parent lose their job, and 4,200 children have lost a parent or guardian to COVID-19. An estimated 325,000 children are now in or near poverty. Preventive services can safeguard families, and get them the support they need to continue taking care of their children the way they would have before March 1, 2020.
This bill was passed by both houses in July, but Governor Cuomo hasn’t signed it yet. We urge the Governor to support families by signing this bill before the end of this year. Since bills have a life cycle that ends at the end of the calendar year, it will have to be reintroduced in 2021 if he doesn’t sign before December 31, 2020.
To keep the momentum going, we urge partners to join us in urging Governor Cuomo to sign S.8421/A.10513 without delay. The preventive services data that would be gathered would help ensure families and communities are being provided the tools they need to weather mental health, social, and economic challenges.