New Report – Big Dreams for New York City's Youngest Children: The future of early care and education

In October 2012, New York City launched EarlyLearnNYC, a plan that would upend its system for providing subsidized child care to working class and low-income families. The goal was to take the city’s sprawling assortment of child care programs—ranging from subsidized babysitting services to nationally accredited preschools—and blend them into a unified, holistic spectrum of early education services for children from 6 weeks through 4 years old.

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Recommendations & Solutions – Big Dreams for New York’s Youngest Children: The future of early care and education

RECOMMENDATIONS AND SOLUTIONS By establishing full-day, universal pre-kindergarten for New York City’s 4-year-olds, Mayor Bill de Blasio has demonstrated a powerful commitment to early childhood education. His administration now has the opportunity to broaden that vision and strengthen the city’s subsidized programs for early care and education serving the city’s youngest residents, children aged 0 to 3.

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Panel - Big Dreams for New York's Youngest Children: The future of early care and education

Presented by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School in collaboration with the Child Care and Early Education Fund

With the creation of EarlyLearnNYC in 2012, New York City reinvented its system for subsidized early care and education for children from low-income families. Officials sought to ensure high quality, developmentally smart care--but a string of financial and logistical hurdles posed difficulties for many of the nonprofit organizations that run these programs. Today, some thrive while others have lost their contracts or struggle to remain open. Now, as the city launches an expanded Pre-K network for 4-year-olds, what will happen to subsidized child care for younger kids? Can the reform vision of EarlyLearn be put fully into action, and sustained? A conversation with experts in the field, and the release of findings from a new Center for New York City Affairs report on early care and education.


  • Steve Barnett,director, National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University
  • Maria Benejan, associate commissioner, Division of Early Care and Education at New York City Administration for Children's Services
  • Takiema Bunche-Smith, education director, Brooklyn Kindergarten Society
  • Gregory Brender, policy analyst, United Neighborhood Houses 
  • Maria Contreras-Collier, executive director, Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation


  • Abigail Kramer, associate editor, Center for New York City Affairs

Click here for Participant Bios.


Access and download the Executive Summary, Findings and Recommendations.

Homes to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Families who experience homelessness are more likely to have their children placed in foster care than other low-income families, reports City Limits in a profile about a new housing program. Run by the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Keeping Families Together (KFT) is one of the country’s first supportive housing programs created with the explicit mission of keeping kids out of foster care. KFT provides families with permanent housing and the option to receive services that can help them create safe, healthy environments for their children. Families eligible for KFT must be chronically homeless and parents must suffer from substance abuse, mental illness, or both. However, sobriety testing and service participation is not a requirement of the program, which relies on staff who respect residents’ autonomy while supporting their goals.

KFT currently houses 26 families in six privately operated sites in New York City, where 22,0000 children are homeless each night. So far, the program is showing promising results. While a small number of families have withdrawn from KFT voluntarily, often due to a need for more intensive services, the families who stick with it have seen a marked decrease in child welfare involvement. KFT families had 46 cases of indicated child abuse and neglect cases in the three years before they entered the program. In the three years after moving in, families had only 13 new indicated cases of abuse or neglect cases, with none of those cases leading to new children entering foster care.

Youth Justice, Police and NYC’s Neighborhoods

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2014 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM THERESA LANG COMMUNITY AND STUDENT CENTER, ARNHOLD HALL 55 WEST 13TH STREET, 2ND FLOOR [Photo by Andrew Hinderaker]Center for New York City Affairs at The New School presentsa Child Welfare Watch forum Co-sponsored by the New York Juvenile Justice Initiative

There’s been a sea change in New York City juvenile justice policy and police practices over the last two years: Courts now place most teen delinquents in city programs close to home, rather than upstate; and police have sharply reduced the use of stop and frisk, a tactic that overwhelmingly targeted young men of color. Policymakers in the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio seek to drive change even further, to improve police-community relations and strengthen juvenile justice programs while also securing public safety. How does the administration intend to pursue its objectives? What do community leaders and others believe needs to change? Will young people and community residents gain a meaningful voice in both policy and practice? And can better data collection and data sharing help shape new solutions, both inside and outside the walls of government?

A conversation with:

  • Gladys Carrion, commissioner, NYC Administration for Children's Services
  • Joanne Jaffe, bureau chief, New York Police Department
  • Chino Hardin, field trainer/organizer, Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions
  • Gabrielle Prisco, director, Juvenile Justice Project, Correctional Association of New York
  • Chris Watler, project director, Harlem Community Justice Center at Center for Court Innovation

Moderated by:

  • Andrew White, director, Center for New York City Affairs, The New School


This forum is made possible thanks to the generous support of The Prospect Hill Foundation and the Sirus Fund.  Additional funding for the Child Welfare Watch project is provided by the Child Welfare Fund, the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation and the Booth Ferris Foundation.

Income Inequality Associated with Child Maltreatment

According to a study in the upcoming March 2014 issue of Pediatrics, higher rates of child maltreatment are statistically correlated with higher levels of income inequality in counties across the United States. The study compared data on income inequality in more than 3,100 counties nationwide, and found a close association with rates of abuse and neglect as tracked by federal government data. Pediatrics is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Child abuse and neglect have long been linked to poverty. What’s new in this study is the finding that inequality itself may be a factor to consider in addressing abuse and neglect. The lead author, Professor John Eckenrode of Cornell, and his colleagues controlled for a wide array of variables, and found that the statistical effect of inequality “was stronger for counties with moderate to high levels of child poverty.” Nonetheless, across the US, counties with higher rates of income inequality were significantly more likely to have higher rates of abuse and neglect.

“To our knowledge, our study is the first to specifically examine income inequality as an important risk factor associated with child maltreatment,” they write.

Previously, researchers have estimated that nearly 3 million children in the Unites States are physically, sexually or emotionally abused or physically neglected each year. Others have shown the direct linkages between abuse and neglect and long-term mental health problems, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior and criminal behavior, and even lifelong poverty. In the paper to be published in Pediatrics, Eckenrode argues that comprehensive efforts to reduce abuse and neglect may require “advocacy and action at the societal level aimed at reducing income inequality.”

More on the intersection of child poverty and trauma

Documentation of the impact of poverty on children becomes ever deeper and more powerful: A recent study published by the Urban Institute found significant rates of school related problems, risky behavior and mental health problems for youths living in distressed public housing. In their report, they show the risk that children face when in poverty, particularly for young girls living in low-income housing where many of them experience harassment, abuse, and sexual assault, and the trauma that results. 

The study is drawn from a 2012 survey of parents and young people living in Chicago and Portland sites participating in a $6 million Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST) collaboration with the Open Society Institute. Researchers concluded that young girls have significant high rates of anxiety, out of school suspension and sexual activity. In Chicago, about 55 percent of the young people surveyed experienced anxiety, 50 percent experienced out of school suspension and, in both the Chicago and Portland sites, about 54 percent experienced high rates of sexual activity.

Susan Popkin, Director of the Urban Institute's Program on Neighborhoods and Youth Development, explains in a recent Metrotrends blog post that the young girls feel a sense of powerlessness which not only comes from not believing anyone can help them, but also from the fact that they do not feel safe in their own homes, since much of the abuse they experience comes at the hands of people they know.

These findings are reinforced by an excellent summary of research (with many links to the original studies) published by Child Trends last month, which describes the many ways in which poverty harms children.

The Urban Institute is working in public housing in Washington DC to help girls who experience chronic disadvantage by creating programs to address the prevalence of sexual harassment. Their research also demonstrates the great need for access to mental health supports and services that can help to reduce the risks facing low-income women and young girls.


LGBTQ Homeless Youth Undercount?

As January came to a close, city and state governments and volunteers nationwide set out to count the number of homeless people living on their streets. As Sarah Goodyear reports in Atlantic Cities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning young people are likely underrepresented by a large margin in most of these local and national efforts. Mary Cunningham, a senior research associate of the Urban Institute, estimates LGBTQ young people could make up as much as 40 percent of all homeless teens and young adults. That estimate is reinforced by a study released last November  by the New York City Coalition on the Continuum of Care. Darrick Hamilton of The New School and Lance Freeman of Columbia guided a team of researchers surveying young people at New York City drop-in centers during the city's annual homeless street count. They found that 34 percent were lesbian, gay or bisexual and another 6 percent were transgendered. All but 10 percent of the young people identified and surveyed were black or Latino. Two thirds had run away from home before age 18, and one-third said physical, mental or sexual abuse was one reason for their homelessness.

Most had been homeless for a long period of time -- the median was two years. Yet almost half had at some point earned a high school diploma.

The findings of one-night, point-in-time surveys are not necessarily generalizable. The Urban Institute aims to strengthen data about homeless youth using the Youth Count! Project, in order to help cities better target services, schooling, health care and housing. More info on the project can be found here.

Supporting Child Welfare Caseworkers on the Job

Many new child welfare workers enter the field full of promise and the potential to help vulnerable children and families. But by the end of their first year, only 60 percent remain in the field, according to a story published in City Limits Magazine this week. Emotionally taxing situations, unpredictable schedules and heavy caseloads are just some of the challenges caseworkers face each day. City Limits profiled a program called Children's Corps, which aims to support New York City caseworkers and keep them on the job.

According to the City Limits profile, beyond the financial cost of recruiting and training new staff, frequent changes hurt kids in foster care. Studies confirm that children assigned to one caseworker fare better than their counterparts who are reassigned during their involvement with the child welfare system.

Children’s Corps uses a strategy similar to Teach for America to recruit new child welfare workers, identifying recent college graduates and professionals with an interest in using their skills to improve the field of child welfare. Candidates complete a training program to help them prepare for stresses they may encounter in the field, and are then placed at agencies across the city. They receive ongoing support and professional development throughout the two-year program.

The model is showing early success. According to Children's Corps, their average one-year retention rate is 87 percent, compared with 60 percent citywide.

Read the City Limits piece, including an interview with Children’s Corps founders here.

To read a Child Welfare Watch profile of Children's Corps, download a copy of Child Welfare Watch Volume 21 here.