Child Welfare Watch: Half Full, Half Empty

Children and Families with Special Needs 

There are hundreds of New York City children with developmental disabilities in foster care, and thousands more in families investigated each year by child protective services following reports of suspected abuse or neglect. But because of decades of conflict between the city and state government, many of these young people and their families go without the valuable federal- and state-funded support services for which they are eligible.

The Winter 2006/2007 issue of Child Welfare Watch describes the impact of a longstanding dispute that has left children and families without the respite care, in-home assistance and other family supports that can help make it possible for young people with disabilities to live healthy and more fulfilling lives.

The report finds that children with disabilities are sometimes placed in foster care because authorities fail to organize services that would make it possible for them to stay with their families. What’s more, some young people with disabilities have aged out of foster care only to languish in nursing homes or other institutions without city or state agencies championing their needs.

The 13th edition of Child Welfare Watch also explores new, effective advocacy efforts launched on behalf of the many foster children who rely on special education services. An estimated 4,700 city foster children are enrolled in special education. But just one in four foster care and preventive agencies under contract with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services have education specialists on staff who can help parents and foster parents advocate for the individualized educational services these students need.

The latest edition of Child Welfare Watch contains policy recommendations for addressing the “safety net full of holes” for foster care children with special needs.