Child Welfare Watch: Pressures and Possibilities

Supporting Families and Children at Home

New York City’s family support system is at a critical juncture. The city has increased its investment by more than $70 million per year in preventive family support services since 2005. But those investments have coincided with a surge in abuse and neglect reports and a 53 percent increase in the number of children placed in foster care in 2006.

The Summer 2007 issue of Child Welfare Watch, published jointly by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School and the Center for an Urban Future, explores the transformation of the city’s network of nonprofit family support agencies as they become increasingly central to the Bloomberg administration’s strategy for protecting children from abuse and neglect. The latest issue of the Watch uncovers tensions shaping the work of family support in New York City.

Among the highlights in the report:

  • City referrals to “general” preventive programs have leapt by 28 percent since 2004 and many family support agencies are now operating at or above their city-funded capacity.
  • The roles of child protective investigations and family support services are overlapping more and more. Each month, about two-thirds of families joining preventive services programs are referred by the child welfare system, whereas previously fewer than one-half were referred by the system.
  • The Administration for Children’s Services’ emphasis on the prevention of abuse and neglect has been accompanied by tightly targeted funding to help nonprofit agencies serve hard-to-help populations, including families that have recently reunified with children leaving foster care.
  • The number of children placed in foster care in one year increased 53 percent to more than 7,250 placements in 2006 following the murder of Nixzmary Brown.
  • In an effort to ease the spiraling paperwork burdens of frontline workers, New York State may scrap its bug-ridden child welfare computer tracking system after a decade of problems and more than $400 million in state spending.

In addition, the 14th edition of Child Welfare Watch explores new administration efforts to build community collaboration and includes a close-up view of the work of two Brooklyn family support workers and the families they strive to help.

The issue also contains policy recommendations drafted by the Child Welfare Watch advisory board that can help policymakers create a more inclusive safety net for families.