Interagency Foster Care Task Force
The Interagency Foster Care Task Force (the Task Force) was created following the enactment of Local Law 144 of 2016, signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on November 16, 2016. The legislation, which was introduced by City Council Member and Chair of the General Welfare Committee Stephen Levin, charged the Task Force with issuing recommendations to improve services and outcomes for youth in and aging out of foster care.
In March 2018, the Interagency Foster Care Task Force released its initial report including 16 recommendations designed to improve outcomes for children and families in the foster care system. These recommendations were incorporated into the ACS Five Year Foster Care Strategic Blueprint issued in May 2018.
Since the Task Force report was released in March 2018, ACS and its partners have worked diligently to implement the recommendations. As reflected in the One-Year Progress Report issued in March 2019, and in the final report issued in March 2020, several recommendations have already been completed and measurable progress has been made in all areas. Highlights include the following:
Improving Permanency Outcomes
- Through the efforts of the Task Force, 10 positions were established at ACS as dedicated kinship specialists and an additional $3.6 million over two years has been invested in critical work to increase kinship care (relatives and close family friends) and strengthen family time (a.k.a. visiting practice).
- Increasing Kinship Care: Through the work of ACS and its foster care provider agencies, the proportion of new york city children in foster care who are placed with kin has increased from the baseline of 31% to 39% as of November 2019.
- Improving Family Time: ACS is implementing two tools to help foster care provider agencies assess families' readiness to move from supervised to unsupervised Family Time and to make visiting spaces more family-friendly. Foster care agencies are implementing strategies such as hiring case aides to help facilitate and support high quality family time. ACS is also working with parent advocacy organization Rise, which has established a collaboration with multiple foster care providers and developed reference tools and resources to support high quality Family Time practice.
- Increasing Parent Voice: ACS has established a Parent advisory council to the commissioner and a new Parent engagement specialist position to increase parent voice in ACS programs, planning and policy. To support Family to Family practices - strengthening relationships between parents and foster parents - ACS and Rise have collaborated to deliver Rise's 'Building Bridges' curriculum to foster care provider agencies. The 'Building Bridges' training is now available to all providers through the ACS Workforce Institute.
Improving Health, Mental Health and Education Services for Children in Foster Care
- Fair Futures Investment to Improve Education and Employment Outcomes for Youth: Through a collaboration with the Fair Futures Coalition1 and strong support from Council Member Stephen Levin, New York City has invested $10 million, and foundation partners2 are contributing an additional $2 million, to improve education and employment outcomes for youth in foster care ages 11-21. This funding is supporting coaches, tutors, education, employment and housing specialists and other resources. New York City is the first jurisdiction in the nation to implement an education and employment initiative for youth in foster care of this breadth and scale.
- DOE Guidance and Resource Hub to Improve Service Coordination for Students in Care: The DOE has released comprehensive guidance on the rights of students in foster care and added a webpage on foster care to its online resource hub. DOE, with support from ACS, has developed a training for staff on the guidance and began delivering the training in December 2019.
- Advancement in Academic Enrichment: ACS and DYCD implemented a regular data match to identify middle school youth in foster care who are not enrolled in DYCD afterschool and enrichment programs, and to ensure that they are given an opportunity to enroll. The proportion of 5th to 8th grade students in foster care enrolled in DYCD programs has increased from 14% to 20% since the matching began in 2018.
- Gaining Access to Mental Health Services Data: The New York State Office of Mental Health has agreed to provide an ACS Access View to the PSYCKES database, which includes information on diagnosis, medications and mental health services for children in foster care. PSYCKES is designed to support quality improvement, care planning, and clinical decision making. ACS anticipates receiving this data in Spring 2020.
Improving Prospects for Young Adults Leaving Foster Care:
- NYCHA Priority for Youth Leaving Foster Care: NYCHA now grants its highest, N-zero, priority to eligible youth referred to NYCHA from ACS who are in the legal care and custody of the ACS Commissioner regardless of their foster care placement address. This resolved a challenge where youth in residential programs located outside of the five boroughs had not consistently received this priority in the past.
- New State Law to Ensure Child Welfare Housing Subsidy Recipients Can Have Roommates: In December 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law a statute that clarifies that youth (and families) receiving the ACS Child Welfare Housing Subsidy can have roommates. This will benefit youth leaving foster care who, like many young adults, want to share an apartment with another person.
The final report details the progress made on the implementation of each of the 16 Foster Care Task Force recommendations since March 2018. ACS is grateful to all Task Force members for their collaboration to advance these recommendations. In addition to the many accomplishments outlined here, the partnerships developed and expanded through this process will continue. Even as the Task Force concludes, ACS looks forward to working with these vital partners in our collective efforts to improve outcomes for New York City's children and families.
Read the Report of the Interagency Foster Care Task Force (March 2018)
Read the Interagency Foster Care Task Force One Year Progress Report (March 2019)
Read the Final Report of the Interagency Foster Care Task Force (March 2020)