New York Grant Program Aims to Strengthen Families, Reduce Entries into Foster Care

In a bid to maintain the pace of reforms that have seen New York City’s foster care population plummet, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is seeking local nonprofit agencies to submit applications for its Community Partnership Program.

The $11 million initiative is focused on child maltreatment prevention.

“Primary prevention is designed to support families long before they are in crisis and a report of child abuse and neglect is made,” said Deputy Commissioner Lorelei Vargas in an email statement. “By strengthening supports to both children and families like quality child care, health and wellness, financial empowerment, and other resources, families will be less likely to become involved in the child welfare system.”

The Community Partnership Program links low-income families with social services resources in their neighborhoods. Through the proposed collaboration with ACS, community organizations will partner with the city to promote the unity and well-being of families and children.

By increasing access to services and strengthening community bonds, awarded programs will provide resources and create opportunities for children and their parents. This method, known as the two-generation approach, creates a network of services for children and families to help break the cycle of poverty.

“We want to support parents so they have the strength and supports to raise their families in a strong community,” Vargas said.

CREDIT: NYC ACS

The effort is consistent with the city’s general trend of reducing entries into foster care, and reinvesting in prevention services. From 1996 to 2015, ACS has seen a reduction in overall foster care numbers from nearly 42,000 to less than 10,000. Over the same span, the number of children receiving “preventive services” in a family has jumped 226 percent.

By July of 2017, the number of youth in care had dipped further, to 8,907.

The Community Partnership Program is ACS’ first funded, community-based initiative committed to partnering with local communities to support child and family well-being, according to the agency. The partnership focuses on families and children living in geographic areas with high rates of poverty and involvement with the child welfare system.

“The providers chosen will share our goal of disrupting disparity and breaking down barriers to advancement that affect too many low-income families,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell in a statement provided by ACS. “We look forward to expanding our reach to assist even more families with public assistance, domestic violence interventions, child care, and substance misuse treatment and counseling.”

Total funding from ACS amounts to over $11 million and will be awarded to social service organizations in 11 neighborhoods across New York City. Each awarded provider will receive $350,000 per year.

ACS hopes to collaborate with organizations in specific boroughs, including neighborhoods in the Bronx like Mott Haven, Hunts Point, Morrisania and Highbridge. In Brooklyn, the initiative focuses on Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, East New York and East Flatbush. And in Manhattan the targets are Central Harlem and East Harlem; in Queens, Elmhurst and Jamaica. The program also focuses on Staten Island.

Child welfare nonprofit Citizens Committee for Children worked with ACS to identify neighborhoods in need. An evaluation of various socioeconomic and well-being factors across the city identified neighborhoods that would most benefit from a CPP.

ACS will work with each the community-based providers selected to address disparities in services, increase access to supports and create plans to induce tangible change.

“We are aiming to push on some key issues,” Vargas said. “Social capital, early education, economic development, to strengthen families and communities.”

Proposals from organizations are due to ACS November 6 by 2:00 p.m. and awardees will be notified between December 2017 and early 2018.

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Devon Ziminski
About Devon Ziminski 23 Articles
Devon is a Journalism for Social Change Fellow. She writes about gun violence, mental health, adoption policy and practice, and education.