Child-Well Being Improves in New York City, But Worsens in Some Communities

new york city child welfare de blasio
A new report details how New York City kids have fared during Mayor Bill De Blasio’s tenure. Credit: Several seconds on Flickr

The child advocacy group Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) recently released a unique report ranking 59 New York City communities by trends in health, housing stability, income security and other risk indicators for youth. For its fourth annual release, CCC found that while risks to youth in most communities in the city had decreased since the recession, overlapping with Mayor Bill De Blasio’s tenure, there are a few communities where children may be even worse off than nine years ago.

“New York City has experienced noteworthy progress in many key areas concerning children’s well-being, but these positive changes have been not universally experienced by all children, families or communities,” said Jennifer March, executive director of CCC, in an interview with The Chronicle. “This report is designed to draw attention to where those risk clusters are, to help elected officials understand what’s happening in their communities, and determine where to allocate resources to ensure that children and families have the services and supports they need.”

Jennifer March, Executive Director, Citizens' Committee for Children of New York
Jennifer March, executive director, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York

For example, a neighborhood like Williamsburg in Brooklyn has experienced an influx of higher-income residents. That’s probably why it saw significant decreases in risks to child well-being from 2009 to 2016. Parental employment instability declined from just over 50 percent to just over 30 percent, for example.

By contrast, a community like Flushing in Queens, which has seen an influx of working-class immigrant residents, employment instability has crept up from just under 20 percent to nearly 24 percent over the same period. Meanwhile, median income for families with children in Williamsburg has almost doubled, and the citywide median has grown slightly — but in Flushing those earnings plummeted from nearly $76,000 to just under $50,000.

Neighborhoods like Howard Beach in Queens and the north shore of Staten Island also saw stark setbacks on these indicators.

“In Flushing, data might be reflecting the increased fear of anti-immigration sentiment in those communities,” said March. “We would want to go into the community to talk to people to feel this out but I think it’s interesting that where you’re seeing dramatic changes of income, is in a community with a higher share of immigrants.”

Calls to the offices of City Councilman Peter Koo (D), State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), State Senator Toby Ann Stavinsky (D), and U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D) – all of whom represent districts that include much or all of Flushing – were not returned by press time.

While Williamsburg’s numbers likely improved due to more higher income families, March suggested a few possible victories for the human services sector elsewhere in the city.

“Rockaways [in Brooklyn] is seeing increased enrollment rates and graduation rates,” she said. “There’s been a targeted approach to expand access to universal pre-k there. In Manhattanville which bridges the upper west side and Morningside Heights — teen outcomes have improved, and we would want to look to the presence of universal after-school programs, employment programs and summer youth improvement programs.”

Intriguingly, neighborhoods like Flushing and Howards Beach have not been sending many more children to foster care, nor have reports of child maltreatment to the state hotline from those areas notably increased, according to city data. The Bronx, on the other hand, home to 8 out of 10 of the neighborhoods where CCC measured the worst overall risks to children, continues to send more youth into foster care than any other borough, especially from its neighborhoods with higher risk scores in CCC’s report.

CCC – which was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt and other luminaries during the second World War – occupies a unique niche in the advocacy world. Similar organizations nationwide focus on children’s issues at the regional or statewide level, but CCC has leveraged its deeper block-by-block expertise to become a force in Albany and with City Council. It played a key role in passage of youth-focused legislation like the city’s Earned Income Tax Credit, and the statewide Raise the Age legislation, which reformed juvenile justice.

Nonprofit human services groups and lawmakers have relied on CCC’s annual Community Risk Rankings to prioritize spending and services in their communities. With budget negotiations underway in Albany, and about to kick off in New York City, March says CCC is advocating for investments in services and subsidies to combat family homelessness, including an ambitious housing support policy championed by Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D), restoration of recession-era cuts to child welfare prevention and foster care funding, an increase in funding for behavioral health services for children, and boosts to tax relief benefits for New York’s lowest income households.

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Michael Fitzgerald
About Michael Fitzgerald 75 Articles
Northeast Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Follow me on Twitter: @mchlftzgrld