New York’s Child Welfare Agency is Looking for Inaugural Parent Advisory Board Members

Sheila J. Poole, commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Photo: OCFS.

New York, like every other state, has until 2021 to implement major federal child welfare reforms that incentivize keeping more families together after abuse or neglect claims, and disincentivized the use of group homes and residential care. The state’s child welfare agency wants input from the adults most affected by these changes.

The New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is establishing a Parent Advisory Board to help the agency’s leadership tap into the experiences of families that interact with the state’s 62 county child welfare systems.

“The goal is for members to provide feedback on their experiences with the child welfare system and make recommendations to OCFS for improving the system, and implementing state and federal initiatives to improve safety, permanency and well-being,” said the December letter announcing the board’s creation.

The state has delayed its implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which took effect in October, until 2021. The law amends Title IV-E, the large child welfare entitlement program, to allow funds for services aimed at preventing the use of foster care in some child welfare cases.

This part of the law envisions more in-home services and treatments for parents struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems, or who need help with parenting skills. It is expected that while many children will remain with their parents during such interventions, in other cases relatives may be asked to take kids in for short stays while the Family First services are administered.

The law also limits federal funds for placing children in group homes or residential treatment facilities, and many states expect that this will increase the demand for foster homes, especially ones trained to handle children with acute needs.

The OCFS parent board will consist of 15 members, with each of the state’s seven regions guaranteed representation. Eligible candidates include parents involved with child welfare cases, foster parents and kinship caregivers, and adoptive parents. Those selected will serve three-year terms.

Parents interested in serving on the board must apply by January 24. Click here to obtain an application.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.