On January 16, Governor Andrew Cuomo released his Executive Budget proposal for FY19, which includes critical cuts in funding for services that keep NYC children safe with their families. One of the major proposals would cap reimbursement for child welfare programs (protective, preventive, independent living, adoption, and aftercare services) for New York City at $325 million.
The current cost-sharing model is 62 percent state with a 38 percent county match. This model, which has been in place since 2002, allows for open-ended reimbursement and has shown to be an effective method of keeping children safe and out of foster care. Kim Dorsey, a deputy director of Child Welfare and Family Services at Children’s Aid, who oversees all evidence-based preventive programs, said, “The continuum of preventive services at Children’s Aid offers an array of services that are tailored to meet various degrees of support that children and families need. They range from crisis intervention to the multi-systemic model for families that frequently encounter the child welfare system and require the most robust intervention to keep the family intact.” Children’s Aid’s preventive programs support more than 300 families and help keep them together in the home with the necessary supports to prevent foster care placement.
New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) estimates the governor’s proposed cap would result in a $129 million deficit and loss in funding as the city was projected to receive $449 million under the current system. In a letter issued to Gov. Cuomo and members of the state legislature, ACS Commissioner David Hansell stated that 50 percent of the cut would have been used towards staffing costs, 45 percent for preventive program services, and 5 percent for child care contract costs. Dorsey added, “To decrease funding to preventive services will ultimately result in watching our families’ children succumb to emotional, educational, physical, and economic obstacles and wind up in systems that are unable to cultivate the strength they need to navigate the world around them.”
Another proposed change would cut all state support for the Close to Home program. This program places youth adjudicated as juvenile delinquents in facilities that are limited-secure or non-secure but, crucially, close to their families. This not only allows for family members to frequently visit but gives them the opportunity to participate in the youth’s rehabilitation program, which is likely to increase its effectiveness.
While Gov. Cuomo’s proposal reauthorized the program, it has eliminated all state support, which is up to $41.4 million annually. This cut is coming just as NYC is preparing to implement Raise the Age, legislation that passed in the FY18 budget that raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old. This means that NYC will be seeing an influx of 16- and 17-year-olds into the juvenile justice system as they will no longer be prosecuted as adults. It is expected the number of juvenile cases will triple once Raise the Age is implemented.
NYC is also uncertain if it would be able to tap into any of the $100 million included in the Executive Budget to rollout Raise the Age due to legislative requirements that counties must meet the 2 percent property tax cap. New York State has a responsibility to care for all children and can’t shrink from that responsibility for NYC young people.
It is imperative that the NYS budget include the necessary funding to ensure that the overall well-being of families and children served by the child welfare system is a priority. Please continue to talk to your legislators to reject these proposals in the budget!