The New York City child welfare system, which has been tasked with placing abused and neglected children in safe homes, is accused in a lawsuit of failing the very people it’s supposed to protect.
New York City’s Public Advocate, Leticia James and private lawyers are filing a class-action complaint against the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), an agency that represents most of the children in foster care in the city, alleging the organization is operating below standards.
The lawsuit names 10 children who have been in foster care for most or all of their lives as plaintiffs. Many report neglect, physical and sexual abuse while in care and are claiming these abuses have contributed to illnesses like depression and Bipolar Disorder.
New York has reduced the number of children in care from 45,000 in the 1990s to 11,000 today, but according to the lawsuit, New York City’s foster care system has one of the worst records of mistreatment of children in care.
Some of the specific allegations of the claim are the mismanagement of the states’ money, lack of protection for kids in care, taking children away from their biological parents without legitimate reason and keeping them in the system too long.
Lawsuits against state child welfare systems are nothing new.
In 2003, the death of Faheem Williams, a seven-year-old youth in foster care, further ignited a 1999 lawsuit against the child welfare system in New Jersey. An advocacy group called Children’s Rights pushed for reform, and the state responded by increasing the number of staff to investigate abuse allegations. They also secured staff to monitor children to ensure they were provided the support they needed.
In a desire to promote permanency and return children to their biological families, services like reunification counseling and treatment for addiction were implemented. A strong adoption program was put in place for children who could not return home so they would not be in foster care longer than necessary.
Whether or not the lawsuit against the child welfare agencies of New York City and New York State leads to a similar reform is yet to be seen. You can read more about the lawsuit here.