Nancy Fortunato, Senior Parent Leader, and Jeanette Vega, Training Director at Rise, submitted written testimony to the NY State Assembly Committee on Children and Families and the Task Force on Women’s Issues. This testimony was provided as part of the Public Hearing to Examine the Child Welfare and Family Court Systems as it Relates to the Availability of Supports and Services to Help Keep Families Together. The hearing took place in Albany, New York, on November 21, 2019.
Prevention is viewed as a solution in child welfare, but it is important to be aware that preventive services provided through the child welfare system can also have a negative impact on our communities and families, as we’ve experienced in New York City. Counties that use foster care when they could keep children at home under intensive prevention programs need to invest in those programs. But child welfare prevention programs shouldn’t be the main way families can get support. The same system bringing fear to families can’t be trusted to bring support.
In New York City, that fear comes not just through removals of children, but also through surveillance. The majority of prevention cases are referrals from CPS investigators, or families enter prevention under court-ordered supervision, bringing more fear to families. We receive the message, “Go to preventive services or we will remove your child.” Parents (and many system professionals) now call preventive services a “light” foster care system and describe the trauma and stress that child welfare investigations cause families. There are plenty of families wanting to cry for help, but at the same time many are fearful that if they ask for help, they’re going to face the tragedy of having their children removed.
This RISE Magazine news item also links five stories written for Rise by parents affected by the child welfare system.