Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Yes, NYC, there IS a foster care panic. The Mayor’s own “Management Report” proves it

Several posts to this Blog have documented the desperate efforts of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services to pretend there has been no foster-care panic – no sharp spike in children torn from their families and consigned to foster care – in the wake of the death of Zymere Perkins in late September, 2016.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's annual
"Mayor's Management Report" confirms the
foster-care panic.
Officials have stumbled all over themselves – and contradicted each other. ACS Commissioner David Hansell said no, there’s been no increase at all, then a deputy would say: Well, yes, there’s been an increase, but at no greater rate than the increase in reports alleging child abuse or neglect.  (Because of the Sandusky Rule, discussed in detail here, that would still indicate a foster-care panic.) Then still another official would contradict them both.

But now we have the definitive word from all of these officials’ boss: Mayor Bill de Blasio. In comes in the form of the section about ACS in the annual Mayor’s Management Report, an exhaustive annual compendium of stats and spin.  The most recent report covers the city’s last full fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2016 through June 30 2017.

According to this report, during that time period:

● Reports alleging child abuse or neglect increased by 7.2 percent.

● But entries into foster care soared by 13 percent – the first year-to-year increase since 2009.

So yes, there is a foster-care panic, and no it’s not because of increased reports alleging abuse or neglect.

And there were other disturbing data:

● The number of families receiving services to keep children out of foster care dropped.

● The proportion of allegations that workers deemed “indicated” – which means only that the worker checked a box on a form indicating s/he thinks there is “some credible evidence” there was abuse or neglect, even if there is more evidence of innocence, – is up sharply.  (The New York standard for declaring a case “indicated” is even lower than most states.)

This often happens during a foster-care panic, even though indication or substantiation rates actually should go down because during a panic anyone and everyone is encouraged to report anything and everything, no matter how absurd.

And perhaps most alarming: The time period covered includes nearly three months before Zymere Perkins died, in other words, three months before the panic began, so it does not reflect the full extent of the panic.

That a lot of these removals are unnecessary is made abundantly clear by the  fact that, during the years that entries into foster care declined, data show no compromise of child safety; in fact, key safety indicators improved,

The extent of unnecessary removal also is aptly illustrated by the New York Times story about foster care as the new “Jane Crow.”

And the panic appears to be continuing.  The latest monthly report from ACS, which includes July, 2017 the first month of the new fiscal year shows that removals to foster care are up significantly over the same month in 2016.  So everything that Times story found probably is getting worse.