Harlem Fave PA James File Class Action Lawsuit Against NYC And State

July 8, 2015

Letitia JamesToday, Public Advocate Letitia James, along with ten foster children, filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) for causing irreparable harm to children in New York City foster care.

The suit alleges that ACS and OCFS fail to protect children from maltreatment, fail to ensure that services provided are effective and of acceptable quality, and fail to ensure appropriate placements. According to the suit, the harms and risks that children in ACS custody suffer are a direct result of ACS and OCFS failing to properly address structural deficiencies in the New York City child welfare system. The foster children are represented by Marcia Robinson Lowry, Executive Director, A Better Childhood & Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Public Advocate James is a plaintiff in the case.

“Our foster children are suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a result of a system that fails them every single day,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “ACS has delegated foster care to 29 contract agencies, but has consistently failed to monitor these contract agencies – leaving thousands of children languishing in the system with no permanent home. Lives are being ruined during our children’s most formative years, and our legal action seeks to put an end to this injustice.”

“Hundreds of millions of public dollars are spent every year on a system that further devastates children who have already suffered the loss of being removed from their homes,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, Executive Director, A Better Childhood, a nonprofit advocacy organization committed to reforming child welfare systems across the country. “This problem isn’t new; it’s been documented repeatedly. Yet little gets better for New York City children, and there is an extraordinary lack of urgency about the need to protect them and give them a chance for a decent childhood. That’s why we have asked the Court to act.  It’s clearly their last resort and, history tells us, their only chance.”

The lawsuit alleges that New York City is one of the most dangerous foster care systems in the country, with one of the highest rates of maltreatment of children who are under the city’s protection in foster care. It also asserts that children remain in state custody in New York City far longer than children elsewhere in New York State and twice as long as children in the rest of the country. The lawsuit alleges a wide range of well-documented and long recognized deficiencies in the City’s child welfare system. Among them are:

  • ACS and OCFS are failing to protect foster children from physical, psychological, and emotional harm;

  • ACS and OCFS are failing to provide foster care placements and services to ensure foster children’s well-being and permanency; and,

  • ACS and OCFS are failing to ensure meaningful case plans to put foster children in permanent homes and reunite families within a reasonable amount of time.

Additionally, the suit alleges:

  • ACS is failing to provide adequate oversight over the 29 contract agencies which provide day to day care of the City’s foster children;

  • ACS is failing to ensure that the caseworkers at the 29 contract agencies are properly trained and have caseloads within professional standards; and,

  • ACS is failing to provide a system for making foster placements consistent with federal and state law and minimum professional standards.

Public Advocate James has led the fight for reform to the New York City foster care system. In 2014, Public Advocate James introduced Local Law 104 (which was passed by the City Council), which requires ACS to report information relating to youth aging out of the foster care system. Over the last year, Public Advocate James has also issued two reports on the shortcomings of the foster care system. The most recent report, released in July 2015, used information from a multilingual hotline established in April to learn firsthand from children and their advocates about the current barriers to receiving services while in foster care.

Read the full complaint here: http://on.nyc.gov/1S8QoLv

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