CCC Testimony Before The New York City Council Committee On General Welfare

Testimony & Public Comments

October 31, 2019

Meryleen Mena, Ph.D, CCC’s Policy & Advocacy Analyst, testified October 31, 2019 in front of the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare’s oversight hearing regarding the Administration for Children’s Services.

Her testimony focused largely on the proposed City Council bill Int. 1728, which would require ACS to provide access to legal services for parents during an investigation.

“Allegations of abuse and neglect are serious and child safety is the agency’s first responsibility. At the same time, parents’ rights are critical and must be protected as an additional measure for child and family stability and well-being. Child protective services investigations can have long-term consequences for a parent or caregiver and their child or children. For these reasons CCC supports parents’ rights to legal representation,” said Meryleen.

Meryleen noted that Black and Latinx children are over-represented in the foster care system, making up 84.5% of the population despite being 51% of the total population in New York City. In addition, Black and Latinx make up nearly 80% of investigated cases of child abuse and neglect.

Moreover, over 70% of cases under ACS’s purview are cases linked to economic insecurity, resulting in neglect due to unmet medical, food, shelter, education, and other basic needs.

Despite the positive intent of Int. 1728, Meryleen testified that CCC has significant concerns about the logistical feasibility of the bill.

As it relates to Int. 1728, Meryleen asked the Committee to consider the following:

  • When and by whom would counsel be assigned?
  • What would be the duration of the representation?
  • What protections and assurances will be put in place to ensure timely fact finding?
  • Who holds these contracts? CCC strongly believes that the responsibility of counsel should sit with an independent entity outside of ACS.
  • Who gets to bid for these contracts? It is imperative that there be a standard of expertise required in both child welfare and family court policy for contracts to be awarded.

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