December 19, 2023
On Thursday December 14th, Policy and Advocacy Associate Caitlyn Passaretti provided testimony to the New York City Council Committees on Youth Services and General Welfare about prevention services available for at-risk and justice-involved youth. Caitlyn’s testimony speaks to the necessity of investments in order to support young people, especially in the face of devastating cuts proposed in the November Budget Modification. The testimony includes policy recommendations and data on the importance of these services.
Testimony of Caitlyn Passaretti, Policy and Advocacy Associate Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Committees on Youth Services and General Welfare
Oversight on Preventative Services for At-Risk and Justice Involved Youth.
December 14th, 2023
Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi- issue child advocacy organization. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through civic engagement, research, and advocacy. We document the facts, engage and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.
We would like to thank Chair Stevens and Chair Ayala, and all members of the Youth Services and General Welfare Committees, for holding this oversight hearing on preventive services for at-risk and justice involved youth. A robust prevention system requires robust investments. The surest way to promote youth development and success is to ensure that youth services programs are well staffed and well resourced.
Over the past few years, the number of youth entering detention in NYC has nearly doubled. This has been driven by an increase in unnecessary arrests and cuts to key services that can prevent arrest or divert a young person from detention post arrest. As a result, youth detention facilities are facing issues of overcrowding, and it has been reported that young people are sleeping in hallways or in classrooms. In addition to an increase in youth entering detention, we are also seeing the average length of stay for unsentenced youth rising to about 85 days.
The increase of arrests can be directly tied to Mayor Adams’ and the NYPD’s introduction of quality-of- life violations, a reincarnation of broken window policing in March 2022. Incidents such as turnstile
jumping or loitering are now criminalized more severely – resulting in a court summons rather than a ticket. If a young person misses their court summons, then a warrant is placed for their arrest. In the below chart, it is clear the number of summonses to criminal court solely for quality-of-life violations has increased significantly in recent months for youth under 18.
From 2003-2022, 90 percent of people stopped by the NYPD were people of color.1 In 2022, the first year of the Adams administration, the NYPD made over 15,000 stops, the largest number of stops since 2015. The racial disproportionality in arrests is also stark, mirroring the deeply damaging racial profiling and over-policing that occurred under broken windows policing. All of these factors are resulting in the overcrowding in detention centers. It is crucial that action is taken to reverse these trends, the city should prioritize investments in proven programming that diverts youth from detention and offers wrap-around services.
Unfortunately, the November Budget Modification has deeply damaged essential services for youth. These funding cuts to urgently needed programs will result in slowed economic recovery, continued harm
Young people across the city are continuously calling for more afterschool programs and community supports. Yet the cuts proposed in the November Modification promise sweeping cuts to some of the programs and services most essential to fostering youth opportunity and success.
COMPASS Afterschool programs are facing a $1.5 million cut in FY24, and a $6.9 million cut in the outyears. This will result in a loss of over 3,500 seats. As youth and families try to rebuild from the pandemic, our city’s young people require opportunities to grow and connect with peers in ways that
advance their social, emotional, and physical development as well as their academic preparedness and success. Programs like COMPASS are vital lifelines for countless youth individuals, offering crucial support, mentorship, educational opportunities, and a safe space for personal growth and development. Reductions in these programs would disproportionately impact low-income youth and families who rely on these services for their children’s growth and safety and as vital resources for working caregivers.
Reductions are also likely to hit hardest in communities where children, youth and families were hardest hit by the socio-economic ramifications of the pandemic.
CCC is also deeply concerned about the impact of funding cuts on summer programs, including $19.6 million from the Summer Rising Program in FY25 (which commences July 1st, 2024) and outyears. As a result, this program will be shortened to 4 days a week for middle schoolers. Additionally, while not connected to the November Mod, federal funding for the DOE portion of Summer Rising will expire, resulting in an even larger funding gap. Youth deserve joy, fun, and positive youth development programming year-round, and we urge city leaders to reverse cuts that threaten access to these supports. We know that when there are summer programming and employment options, youth are less likely to engage in activities that can result in justice involvement, it is essential we fully fund and expand summer programs.
Prevention is key to building healthier communities, and robust, wraparound supportive programs are only possible with sufficient funding. Cuts to prevention and probation programs disproportionately impact communities of color, communities which are already overburdened from the pandemic and economic hardship.
The November Budget Modification threatens crucial services for justice-involved youth.
These cuts are in addition to the $1 million in cuts impacting FY24-FY27 to Arches, a transformative mentoring program, as well as $2.2 million in FY24 and $2.6 million in outyears to Next STEPS. Next
STEPS is a preventative program intended to help youth avoid criminal activity and reengage with education, work and community. Rather than reducing resources for justice-involved youth, our city should be investing in proven, cost-effective prevention programs, diversion programs, and alternatives to detention/incarceration programs
New York City youth are calling for investments and care, not cuts. In CCC’s most recent Voicing Our Futures survey, developed and distributed by young New Yorkers, we surveyed over 1,300 NYC youth about their priorities and needs. This survey found that mental health care access, housing, employment, and extracurricular opportunities were major concerns for young people. The data collected from youth revealed that less than half of youth who reported needing mental health services could access them, and less than half received extracurricular support for academic or career development. The 2023 NYC Youth Agenda also highlights demands from young New Yorkers for economic mobility through job placements, educational opportunities, housing supports, and mental health care access as top concerns and areas of need for themselves and their peers.
CCC echos the recommendations of the Youth Agenda and urges the Council to:
Our youth deserve opportunities, not criminalization. We look forward to working with the City Council and partners across the City to oppose harmful cuts and uplift investments that help young people achieve their true potential.