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Times Union Viewpoint: This is a terrible time to cut child welfare


March 30, 2021

It’s been one year since New York’s children and families found themselves at the epicenter of the pandemic. Concerns around child safety and family stability have been at a peak across the state, as during the months initially following the outbreak, 4,200 New York children lost a parent or guardian to COVID-19 and 325,000 children were pushed into poverty.
For our state’s children, community-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs have been a lifeline. As most child welfare cases involve neglect stemming from economic hardship, in this past year households increasingly relied on child welfare prevention programs for basic help getting food, diapers, rent assistances, as well as internet and devices for remote learning and virtually connecting to health and education services.
Despite the vital role these programs play, the governor’s Executive Budget proposed to significantly reduce their state funding: For example, the proposed 5% cut in reimbursement to child welfare services would end up reducing state support by a total of $30.5 million.

This would be a devastating mistake. In our recent survey of child welfare providers in New York City, 37% indicated that they need to supplement funding to address child and family needs. Cutting state funding would also be a serious blow to equity as communities of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system: for example, Black and Latinx children make up 89% of children placed in foster care in New York City.
While there are no justifiable reasons to cut back on services that prevent child abuse and neglect in any given year, it is unthinkable that the state is proposing to cut these services even more deeply during a pandemic – a decision that could lead to increased numbers of children entering foster care.
Right now, it’s vital that the three-way agreement between the senate, assembly and the governor reject the proposed reduction to child welfare services. State leaders must recognize that child welfare services play an essential role in addressing pressing needs of children and families, keeping children safe and families together, and ultimately supporting an equitable pandemic recovery.

Jennifer March, the executive director of the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York, and Kathleen Brady-Stepien, President and CEO at Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies.

 

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