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October 27, 2017
Last month, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC), along with the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service and the Fordham School of Law, hosted the James R. Dumpson Memorial Lecture on Family Well-Being and Working Forum on New York City Family Policy. Mr. Dumpson, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 103, was New York City’s first black welfare commissioner and served as the dean of Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s and served on the board of CCC from 1969 to 1971.
The evening lecture was delivered by Dr. Charles E. Carter, the former Deputy Director and Chief Strategy Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. His talk, The Science of Child Development: Implications for Policy and Practice, emphasized the importance of reducing external sources of stress, strengthening core life skills, and supporting responsive relationships between parents and children. Dr. Carter highlighted the scientific research suggesting that children’s brains continue to develop through adulthood, and that stressors such as poverty and unresponsive parent-child relationships can be harmful to child development. Dr. Carter also emphasized the importance of providing services that not only recognize the science behind child development, but in settings where adults and children would actually seek the services they need.
The following day, service providers, city officials, academics, and other stakeholders came together for the working forum on family policy. The morning started with a presentation from CCC Executive Director Jennifer March, in which she highlighted the risk factors present for New York City’s children and the disproportionate impact on black and Latino children, particularly those residing in the south Bronx, central Brooklyn, and upper Manhattan. Following the presentation, forum attendees broke out into four working groups (one for each borough, with Manhattan and Staten Island combined) with discussions co-facilitated by CCC staff and Fordham faculty.
Working groups then spent the morning session exploring packets of data CCC research and data staff prepared using data from Keeping Track Online on the environmental factors – both risks and resources – impacting family well-being in their borough. In the afternoon session, groups discussed what policies and practices could be built upon, modified, or implemented to reduce key stressors, support the development of core capabilities, and create welcoming service delivery environments.
The morning and afternoon sessions bore fruitful discussion on how best to address the needs of New York City’s most at-risk children and families. Recommendations from these sessions included the need for more well-child visits and home visiting programs to support responsive parent-child relationships, increasing investments in financial literacy and continuing education programs for adults, emphasizing the creation of human-centered design in service delivery environments to reduce the stigma of accessing services, as well as exploring the benefits of service delivery in group formats to encourage the development of peer to peer, supportive relationships. There were also discussions on doing more to bring children, youth and parents who are seeking services into decision making processes, particularly around the identification of needs and access to social services.
CCC looks forward to continuing to work with Fordham University and the many conference attendees representing government, the social service sector, and academia on how to best promote well-being for New York City’s children and families. The Dumpson Memorial Lecture and Working Forum was a tremendous example of how many brilliant and committed individuals share CCC’s goals of ensuring prosperous futures for the city’s children. Given the scale of the challenges in New York City, it will require continuous energy, collaboration, and innovation to meet those goals, and we look forward to the work ahead.
To learn more about the brain science of child development and the ways that science can be applied in child welfare systems, see articles from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child here and here.