Mayor Bill de Blasio signed several pieces of legislation earlier this month aimed at improving the transparency and efficacy of the Administration for Children’s Services, including a bill sponsored by Queens Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Arverne) that will provide all youth in foster care with an annual survey to rate their experience in the system.
“It is truly heartbreaking to hear the stories of foster youth being denied the simple things most children take for granted, such as having access to food and clothing, permission to practice their religion, Internet and phone access and personal allowances,” Richards said at the signing on Nov. 16. “This survey will help us make sure that the only foster parents in our system are those who have the best interest of every child in mind.”
The survey will include questions about different aspects of a foster child’s experience with a foster family, including questions about access to food and clothing, as well as inquiries about education status and extracurricular opportunities for the child. Foster youth that are 13 and older can participate in the survey.
Richards said his work on the legislation was inspired by his participation in the City Council’s Foster Youth Shadow Day, which was held last November. The shadow day was based upon a similar program in Congress. Foster youth from throughout the city attended the City Council at City Hall for a day, with each shadowing a council member. The youth were also able to directly relay their experiences directly to council members, which Richards said affected him.
“After I participated in the City Council’s Foster Shadow program last year, it became clear that we need to do more as a city to protect and improve the lives of our foster children,” he said.
ACS is responsible for more than 10,000 children in the foster care system, according to a March 2016 report to the Council on the mayor’s 2017 preliminary budget. The administration completes more than 55,000 investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect per year.
The new legislation comes in the wake of the murder of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins in Harlem Sept. 26. The child was beaten to death and his mother and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with his murder. ACS had received several complaints of abuse in regards to Perkins.
Additional legislation included mandates for ACS to submit annual reports about the “educational stability” of youth in foster care and for ACS to construct a plan to confront issues with permanency for foster care youth. Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) sponsored a bill to create a foster care task force that will include members from city agencies, City Council members, and representatives from advocacy groups and foster youth.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona