We Asked the New York City Mayoral Candidates About the High-Stakes Child Welfare System. Here’s What They Said.
When eight leading candidates vying to be mayor of New York City appear this evening for the season’s first official televised debate, they will argue over how best to manage schools, housing and police. Largely absent from the platforms to date have been how the candidates would approach the city’s 8,000 children in foster care and the 50,000 families investigated for child maltreatment each year.
In an effort to make sure these children and families receive public attention in this year’s Democratic primary election, the nonprofit news outlet The Imprint and the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School conducted a joint survey of the leading candidates. Six of the leading candidates responded to questions about how they would address racial injustice in the child welfare system, care for transition-age foster youth and address the role poverty plays in separating parents from their children.
Whoever is elected in the June 22 primary is widely expected to win this progressive city’s general election in November. The final choice of mayor to replace Bill de Blasio will oversee the 7,000 employees of the nearly $3 billion Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), taking charge as the city recovers from the devastation of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and responds to the public’s ever-growing demand for racial justice.
Six of eight leading candidates responded to the four-question survey sent on April 27. Although they mostly emphasized their broader anti-poverty plans, some provided their most detailed and substantive public remarks to date on the child welfare system, which impacts Black families at far higher rates than families of all other races in New York City.
Some candidates offered solutions that advocates have long fought for, such as a housing guarantee for older foster youth aging out of the system, a designated foster care office in the Department of Education and the hiring of more family court judges. Others offered new ideas, including a “reunification day” celebration for parents whose children return home from foster care. Two candidates called for the city to implement a new “race-blind” process when child welfare investigators decide to remove children from their homes following abuse and neglect allegations — an effort designed to reduce the overrepresentation of Black children in foster care.
The two frontrunners in public polls, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, did not participate in the survey. The Yang campaign did not respond to repeated emails. The deputy campaign manager for the Adams campaign responded in an email stating: “With Election Day approaching and so many amazing opportunities presented to us, we are unable to accommodate this invitation at this time.”
Here are the answers from the candidates who did respond, including links to their complete responses and summaries of their key relevant proposals. They have been lightly edited.
(Reporting by The Imprint’s Michael Fitzgerald and the Center for New York City Affairs’ Abigail Kramer. Cover Art: Christine Ongjoco, The Imprint. Production: Kate Gonzales, The Imprint.)
Highlights: Provide newborns and students with Equity Bonds of $1,000 in principal and annual deposits; Guarantee at least one paid job, apprenticeship or internship opportunity to every high school student; Universal housing vouchers and trained housing navigators, and increase emergency rental and assistance to $500 million
Highlights: Implement a “race-blind” child removal evaluation process; Prioritize those who have experience with foster care for appointments to Family Court and the Administration for Children’s Services; Guarantee foster youth a right to housing through age 25, with rental assistance vouchers
Highlights: Implement a “race-blind” child removal evaluation process; Recruit more peer advocates for parents facing child welfare investigations, and hold “reunification day” celebrations for parents whose children come home from foster care; Permanently remove requirement for foster youth to petition a judge to remain care past 21
Highlights: Create a housing-for-all guarantee, including housing stability support through mentorship, guidance and options for healing therapy for youth aging out of the foster care system; Establish universal after-school programs, focused on students with disabilities, in foster care and with limited financial means; Provide universal access to doulas, midwives, physicians and nurses, and free prenatal care
Highlights: Dedicate staff at the Department of Education who are focused on foster youth; Reduce child welfare caseloads by hiring more case workers and family court judges; Increase annual spending on childcare to $660 million under his “NYC Under 3” plan
Highlights: Invest $5 million in bus service for students in foster care to help increase school stability and make permanent $20 million in baseline funding for the Fair Futures program; Ensure that ACS abides by the terms of a 2012 legal settlement allowing youth older than 21 to stay in foster care if they do not have stable housing; Will explore the possibility of contracting prevention services through Department of Youth and Community Development or Human Resources Administration