FOSTER CARE GIANTS LOSE MILLIONS IN CITY CRACKDOWN

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The Mayor’s Office of Contracts has sanctioned several of the city’s largest nonprofit foster care agencies for poor performance by placing them on short-term, probationary contracts.

The sanctioned agencies include Louise Wise Services, the nonprofit that placed four children with foster mother Patricia Coker. Coker and her mother, Betty, are facing abuse and murder charges in a Brooklyn court following the June death of foster child Caprice Reid in her custody.

In a mayor’s office memo obtained by City Limits, contract officials told Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) that City Hall would not approve new one- and two-year contracts for several nonprofit foster care agencies. Instead, the contract renewals were cut in some instances to span only six months.

“I’m so glad to hear that something is being done,” said Julia MacGuire, an organizer with the Child Welfare Organizing Project and the mother of three children in foster care. “For years there was no monitoring at all. These agencies have to be sat upon.”

Louise Wise Services, which received about $16 million last year from the city, is cited in the memo for failing to make on-time filings for two-thirds of the individual case plans required for each child in foster care. The city requires agencies to file these case plans every six months.

“It’s absolutely outrageous. I would close them down,” said an executive at another foster care agency who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’s the action plan for a child. If that’s not filed, it implies the cases are sitting around and dragging, no one is paying attention to them. I terminate social workers who cannot get the [action plans] done.”

Louise Wise Services is currently “under review” by ACS, said spokesperson Julia Rothwax. City child welfare officials accepted the mayor’s office’s recommendations, she said, adding, “This is part of an effort to put in stricter standards, better monitoring and tighter evaluation.” According to the memo, eight other nonprofits received only temporary renewals while their performance is re-assessed, including Family Support Services, Inwood House, Abbott House, St. Cabrini Home, Harlem Dowling, Edwin Gould, PRACA and CBCC. Some were cited for failing to file case plans, while others were targeted for low adoption rates or for incidents of abuse and neglect by foster parents or agency staff.

But Edith Holzer of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, an association of foster care nonprofits, said the mayor’s office acted too hastily. She charged that the agencies had no chance to challenge poor performance findings before contracts were issued.

“I think Louise Wise and the other agencies are probably outstanding in some areas. It’s unfair to base it all on the timeliness of this paperwork,” she said. Frequently, city workers lose or fail to process paperwork sent by the agencies–and the nonprofit ends up in trouble, she said. “Who is policing the city’s own performance?”