THE PARENT TRAP

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Next week, the city’s child welfare department will have become a very different operation in one important way. Instead of working out of centralized offices, each of the several dozen private agencies that provides foster care and other services to children and families for the city will now be neighborhood businesses, as much a part of the fabric of a community as schools, precinct offices and firehouses. Under new rules, they are also bound to place foster children in new families in their own neighborhoods.

There’s just one hitch. In the parts of the city that send the most children into foster care, ACS is about as popular as the NYPD–the result of a widespread belief that the agency is too quick to take children away from their parents, when the families need help. To make its new neighborhood-based model of helping children and families work, ACS’ contract agencies must recruit an army of new foster parents willing to do the job-starting at $17 a day. ACS has vowed to make families partners, not targets, in efforts to keep kids safe, but can it heal the breach it created? Find out in “Mommy Nearest,” in the June issue of City Limits magazine.

Also in the June issue, on newsstands now…. John Liu is determined to be the first Asian-American on New York’s City Council. It’ll be a cinch-if he survives Flushing’s distinctive brand of race politics….The Swingline stapler plant closed a year ago. Since then, its workers have found federal job training programs, a sympathetic union–everything but reliable jobs they can survive on….Welcome to the new world of public housing, where being poor guarantees you a spot at the back of the line.