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New York City may be owed millions of dollars by the state for foster care funding, according to a Supreme Court judge’s decision issued earlier this month.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Karen Smith ruled that a formula the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) used to determine the amount of money allocated to the city for foster care in fiscal year 2003-2004 “is arbitrary” and “not rationally related to the legislative purpose” for which it is intended.

The formula tied 50 percent of the city’s need in foster care to five indicators, such as the number of teenage pregnancies and the number of children receiving food stamps. But the judge found that the indicators don’t reflect the city’s true foster care needs. OCFS has already abandoned the formula due to criticism from local districts, but the city sued for back payment, arguing that it was shortchanged by the formula last year.
The judge also decided that the state had under-calculated the city’s spending the year before.

The decision could net the city “tens of millions of dollars,” according to Joshua Rubin, an attorney at the New York City Law Department, who represents the city in the case. Although the exact amount the city is owed is not yet clear, “we are sure they have to go back to redo the allocation and give us what we should get,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Attorney General’s office said the state is carefully evaluating the judge’s decision and has not yet determined if it will appeal. But the city’s child welfare agencies are optimistic. “The city has told us that they couldn’t pay the foster care rates because the state hasn’t given them adequate funding,” said James Purcell, executive director of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies. “We would expect that if the city now gets this money from the state, they will use it to pay the foster care rates.”

The city’s Administration for Children’s Services said it is too early to discuss how it might spend any money. “It would be unwise for us to say at this time how that money ought to be spent,” said ACS spokesperson Lisi de Bourbon. “We’ll begin to look at how to use it when and if we get it.”

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