For the second year in a row, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed eliminating money for prevention services for at-risk kids.
The Governor knows that some of these children will wind up physically and sexually abused, some of them will drop out of school and wind up involved in the criminal justice system, families will be unnecessarily broken apart, and the cost to taxpayers will grow exponentially for foster care and incarceration.
So why does Andrew Cuomo insist on cutting funding for vulnerable kids?
Just like last year, there is no coherent rationale.
In last year’s budget, the Governor proposed to cap the amount of money New York State would reimburse the city for child welfare services preventative funding. Both the Senate and Assembly rejected his proposal and it was not included in the final enacted state budget.
My colleagues and I rejected Cuomo’s cap because in the 15 years prior to this proposal, New York had successfully prevented abuse and maltreatment of children before it occurs in families, by reimbursing all localities 65 percent of the cost of child-welfare preventative services.
The result of that uncapped reimbursement has been increased local investment in programs like crisis intervention, mediation, preventive services, family counseling, substance abuse programs, and anger management.
This has reduced the number of abused and maltreated children in our state, and as a result more families have been able to stay together, and taxpayers have saved money because fewer children have had to be placed in foster care and enter the criminal justice system.
We also knew the dangers of a cap on this reimbursement because Governor Pataki was successful in placing a cap in 1995 and the results were terrible, including increased rates of child abuse and foster care placements.
I was incredibly proud to be part of a legislature that collectively refused to place the lives of children at risk and hurt taxpayers by rejecting Cuomo’s proposal. I am disheartened, however, that we need to do so again.
In this years’ budget, Cuomo is pushing another way to hurt at-risk children and taxpayers by eliminating prevention funding for Persons In Need of Supervision (PINS) children.
PINS kids are those under 18 years old who do not attend school or who behave in dangerous or out of control ways, and often disobey their parents, guardians or other authorities.
In New York City, these children are referred to the Family Assessment Program (FAP) run by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the NYC Department of Probation in order to work through any adolescent/family issues from a family-centered perspective. Approximately, 5,000 children are in this program annually and hundreds more are in similar programs run by counties throughout New York State.
If these programs are not successful then PINS proceedings will start in family court. During these proceedings, a judge may determine whether to place the child in foster care, detain the child in a non-secure facility, order the department of probation to prepare a report on the child’s behavior, order an evaluation by mental health professionals or any other course the Judge believes will ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.
In this years’ budget, the governor has proposed to eliminate PINS detention, foster care placement and funds for prevention services.
I agree with the governor that ending detention is good for children, but the elimination of foster-care placement will leave many youth without a safe placement option.
Even worse, eliminating funding for family supports, respite and preventive services like the city’s FAP program for PINS youth will result in situations where youth needs are not met, leading to possible exploitation, safety risks, and contact with the criminal justice system.
The consequences of this years’ proposal by the governor to strip funds from at-risk youth and hurt taxpayers is simply unacceptable.
I am therefore urging all of my colleagues, from both parties and in both houses of the legislature, to once again, reject Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to hurt vulnerable youth.
Andrew Hevesi is a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, representing District 28 (Rego Park, Forest Hills, Middle Village).