‘Even the Wins in Family Court are Sad’


New York City’s Family Court has been called the “saddest place in New York,” but reforms are beginning to improve the outcomes for children and families, according to a report by the Child Welfare Watch at The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. This month the city’s court administration is expected to release a package of reforms designed to increase efficiency and streamline the judicial process.

Since 2006, there has been a 20 percent decline in child protective cases, and the city’s Administration for Children’s Services has already changed the way it evaluates agencies it contracts with, shifting the emphasis from procedural requirements to measuring good outcomes for families, writes Abigal Kramer in the report, entitled, “Is Reform Finally Coming to New York City Family Court?” And it is working with attorneys and advocates to identify and trouble-shoot the most common problems that have created dysfunctional or tragic outcomes.

But sometimes, the report notes, “even the wins..are sad.” In one example cited, a mother reluctantly accepts a suspended judgment in an educational neglect case. As long as her kids go to school and follow their special education plans, the allegations against her will be dropped. But that doesn't mean she'll be declared innocent. She leaves the court in tears, saying, “I just don't want to be blamed for something I didn't do.” Factors contributing to the drop in child protective cases include:

  • The number of children under 3 years of age entering foster care declined by 0.3 percent from 2004-2014 while the number of children aged 4 and older entering foster care declined by 31 percent over the same period.
  • The number of children who return to foster care within three years of being discharged has dropped by 50 percent since 2004.
  • The total number of child abuse and neglect petitions filed in NYC Family Court has dropped by 20 percent since 2006.

Read the report HERE.

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