By Mark Hallum
Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner David Hansell issued a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of the state Legislature to illustrate the impact of the state’s fiscal year 2019 budget, which would put a cap on funds for city social work.
The city agency said had it expected $449 million from the state to fund its existing programs, but only $320 million was laid out in the reimbursement cap in the budget with some claiming it would affect services such as Close to Home, which houses children in the city as opposed to moving them to other living arrangements in New York.
“I believe we all share a commitment to safeguarding children and supporting families, and for that reason we find this proposal startling, especially given the lack of any articulated basis for it – other than shifting to the city obligations that have historically been the state’s,” Hansell said. “The last time the state made such drastic cuts to New York City’s child welfare system, the results were disastrous.”
Hansell referred to the Family and Children’s Services Block Grant passed by the state in the 1990s, claiming it imposed an “arbitrary limit” on state support for child welfare at the city level and resulted in a 57 percent spike in foster care admissions.
Case loads also increased to 24 percent, a number Hansell said is double what it is today.
By the early 2000s, the state got rid of the block grant and replaced it with the current shared investment model, which takes 50 percent of its funds from Albany, 40 percent from the city and 10 percent from federal coffers.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) issued a letter to Cuomo asking his administration to cooperate with Haskell and ACS in their needs.
“The current reimbursement system has contributed to lower child protective case loads and a decrease in juvenile justice detection and placements,” Peralta said. ‘The proposed $320 million cap runs counter to our shared goal of keeping children out of the foster care and the juvenile justice system. When the state has implemented caps in the past, New York City foster care placements spiked. In 2017, there were 157 more placements than there were in 2016. This is not the time to cut off the very funding that can prevent more children from being institutionalized.”
Budget Director Robert Mujica claimed the governor’s budget was in line with years prior in that it eliminated unnecessary costs and invested in progressive policies as well as infrastructure.
“The governor’s fiscal policies, which have ended the era of high spending growth and tax increases, are maintained in FY 2019 Budget. For the eighth consecutive year, the budget is balanced and limits spending growth to 2 percent – a record of spending restraint unparalleled in sate history,” Mujica said. “The 2 percent cap, self-imposed by Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature, has been made possible by fundamental reforms to reduce state costs.”
The majority of $129 million to be slashed in 2019 would eliminate child-protective staff and personnel in preventative programs such as family counselling and substance abuse treatment, according to ACS.
Some of the funds to be cut from the budget have been invested in the agency’s investigative staff as well.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall