Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi recently joined Queens activists in calling on New York state to reimagine the child welfare system in the upcoming budget decisions for the next fiscal year.
Hevesi and advocates from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) and Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) hosted a virtual panel to outline the need to invest in child welfare and create equitable pandemic recovery for New York families.
Hevesi, who serves as the chair of the Children and Families Committee, said he wants to raise expectations this year by passing the Children and Families Reinvestment Act. This bill has not yet been introduced, but would provide increased funding to the state’s child welfare system.
“If your policies are hurting children and families and wasting the taxpayers’ money, that’s stupid policy,” Hevesi said. “Smart policy saves us money and saves those families and kids and that’s what we’re going for. Let’s get New York state back into the business of preventing problems before they occur and that’s in the child welfare system.”
One of the policies that Hevesi and advocates are looking to bring back is the 65%/35% plan — which says the state has to provide 65% funding and local providers pay for 35% of child care. This plan was put on pause after the recession in 2008, though it is written in law. Advocates argue that this plan gives local service providers more reach and should be implemented once again.
Sophine Charles, associate director at COFCCA, said that the pandemic has exacerbated disparities faced by families and children across the state. According to a report from COFCCA, the pandemic has increased families’ need for internet access, child care, mental health services food and other resources. Over 80% of providers said they needed internet access and devices food and over 70% of mental health care for families.
Hevesi said that 325,000 kids in New York have gotten near or below the poverty level and over 4,000 children experienced the loss of a caregiver. The assemblyman argued that childhood trauma contributes to homelessness, substance abuse, suicide rates and more — which is why it’s so important to invest in preventative child services.
“The science tells us that those kids who have been traumatized are going to have a lot more difficulty in life,” Hevesi said. “Preventative service providers have been keeping our families afloat. How can we not invest in children, invest in families and invest in counties?”