Thinking Clearly About Children's Services
January 30th, 2006

The Daily News and the New York Times each have recent articles attempting to bring the death of 7-year old Nixzmary Brown in perspective.

Natasha Santos writes about her own traumatic experience in foster care, and wonders if she would have been better off had the city focused on helping her own mother deal with her drug problem instead of taking the family apart. She thinks that calls for the city to be more aggressive about taking children away from troubled families is simplistic.

“I always get frustrated when people who have no connection or real interest in the foster care system comment on it because it’s suddenly a hot topic,” she writes. “I’m not sure what the solution is. All I know is that both options have their victims.”

The Milano School’s Andrew White contrasts the state of the city’s child welfare system to its condition in 1995, when the death of Elisa Izquierda set off a wave of reforms. Then, he writes, “the child protection system was undeniably in crisis.”

Caseworkers were overwhelmed, some in charge of investigating more than 60 cases. Records weren’t computerized. Much has changed, he says. Today, investigators are better trained, better paid, and less overworked. They have access to better support services and better data.

“This month, the news media believe they are in the thick of a similar child abuse crisis,” he adds. “But this time, there is no data to support claims that the city’s child protection system is a mess.”

The city did fail Brown, writes White. But the answer is to improve the system, not overhaul it.

[Mike Arsham of the Child Welfare Organizing Project has also written about this subject on Gotham Gazette’s Childrens Topic Page]

By on January 30, 2006, 11:07 am
In category: Social Services | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Thinking Clearly About Children's Services”

  1. Julia Masi Says:
    April 5th, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    While the government agencies are unable to gain access to a child’s home, some private organizations do a very good job at helping at risk children and their families. Children of the City has been serving families in Sunset Park Brooklyn for 25 years. At last count (March 9th, 2006) they had 2,000 children in the data base and were making more than 500 home visits per month. They have an incredible force of dedicated volunteers and liscensed foster parents who work with them. They provide services that range from after school tutoring to parent workshops. Since they are well known and trusted in the community they can work with the local schools to help families in the community to prevent problems. Maybe one of the best ways to improve social service agencies is to let them create a partnership with schools and community groups.

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