Stirpe: We need to work together to help children

Al Stirpe

Stirpe: We need to work together to help children

Every child deserves a safe, stable home and the support to not just grow but flourish. The sad reality, however, is that too many kids lack these basic necessities. In fact, the federal Children’s Bureau found that New York fell short on standards for children in foster care. We need to do better and improve the system so these kids have a fair shot. No one solution will take care of it, and that’s why we’re tackling this problem in multiple ways.

As of 2016, there were over 16,000 children in our foster care system and 35 percent of them were 5 or younger. More than 17 percent of kids in foster care experience mistreatment in a single year and only 27 percent of foster care children find a permanent home in under two years.  Permanent homes, which provide a stable family for these kids, can make all the difference in a child’s healthy growth and development, not to mention recovery from trauma. These aren’t just numbers and statistics – these are kids just like yours or mine who need and deserve our help. They’re being deprived of the very things that make up childhood – innocence, love and a carefree attitude.

This past Friday, I hosted a roundtable with representatives from state agencies and nonprofit organizations, including the Office of Child and Family Services and Families Together in NYS, to discuss issues in the state foster care system. If we’re going to solve problems in foster care, we need to share experiences and strategies and work together to come up with solutions.

At the roundtable we discussed New York’s focus on preventative services, which can keep children out of the foster system from the start; the benefits of preparing foster families to deal with the challenges many children in foster care face; and the need to support the workforce in the foster care system to reduce employee turnover and create a more stable environment for the children, among other issues. It was a great discussion, and it showed again that there is plenty of work to be done.

In the Assembly, I’ve also been fighting for children and families on the legislative front. I introduced a bill that establishes a court-appointed special advocate program to promote the health, safety and well-being of children involved in family court actions as well as provides assistance to nonprofit programs that work with family courts (A.1050). I also support a measure that calls for the establishment of a task force to examine, evaluate and make recommendations concerning child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in the state (A.8945).

Our children are our greatest resource, and there are no easy solutions to bettering the conditions of foster care children. However, with compassion and a willingness to work together, we can see that New York’s kids get what they need – safe homes and loving families.

If you have questions about this or any other community issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at 315-452-1115

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