Academic journal article Child Welfare

The New York City Neighborhood-Based Services Strategy

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The New York City Neighborhood-Based Services Strategy

Article excerpt

The New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) instituted a neighborhood-based services system through the realignment of all foster care, preventive, and protective services along community district lines. ACS, with its community partners, also formed neighborhood-based networks to improve service coordination and collaboration among key community stakeholders and to shape a multisystem strategy tailored to each district informed by child welfare data. Based on analysis of neighborhood-specific census tract child welfare data, ACS initiated the Community Partnership to Strengthen Families project to address the disproportionate number of foster care placements originating from a small group of high-need communities, including Manhattan's Central Harlem. This article describes examples of specific strategies based on the Central Harlem experience.

The neighborhood-based services (NBS) approach stems from the hypothesis that the more convenient and relevant services are at the community level, the more likely it is that families will be able to access these services and avoid the placement of their children in foster care. Even in the event that foster care placement becomes necessary, best practice suggests that children placed in their own communities have an increased likelihood of maintaining close and frequent family contact, leading to a more timely and safe return home. Through its NBS approach, the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) aimed to integrate child welfare services with other service systems at the neighborhood level to support children and families through the provision of culturally competent services in locations that are both familiar and convenient.

In an effort to ensure a continuum of services for children and families at the community level, ACS realigned all foster care and preventive, as well as 3,000 child protective staff along community district (CD) lines. The five boroughs of New York City have 59 CDs. By assigning all child welfare providers to specific CDs, ACS hoped to increase its ability to ensure that:

* children and families are able to access effective services in their own communities;

* children entering foster care are able to stay in their schools, maintain contact with their friends, and keep appropriate contact with family members and community supports;

* visits with parents and siblings can occur with greater ease and frequency in neighborhood settings; and

* case conferences, service plan reviews, and other decision-making mechanisms regarding a child's case are conducted in the child's community to include family and community members who support the family.

Establishment of Effective Neighborhood-Based Networks

To create a community-based child welfare system, ACS has focused on building effective neighborhood-based networks in New York City. Developed through the shared efforts of various community partners, these networks are able to provide comprehensive preventive, protective, and foster care services as well as other services to children and families in their own communities. A neighborhood network is a collaboration among the ACS community-based staff, ACS contract foster care and preventive agencies assigned to specific CDs, local service providers, and community stakeholders committed to the provision of culturally sensitive and family-focused services for children and families. The network meetings create a forum in which agencies can share resources, ideas, information, and referrals. Once effective communication takes place, networks can engage in joint planning, coordination, training, and advocacy to bolster the existing community strengths.

Successful networks facilitate relationship building, enhance service coordination, increase awareness of nearby services, and lead to greater accountability of child welfare outcomes from various stakeholders in their own community. …

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