Projects: Child Welfare Case Processing in New York City Family Courts

The Vera Institute of Justice is partnering with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA), the New York City Family Court, and Casey Family Programs to conduct an operational review of the abuse and neglect case process flow in the Queens and Bronx family courts. Vera is combining data analyses and findings from interviews and observations to describe how the abuse and neglect cases are processed, identify causes of delay, and develop specific actions that the court and agencies can take to accelerate permanent living arrangements for children.

A citywide steering committee composed of senior-level officials from the mayor’s office, New York City Family Court, ACS, OCA, the Office of Children and Family Services, Casey Family Programs, attorney groups, foster care agencies, and parent advocates is guiding the project to ensure that the recommendations are feasible and complement the existing system-improvement efforts. Local working groups in Queens and in the Bronx have been established to provide feedback on the findings and recommendations. Vera has also engaged an operations management expert to identify operational best practices that could be adapted by the child welfare system from other sectors, such as health care.

Why focus on child welfare case processing?

In 2009, ACS filed 5,619 child-abuse or child-neglect petitions in New York City’s family courts, asking the court to assist in protecting the child in question. The resolution of these cases often takes months to complete and the length of the proceedings can sometimes be damaging to children, especially those placed in foster care. Delays caused by inefficient systems also result in unnecessary taxpayer expenditures. Over the past decade, OCA, ACS, OCFS, and other agencies have led a variety of initiatives to improve child protective proceedings in New York City family courts. Nevertheless, the child welfare system, stressed with a heavy caseload, still has long timelines that delay permanency plans for children in foster care.

For more information contact Evan Elkin.