Last week, the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the New York State and New York City governments accusing them of denying children foster placement with relatives. Excuses like a misdemeanor by an estranged family member or someone barely connected except through blood ties would cancel out any chance at foster care.

According to the lawsuit, children are, allegedly, denied the ability to stay with family members due to government officials placing what representatives at the Legal Aid Society called “undue weight on SCR and criminal history.” History, they pointed out, that could be decades old.

According to Wood, The Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society deals with most children in child welfare proceedings in New York City Family Courts.

“We routinely see our clients denied foster care placements with their relatives because of something that happened in their relative’s past––whether due to criminal history or history on the statewide central registry (for reports of maltreatment),” Wood told the AmNews. “Children are being denied safe, loving familiar foster homes due to something that happened decades earlier and often without consideration of any rehabilitation on the part of the relative.”

You can also be barred from foster care when the foster care parent or guardian over the age of 18 has a criminal record or a history of “‘indicated’ child abuse and neglect” allegations with the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR).

“Children can also be denied kin foster care placements on the basis of records from the statewide central registry––even if those records are decades old and/or never resulted in Family Court proceedings,” said Legal Aid Staff Attorney Kate Wood to the
AmNews. “Moreover, neither the state nor the city provide needed guidance and oversight over the certification process for relatives to ensure that children aren’t being unnecessarily denied these placements.”

There were no comments from the city or state on the lawsuit.

“Children are routinely denied and our attorneys continue to press the agencies on an individual basis to consider each relative for their current ability to care for the child,” said Wood. “The city and state are aware of these issues and have failed to take appropriate actions.”

A 2018 report from the city showed that children put in foster care get better grades in school, make friends quicker and develop better mental health. Also, the number of children entering the foster care system has gradually decreased from 7,122 in 2006 to 3,647 in 2016. Currently, the foster care population hovers around 8,000 children.

“In addition to our attorneys fighting on an individual basis to ensure that children are placed in safe kin foster homes, we believe it was necessary to challenge these practices on a system-wide basis in order to ensure that every relative that comes forward for one of our clients is provided with an individualized and meaningful evaluation to assess their current ability to care for the child,” Wood told the AmNews. “And if there is a denial of foster care placement with the relative, that the child be provided with notice and opportunity to challenge that denial.”

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