Shatavia Hurt testified against ACS Family Enrichment Center (FEC) expansion during the virtual hearing of the NY City Council Committee on General Welfare on 6/14/21.
Good afternoon all! I’m Shatavia Hurt from Staten Island North Shore. I am the Executive Director of Free it Forward Staten Island. I’m also part of the Rise & Shine Parent Leadership Program conducted by Rise.
Today I am going to testify about the expansion of the Family Enrichment Centers (FECs) and the funding that will go to the FECs. Community leaders and local organizations across NYC have really banded together and helped the community get through this pandemic. In my own community and in other communities throughout NYC, small business owners have set up community refrigerators and pantries to help fight food insecurity during the pandemic. Local artists have set up free virtual art classes, theatre and story time for children and teens. These classes have provided respite to exhausted parents and at the same time created a positive outlet for children—children who were trapped inside their apartments during this pandemic. Community leaders have reached into their own pockets to purchase—whether it be food, diapers, a Zoom license and materials needed to support their surrounding communities.
It didn’t take them four years, training to deal with families or building 30 FECs to help out their community that was in a crisis. Their response was immediate and felt throughout NYC. The funding should be reallocated directly to these organizations and individuals, to help expand their community outreach!
Besides the millions that will go into these FECs, ACS already has over $2.6 billion in funding. Over the past couple of years, many parents have said to me in a professional and casual setting, “I have gone to ACS for help, help to aid my children and prevent having an ACS case, and help during an ongoing ACS investigation. ACS wasn’t able to help me because they lack funding.”
In some cases, ACS referred them to smaller organizations that dont even have a fraction of the funding ACS has for child welfare. That doesn’t add up.
People have come to me and my organization for clothing and food because of fear that if they ask ACS for help they would get a case with ACS. There’s no trust and a deep fear of the ACS in our Black and brown community. Why would a parent want to go to ACS at these FECs for help when they don’t trust their system?
I myself had ACS involvement three years ago and it has traumatized me and my now seven year old. Someone made a false anonymous claim against me, and I was investigated. Every time my doorbell rings unexpectedly, I fear it’s ACS and they will investigate me for months on a baseless claim.
The ACS system is intrusive and racist. I’m also calling on the NYC Comptroller and NYC Comptroller candidates running in this upcoming election to audit and investigate ACS. They should be continuously audited to ensure that their funding is going towards prevention of removing children from their homes, most of which are children in Black and brown communities.