Art by Eileen Jimenez
In 2021, in collaboration with TakeRoot Justice, Rise released the participatory action research report, An Unavoidable System: The Harms of Family Policing and Parents’ Vision for Investing in Community Care. Following our report release, Rise held a series of eight community report back sessions, engaging parents, parent advocates, social workers, legal providers and community members in discussions about our research findings. Through this process, Rise identified three policy priorities for 2022-2023.
Rise is working towards the abolition of the family policing system. Here, we outline recommendations based on our experiences, research and community report back sessions that can serve as immediate concrete stepping stones to move New York City toward shrinking the family policing system and strengthening networks of community care that truly support families.
Priority 1: Provide universal child care and end ACS oversight of child care vouchers, processes and services.
Research shows that difficulty finding child care is a stronger predictor of “maternal neglect” than almost any other factor. Child care subsidies for low-income mothers are linked to decreases in neglect reports; yet, NYC parents who seek child care vouchers describe the process as time-consuming and overwhelming. The cost of child care often exceeds half of the median income of families living in communities most impacted by family policing.
- Resource respite and community-based drop-off child care. Local drop-off emergency child care is crucial for parents to meet work and other obligations and minimize family stress when last-minute childcare needs arise.
- End ACS oversight of vouchers and expand eligibility requirements for child care vouchers. The income parameter is not inclusive. End means testing and provide universal child care to all families. Consolidate systems and create a centralized office/program/entity that oversees and manages child care in NYC.
Priority 2: Replace mandated reporting with support and access to community resources.
Implement models that are responsive to crisis and provide support and a stable safety net, making community resources more accessible.
- Require all City and City-contracted agencies to engage in organizational review processes to identify and address existing internal policies that drive staff to make hotline calls instead of directly serving and supporting families—as well as to create policies that work to address family support needs.
- NYC Department of Education (DOE) should review the protocols mandated reporters in schools follow and implement a new model for supporting families when issues arise. NYC DOE should update its mandated reporting training curriculum to: provide clear standards for distinguishing poverty from neglect; identify potential harms of reporting to families; offer resources and guidance on supporting families directly; and communicate with parents/caregivers about concerns prior to making reports. Designating school staff as mandated reporters breeds distrust between teachers (and other school personnel) and families, making schools another place of harm in the community.
Priority 3: Invest in community-led mental health supports.
Many parents at Rise have connected traumatic experiences of family policing to a lack of support around grief and mental health care for themselves and their families. However, quality mental health services are financially out of reach for low-income parents and children. Investing in peer support models and local organizations that provide mental and behavioral health and holistic services directly benefits communities and children.
- Resource the development and implementation of peer support networks for parents in crisis. Our research shows that parents want support from those who have been through similar experiences, and studies show that peer support models can create safety without policing and punishment.
- Pilot a peer support program in neighborhoods with high rates of ACS investigations. The pilot can show how peer support can help strengthen families while reducing families’ risk of involvement with ACS. The pilot can gather data, information and feedback that can be used to strengthen and expand the model citywide.
- Make culturally relevant, individual and family therapy and grief support readily accessible for children, adults and families. Many quality mental health services are financially out of reach for parents, and Medicaid coverage for mental health services is lacking. Psychiatrists, for example, have become increasingly unlikely to accept Medicaid.
Rise is meeting with allied organizations and partners to continue to gather information and develop strategies to move our policy priorities forward. Rise has begun introducing our policy priorities to elected officials, and we will join Alliance for Quality Education in their Bronx press conference calling for universal child care on February 24th. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to share updates about our work, what we are learning and how parents, allies and community groups can join us in advocating for these changes. We invite you to be in touch about how we can support your work and partner in this movement to end family policing and grow networks of support and community care, as well!
- Chapin Hall. (2021, Jun., Rev.). Family and Child Well-Being System: Economic & Concrete Supports as a Core Component. Retrieved from: https://www.chapinhall.org/wp-content/uploads/Economic-Supports-deck.pdf
- Lynch, M., Astone, N.M., Collazos, J., Lipman, M. & Esthappan, S. (2018, Feb. 20). Arches Transformative Mentoring Program: An Implementation and Impact Evaluation in New York City. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/arches-transformative-mentoring-program; Community Connections for Youth. South Bronx Community Connections. Webpage. Retrieved from: https://cc-fy.org/project/south-bronx-community-connections/