Citing Her Own Family Story, Kathryn Garcia Calls For Changes To Foster System

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At a press convention outdoors of Brooklyn’s Household Court docket constructing Monday afternoon, mayoral hopeful Kathryn Garcia recalled her household’s expertise with adoption, pledging to reform the foster care system if elected as New York Metropolis’s subsequent mayor. Garcia was adopted as a child by a Park Slope couple–a labor negotiator and a trainer—who had two organic youngsters and adopted Garcia together with two different youngsters, each of whom are Black. On the occasion, Garcia recalled her older sister Elizabeth’s expertise, who was introduced into the household as a 7-year-old.

“She spent seven difficult years within the foster system. She had been scheduled to be positioned in a bunch dwelling,” Garcia mentioned. “Once I take into consideration my adoption and my household, one factor is obvious. Everyone wants a endlessly household to help them. Household is endlessly and we want extra households like mine.”

If elected, Garcia mentioned she would elevate the age at which youth age out of the foster care system from 21 to 25-years-old. Advocates have lengthy referred to as for elevating the age that the town supplies help to youth in foster care, who usually tend to expertise homelessness or legal justice involvement. About 600 foster youth aged out of the system in 2019, the latest knowledge obtainable.

She mentioned she would encourage extra adoptions of older foster youngsters by including funding for teams that present help to households of older adoptees.

Adoptions of youngsters in foster care have declined in recent times, dropping from 748 all the way down to 404 within the final fiscal 12 months, in accordance with metropolis knowledge. Many courtroom proceedings had been stalled throughout COVID, and there was a subsequent drop in household reunifications as nicely, from 2,309 youngsters in fiscal 12 months 2019 to 1,834 final fiscal 12 months. There was an identical decline within the variety of new youngsters positioned into foster care of about 18 p.c, down to three,105 final 12 months.

Of round 8,000 youngsters in foster care throughout the town, 53% are Black, although simply 24% of the town’s residents are Black. Garcia mentioned she supported a “blind” removing course of the place caseworkers decide whether or not a toddler needs to be eliminated with out realizing the race of the household, which the town mentioned it carried out after a 2020 state directive. In Nassau County, Black youngsters had been taken away from their households at decrease charges after the system was put in place.

However advocates for foster care youth and households whose youngsters have been eliminated by the town’s Administration for Youngsters’s Providers say there are different methods the system discriminates towards Black and brown households, like asking a household what their earnings is, how giant their condominium is, and even realizing what neighborhood they reside in. Joyce McMillan, an advocate for foster youth and households who’ve been separated from their youngsters referred to as Garcia’s plan “window dressing,” and mentioned it wouldn’t result in substantive reforms. McMillan is pushing for fewer removals of youngsters from their households altogether.

“The vast majority of instances are youngsters being eliminated for causes associated to neglect,” she mentioned, citing the variety of new instances initiated by ACS. She mentioned the present system penalizes households in poverty, slightly than serving to households present for his or her youngsters. WNYC beforehand reported on household separations that came about as a result of a mom had examined optimistic for marijuana. Officers needs to be targeted on flooding assets into communities to mitigate poverty that finally results in a toddler’s removing, she mentioned.

“This technique must be abolished,” McMillan added. “All the things dangerous about this method must be rebuilt.”

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