Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grim Reality for Some Foster Care Children in New York

A suite filed yesterday, Wednesday, May 12, 2010, in the United States District Court, in Brooklyn, a Federal Court, seeks to bar New York City from permitting troubled foster-care youth to be kept in psychiatric facilities long after their doctors have recommended their release.
If the allegations are true, then it’s shocking how commonplace the practice of keeping foster-care children in psychiatric hospitals long after their recommended release has become in New York. This means children who have been deemed not to require any mental health treatment are being locked up in secure quarters with limited access to their family, friends and the outside world.
The allegations paint a sad picture for thousands of foster-care children in New York, but the most interesting part of all of this is that the suit is being brought by one state institutional legal provider against another. The suit brought by the Legal Aid Society of New York, on behalf of 3 foster-care children who are being detained in a mental health hospital even though their doctors have long recommended their release, is against the Administration for Children Services (“ACS”), which oversees approximately 16,000 foster-care children in New York, and its subcontractors. The suit argues, amongst other allegations, that ACS, and their subcontractors, are in essence using these mental health facilities as “detention facilities” for sane but unruly youth, rather than youth who require mental health treatment.
Personally, even though I represent plenty of foster-care children, have many clients whose children are currently in foster-care, and deal with ACS almost every day, I have not experienced many children being placed in mental health institutions rather than in foster-homes. However, I have experienced parents who are not able to care for their children placing their children in mental health institutions, and after each release finding another one for them to go to. I attribute this to the lack of supervision over children by the state and a lack of resources being put into the schools, parent education, and child welfare by the state.
Now, look on the bright side of all of this, the current judicial system is by far not perfect, but at least we can be sure that there is a system of checks and balances. It is comforting to know that the Legal Aid Society is keeping a close eye on the Administration for Children Services and making sure our most needy, i.e. foster-children, are being properly represented and monitored. Hopefully, this suit forces New York State to reprioritize its spending and focus on these children, the future of the state and what really matters.

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @ www.DukhanLaw.Com

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