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Fixing Foster Care

There are about 20,000 kids in foster care in New York City. The issue of how to best meet kids' needs is an old one, but in the past few years, the word that seems to be repeated most often is "family." The city believes that every child needs a family connection, and is trying to create a model where every child has access to one, whether it be the biological family or a new one.

Photo of McCall family
Recent city efforts have sought to restructure the foster care system to encourage family preservation. Often in the past, children at risk were rapidly removed from the family and placed in foster care, rather than trying to fix the problem at home. Once in foster care, attempts were made to place younger children with foster families, while teens usually wound up in group homes. Upon leaving the system, teens were left with no safety net and often wound up homeless, unemployed, or in prison.

The city has recognized the need to help families keep their children out of foster care, and to try to find new family connections for children already in foster care that will not be returning home. In February the Administration for Children's Services released a plan called "Protecting Children and Strengthening Families," an ambitious attempt to restructure the foster care system. We spoke with Commissioner John Mattingly about the plan.

We also spoke with Nanette Schrandt, director of Juvenile Services at Legal Aid Society, which provides legal representation to over 30,000 kids a year. Nanette has been working in child advocacy for over 25 years.

About AGING OUT:

Photo from AGING OUT
The Roger Weisberg documentary AGING OUT focuses on foster children who come of age and move out into the world with no further support from the system. Daniella Rin Hover and her now husband Veasna were both foster kids who, while in care, had a baby. As they began approaching the age in which they'd have to leave the system, they faced the reality of living on their own with no support from the system and no family to turn to for help. For more information, visit the AGING OUT Web site.

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AGING OUT: An excerpt from the PBS documentary AGING OUT and an update from Daniella, a former NYC foster care child.View this story
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View this storyInterview: John Mattingly: The Commissioner of Children's Services discusses the restructuring of New York City's foster care system.
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Interview: Nanette Schrandt: The director of Juvenile Services at Legal Aid Society shares her views on the city's new foster care plan.
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View this storyFostering Family: Stephen McCall offers a home to kids in need of a family.
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