Children Aging Out Of Foster Care Need Services, Legal Aid Chief Says

New York 1 reported on the challenges facing children aging out of foster care. Steven Banks, The Legal Society's Attorney-in-Chief, told New York 1 that the Society's Juvenile Rights Practice and its pro bono partner Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP as well as Lawyers for Children brought litigation to challenge the Bloomberg Administration's failure to provide legally required services to enable children aging out of foster care to live independently, which resulted in a court-approved settlement in 2012. Banks told New York 1 that "[d]espite the settlement, there have been problems in terms of providing the necessary services and supervision, and particularly, the housing," Banks also said that the Society is hopeful that the new de Blasio Administration will be able to address these problems.

Legal Aid staff who worked on the case include Juvenile Rights Practice Attorney-in-Charge Tamara Steckler, Lisa Freeman, Karen Fisher Guthiel, and Kim Forte. Davis Polk's litigation team consisted of James W.B. Benkard, Sharon Katz, Scott B. Luftglass, and David C. Pitluck. Attorneys at Lawyers for Children - Karen J. Freedman, Betsy Kramer, and Priti Kataria - also worked on the case.

News at Eleven
NY1 (IND) New York
February 4th, 2014 11 PM

Elizabeth Kaledin, Co-Anchor: In the year 2012, at least 650 children aged out of foster care, and the question is what happens to them? As our Courtney Gross explains, for many, their future is unclear.

Courtney Gross, Reporter: It’s not exactly clear where Mercedes Rodriguez will end up.

Mercedes Rodriguez: They just said, “You’re going to discharge yourself.” Fine. They had the meeting and let me go.

Courtney Gross: And where’d you go?

Mercedes Rodriguez: I was out here, like now.

Courtney Gross: Out here is 41st Street outside of a youth shelter. It’s not the only place she’s gone.

Mercedes Rodriguez: The Port Authority…different places.

Courtney Gross: Rodriguez checked herself out of foster care when she turned 18. Soon after, she was back on the street. Advocates claim hundreds of kids leaving the foster care system could share a similar story; they age out and have nowhere to go, like Shayna Alicea when she turned twenty-one.

Shayna Alicea: Well, they said I had to go to a shelter. They picked up the rest of my stuff from my foster mom’s house, and that’s all they could tell me.

Benita Miller, Administration for Children’s Service: We don’t discharge children to homelessness.

Courtney Gross: That’s the city’s deputy commissioner who oversees foster care. She says the city doesn’t track where kids that age out go. New York 1 asked for statistics to see if other kids like Shayna or Mercedes were out there, but according to city officials, once they age out, it’s out of their hands.

Benita Miller: We’re a time-limited system, and if you ask young people, do—or anybody—“Do you want ACS involved in your life for a long term?” Most people would tell you “No.”

Courtney Gross: The city’s child welfare agency is legally required to make sure foster kids are prepared to live on their own, the subject of a lawsuit two years ago.

Steve Banks, The Legal Aid Society: Despite the settlement, there have been problems in terms of providing the necessary services and supervision, and particularly, the housing.

Courtney Gross: The city has just 100 apartments set aside specifically for kids aging out of foster care. Shayna got one of them; Mercedes, on the other hand, is asking ACS to come back for another two years until she turns twenty-one.

Mercedes Rodriguez: Hopefully they’ll help me this time to get my stuff together.

Courtney Gross: In Midtown, Courtney Gross, New York 1.