Administration for Children's Services (ACS) in New York City
Collaborative Partnerships to Enhance the Well-being of Foreign-born Children in New York City
The overall objective of the collaborative partnerships developed between immigrant advocacy groups and the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) in New York City is to ensure culturally competent public child welfare services for the foreign-born. New York City is the most populated - and diverse - city in the United States. According to the 2000 US Census, 60% of the city’s population is made up of first and second generation immigrants from all over the world. In order to serve the majority of children in the city, then, ACS must be able to provide child welfare services appropriate to a child and family’s language, culture, immigration status, and other factors that can have a great impact on outcomes for children regarding safety, permanency, and well-being.
Up until the late 1990s, despite the large presence of immigrants and refugees in New York City, there was not an effective, systematic approach for assisting foreign-born families involved with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). Due to a number of high-profile child welfare cases involving newcomers and the recognition that advocacy groups and the ACS needed to collaborate, a task force was formed with representatives from various groups. In April 2003, the task force was formalized as the ACS Immigrant Advisory Subcommittee. When the Subcommittee meets, representatives from community-based agencies are generally present (see “Contacts” below) as well as independent immigration attorneys, advocates, and representatives from government offices.
All Limited English Proficient children and families who require services from ACS.
Additional funding has not been utilized to support this collaboration. The Annie E. Casey Foundation did provide funding to ACS, however, to create the Director of Immigrant Services position.
The Subcommittee has not conducted a formal evaluation of their collaborative efforts. However, they have set goals to accomplish with intended impacts on foreign-born children and families, and progress towards these goals is reviewed for accountability. Data on use of interpreters are tracked. In addition, there are some case examples that illustrate some successes. See BRYCS’ interview with Ilze Earner for case examples and for more details about this collaboration at http://brycs.org/documents/upload/interview_earner.pdf
Following are changes in the system of child welfare services in New York City:
TRAINING: New employees at ACS now receive special training on issues particular to immigrant and limited English-speaking children and families. This includes information on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Local Law 73, which both relate to language access. In addition, new attorneys in the Children’s Services Division of Legal Services are given training on immigration law.
LANGUAGE ACCESS: Huge strides have been made in this area over the past few years. ACS now has a written procedure for how child protective workers can obtain an interpreter in any language. Through the AT & T Language Line, ACS caseworkers now have access to 143 languages. In addition, Language Identification Cards are used and, with the help of the Department of Education, new languages are identified and added to the cards as needed. There has also been an increased effort at recruiting bilingual child protective services workers as well as implementing a system that identifies these workers as bilingual, so that all employees are aware of the staff’s overall linguistic capabilities.
HANDBOOK: The Immigration and Language Guidelines for Child Welfare Staff was developed, which provides child welfare staff with information on immigration status, agency policy on eligibility for immigrants, and lists resources for immigrant families. It includes a Language Identification Card on pages 15-16.
DATA COLLECTION: Data collection has been improved. ACS has streamlined its process for recording clients’ primary languages in their central database and the number of ethnic group categories has been expanded in order to recognize the diversity within larger racial categories. For example, ACS workers do not only record if a family is Asian, but more specifically, if they are Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.
This Subcommittee represents an ongoing process of collaboration between public child welfare and immigrant-serving community-based organizations. It continues to function as a forum where issues and ideas can be discussed and worked on to address the special needs of immigrant/refugee families, children and youth. It is also making it possible to effect systemic change.
Administration for Children’s Services
Community-based Organizations that founded the Immigrant Advisory Task Force include:
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
Committee for Hispanic Children and Families
Child Welfare Organizing Project
Immigrants and Child Welfare Project
The Immigrant Advisory Task Force began in September 2001 and became formalized as the Immigrant Advisory Subcommittee in April 2003; it is still operating.