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THE PARENT LEGISLATIVE ACTION NETWORK HAILS PASSAGE OF HISTORIC CHILD WELFARE REFORM IN THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE AND URGES THE GOVERNOR TO SIGN THE BILL INTO LAW

***For Immediate Release***

June 21, 2019

Contact:

Daniel Ball, 203-213-9303, dball@bds.org

Joyce McMillan, 917-450-2611, advocateandorganize@gmail.com

The Parent Legislative Action Network Hails Passage of Historic Child Welfare Reform in the New York State Legislature and Urges the Governor to Sign the Bill into Law

A.8060-A/S.6427-A Repairs Broken State Central Register (SCR) and Removes Barriers to Employment for Thousands of Parents Statewide

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Parent Legislative Action Network, made up of affected parents, legal services providers, and non-profit organizations who have lived experiences and/or work with child welfare-involved children and families across New York State, hail the passage of critical reforms to the State Central Register (A.8060A/S.6427A) in the New York State Senate on Tuesday and the New York State Assembly late Thursday. The legislation was introduced in response to calls from advocates and parents in the communities most affected by the child welfare system, in an effort spearheaded by parent activist, Joyce McMillan of PLAN. The coalition thanks Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee for their leadership, and urges Governor Cuomo to sign the bill into law immediately:

“Imposing a sentence of financial insecurities by placing parents on the State Central Register accused of neglect for up to twenty-eight years does not protect children or their families because poverty puts people at risk,” said Joyce McMillan, the We Are Parents Too Coordinator at Sinergia Inc and lead advocate of the Parent Legislative Action Network. “This bill removes these barriers and makes families safer and more secure. I thank Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee for understanding this, and for leading on this issue in the legislature.”

“For too long, the State Central Register, which is intended to help children, has instead unnecessarily hurt children and their families, particularly poor families of color,” said Chris Gottlieb, Co-Director of the NYU School of Law Family Defense Clinic. “This SCR reform is a critical improvement in our child welfare system – it will make investigations more fair and ensure that parents’ access to employment opportunity is not hampered by inaccurate and irrelevant records in the SCR.”

“The passage of this legislation brings us one step closer to one of the most important reforms to the child welfare system we have seen in years, breaking barriers to employment that hundreds of thousands of families statewide face because of an unfair and punitive State Central Register,” Lauren Shapiro, Director of Brooklyn Defender Services’ Family Defense Practice. “This is a much needed change to a law that is supposed to help children, but actually hurts families, disproportionately families of color, when there is no child safety concern that even remotely justifies this constraint on their ability to support their families. On behalf of New York’s families and the many advocates who worked tirelessly on this issue, I thank Senator Montgomery and Assemblymember Jaffee for their leadership, and urge the governor to sign A.8060-A/S.6427-A.”

“For decades, New York has erected irrational immovable barriers to employment for families surveilled by ACS,” said Jessica Prince, staff attorney with the Family Defense Practice at the Bronx Defenders. “This legislation is a solid step towards removing these barriers faced by parents from historically marginalized communities.”

“These monumental changes to the State Central Register will change lives for the better for thousands of families across New York State for many years to come,” said Michelle Burrell, Managing Attorney of Neighborhood Defender Service’s Family Defense Practice. “These changes will not only strengthen the fundamental rights of parents and children, but they will also begin to chip away at the unnecessary and punitive stigma the State Central Register inflicted upon our clients for decades.”

“The passage of S6426-A/A8060-A is a critical step forward in an ongoing effort to safeguard employment opportunities for New York families while curbing the harsh and unfair effects of a record in the State Central Register, particularly for Black and Latinx parents, who are disproportionately represented,” said Jennifer Feinberg, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Family Representation. “By raising the standard from  ‘some credible evidence to a ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ parents can be reassured that they will not remain on the State Central Register after a Judge has determined that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of neglect in court.  Additionally, the automatic sealing of indicated reports after eight years for most jobs, and twelve years for all jobs, vastly increases parents’ employment opportunities.  Some of the best jobs in the healthcare and education fields have remained unattainable to our clients due to the current 28 year bar.  Perhaps most importantly,   this bill reflects the recognition that most cases of neglect stem from poverty and that the current unfair and unnecessary laws governing the State Central Register only add fuel to the cycle by preventing parents from securing stable and well paid jobs.  This crucial reform will strengthen New York families by providing families in poverty with greater opportunities for employment so parents can provide the stability that their families require.”

“The standards to get on the State Central Register are extremely loose and subjective, yet can create a barrier of employment for parents for up to 28 years even after cases are dismissed in court,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “This creates a cycle where parents are charged with neglect essentially because the family is in poverty, yet their ability to earn an income is crippled. With this legislation, we are starting to talk seriously about how we can provide some level of support to families in crisis and actually respond to their needs as opposed to punishing them for being poor.”

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, said, “For years, having an indicated report in New York’s Statewide Central Register has disproportionately impacted parents and families by not allowing them to request a fair hearing that considers evidence of a parent’s rehabilitation. The implications of an indicated case have severely hampered a parent’s ability to keep or secure gainful employment, affecting their ability to re-establish their lives and provide for their children and families. As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, I am pleased to have co-sponsored this legislation with overwhelming support of my colleagues in the legislature, which will help restore hope and provide equal opportunity for parents and their children to achieve economic success.”

Background on State Central Register Reform – A.8060A/S.6427A

Under current law, New York’s standard for placing parents on the SCR is far lower than that of most other jurisdictions and shares SCR records with more employers in ways that impede access to job opportunities. These include many of the best jobs that would otherwise be available to impacted parents, including in the healthcare and education fields. Most of these records are based on allegations of poverty-related neglect, which have never been reviewed by a judge. Troublingly, New York’s SCR law currently treats allegations of poverty-related neglect the same way it treats child abuse that has been proven in court. As a result, thousands of parents are routinely denied employment when there is no child safety concern that even remotely justifies this constraint on their ability to support their families. Moreover, because Black and Latinx parents are disproportionately subjected to these allegations, the impacts deepen inequality in our society. This an issue of racial and economic justice that urgently needs to be addressed.

A.8060A/S.6427A would:

  • Help prevent unfair and unnecessary harm to parents’ employment prospects by requiring a preponderance of evidence against them, rather than simply “some credible evidence,” before they are placed on the State Central Register, in line with the severity of this designation.
  • Limit unnecessary and unfair employment barriers for parents by automatically sealing indicated reports of neglect after 8 years for most jobs that have access to indicated reports on the SCR and after 12 years for all jobs that have access to these reports.
  • Ensure that SCR reports are automatically amended and sealed when a Family Court case resolves favorably.
  • Allow Fair Hearing judges to consider evidence of a parent’s rehabilitation whenever considering whether to seal an indicated report.
  • Allow people to request fair hearings to amend and seal indicated reports at any time of their choosing, as opposed to the current 90-day windows to do so.

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