Bill to Require Mental Health Staff at Family Shelters Spurs Worry Over ‘Unintended Effects’

Lawmakers are debating a bill that would require the city to fund the placement of mental health professionals on-site at all homeless shelters with children—what supporters say would ensure families experiencing the trauma of housing insecurity can access care. But advocates worry the move could inadvertently ensnare more low-income families in the child welfare system.


Life in shelter already subjects families to an extra level of behavioral rules and scrutiny, putting them at additional risk of involvement with a child protective services system critics say is often biased against low-income families. That system “conflates poverty with neglect,” Alexandra Dougherty, a senior staff Attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, testified to councilmembers Tuesday.

“We’re concerned that introducing mental health professionals who are mandated reporters directly into family shelters, which are people’s homes, will inadvertently increase surveillance of families,” Dougherty said.

View the full City Limits article here.

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