Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One-fourth of New York City foster youth age out immediately into homelessness

A Deal to Help Foster Youths Find Housing
Secret, Mosi. New York Times, October 20, 2011

New York City has reached an agreement on a proposed settlement of a lawsuit that claims the city allows older children to leave foster care only to become immediately homeless.

Each year, roughly 800 to 1,100 people age 18 to 21 are discharged from foster care to fend for themselves, the plaintiffs complained in the class-action suit.

There is no current data on the youths’ housing after foster care, but previously the city’s Department of Homeless Services and the City Council estimated that more than a quarter of youths discharged from foster care because of their age end up homeless almost immediately, according to the complaint, which accuses the city of shirking its responsibilities to those youths.

The city is required by state law to supervise and assist in providing housing for people who have left foster care until they reach age 21.

The accord calls for the city to maintain a unit in the Administration for Children’s Services for those people, initiate training for foster care agencies, revamp its procedures for helping youths find stable housing and improve their access to services.

The agreement is the product of two years of negotiations among the Administration for Children’s Services, the Legal Aid Society and the advocacy group Lawyers for Children. The parties said they had agreed to settle to avoid protracted litigation, and they actually reached the agreement before the lawsuit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers filed the suit to provide for court enforcement if problems develop down the road, said Pat Bath, the spokeswoman for Legal Aid. A judge has to approve the settlement before it goes into effect.

The four lead plaintiffs remain anonymous. Three are 21 years old and at risk of being homeless at discharge because they do not have stable housing lined up, according to the complaint. One is 20, has already been discharged and is at risk of becoming homeless, the complaint says.

“An alarming number of young people are being discharged from foster care into homelessness,” Tamara Steckler, the lawyer in charge of the juvenile rights practice at the Legal Aid Society, said in a written statement.

Ronald E. Richter, the commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, said in a written statement, “We are committed to helping young people leaving foster care achieve successful adulthood, which includes appropriate stable housing.”

Under the accord, the children’s services agency will develop permanent housing plans for youths living in foster care. It will work with foster care agencies to create the plans in time to find adequate housing. The city and the agencies will monitor the young adults discharged under the plans until they turn 21.

Children’s Services will also track and monitor data on their housing until they turn 21.

Also, a new unit in Children’s Services will oversee the foster care agencies’ adherence to the new requirements.

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