Rockland County Department of Social Services officials are
concerned about the disproportionate number of African American children in the
foster care system. The department has been working to assist families before
their situation worsens and their children are placed in foster care.
Director of Social Services Barbara Gavin said they want to partner with other organizations and agencies on how to identify families or youths that may be at risk so they can get services earlier and avoid having children removed because of abuse or neglect. To that end, the Department of Social Services (DSS) is sponsoring the “Racial Equity Conference” on Thursday for 100 representatives from school districts and the district attorney’s office, other government officials and judges.
“A lot of people need to hear the message,” said Gavin.
Rollin Aurelien, the department’s school liasion, said the number of children in foster care has decreased from 161 in 2009 to 104 in 2012.
“We really do not remove many children (from their families),” he said.
DSS officials said the conference would address the disproportionate
representation of minority children compared in child welfare.
Gavin said the department receives about 1,600 referrals a year and those can be disproportionate in terms of location with more coming from certain parts of the county. She said the number of referrals to the state central registry for January through September of this year was highest from Spring Valley with 298, followed by the Village of Haverstraw with 116. Referrals from Nanuet/Bardonia totaled 79 and 72 came from Nyack with 39 from Pearl River and 4 from Thiells.
For the past three years, the county has been working with communities and stakeholders to actively look at the issues that must be identified, discussed and addressed and there has been significant improvement but more is needed.
Aurelien explained his role, as school district liasion is to help staff learn the risk factors and identify children who need services at an earlier point than in the past. The youths and their families can then be referred to DSS or housing instead of reaching a crisis point that might lead to foster care.
Child Protective Services Supervisor PT Thomas said they work to strengthen the family and provide the tools they need to take care of their members.
National expert and Racial Equity Consultant Joyce James will speak about “Racial
Equity: The Role of Leadership in Eliminating Disproportionality and
Rockland’s data will be examined and discussed as part of the presentation.
The conference takes place tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the Hennessy Center of Dominican College at 470 Western Highway in Blauvelt.