City non-profit groups say they are increasingly frustrated with a perceived lack of direction from City Hall, as they prepare to care for and interact with thousands of vulnerable children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio signed by more than 20 family services agencies Sunday and obtained by News 4 says the programs “require immediate guidance” to maximize the health of their clients and staff.
At a press conference Sunday evening, de Blasio said, "The foster care kids are depending on us we have to make sure we have a way of supporting them, but doing as many things virtually as possible."
A spokesperson for the mayor said that the Administration for Children's Services canceling all in-person policy meetings through the end of April as well as in-person trainings.
Several program directors tell News 4 they are struggling to balance their contractual obligations to protect children with the public health concerns facing their staff.
“We’re supposed to be meeting the safety, medical and dental needs of foster children as though nothing has changed, without any guidance. But everything has changed,” said one children’s program director, who requested anonymity. "Tomorrow morning, children in foster care will be produced for routine meetings at agency offices and in family courts because we have been left with no discretion to manage this public health crisis on the ground.”
The programs say they decided to put their concerns in writing after recent attempts to obtain a more detailed plan from City Hall were unproductive.
The letter asks Mayor de Blasio to lift certain rules and regulations that could be impossible to meet -- or if followed, could place children, family members, staff and the general public at greater risk of infection.
The programs are requesting:
- Discretion to limit visits to and from residential foster homes and private homes where children’s safety may be a concern.
- Relief from licensing requirements and staff-to-child ratios that could be impossible to maintain if workers become sick
- Assurances they will be reimbursed for the costs of employee sick leave, substitute workers, medical supplies and technical upgrades that would enable staff to perform day-to-day operations remotely as much as possible, and enable tele-visits between children and their family members.
Agencies who signed the letter include Children’s Aid, New York Foundling and Good Shepherd Services.