Jessica Prince Presented Testimony at Hearing re: Progessive Caucus ACS Bills

New York City Council 

Committee on General Welfare

October 31, 2019 

Written Testimony of The Bronx Defenders By

Emma S. Ketteringham, Managing Director, Family Defense Practice

Jessica Prince, Policy Counsel, Family Defense Practice

Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of New York City Council’s Child Welfare Package. The stakes could not be higher for our clients – parents living in the borough with the highest concentration of child protection involvement in the city. In many ways, depriving a parent of the right to raise his or her own child is “more grievous” than a prison sentence; some have even called the termination of parental rights the “civil death penalty.” Yet, every day, we see far too many parents in New York City facing the unimaginable loss of their children without the benefit of legal counsel; children facing the trauma of being removed from their homes unnecessarily; and child protection services operating without the transparency necessary to ensure that decisions about family separation are made fairly and equitably. Although the intention of the child protection system might not be to dissolve low income families of color, the families who are most surveilled and most often dismantled are poor and overwhelmingly and disproportionately Black and Latinx. 

We are encouraged that the City Council is calling for greater accountability by the child protection system and seeking to rectify some of its most harmful inequities. Our experience as practitioners shows that access to quality representation at every stage of a child protection proceeding—from the moment when the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) initiates an investigation to a parent’s hearing to have their name removed from the State Central Registry when an investigation is indicated—improves outcomes. In short, quality representation prevents unnecessary family separations in low-income communities of color and mitigates the very real economic harm that results from system involvement. These bills are a step toward the transparency necessary to more fully understand the harms of the system to New York City’s most vulnerable families and fulfill the need of low-income parents for access to counsel at every stage of the process.   

Watch the full testimony starting at 2:24:00 here

Read the full testimony here