COFCCA Legislative Advocacy Priorities for 2013
State Budget Issues:
1. COLAs or trend factors for all rates are essential. Cost of living adjustments are designed to adjust payment rates to reflect increasing costs for provider agencies. These costs increase based on market forces outside of the control of the agencies. There have been no COLA’s for 3 – 4 years to for foster care or tuition, while Medicaid rates are actually cut by 2% from costs incurred 2 years ago.
The not-for-profit agencies that work with abused, severely neglected, and troubled children must meet cost increases outside of their control. These costs include such necessities as employee health insurance with increases of between 12- 20%, retirement
obligations, food, and utilities. Without COLAs agencies have been forced to reduce costs in the only place left to them—the workforce. Cuts to staff have real impact on direct service to very vulnerable children and their futures. Downsizing the workforce means increased caseloads, leaving less time for caseworkers to facilitate return home or adoption. Increased caseloads lead to more staff burn-out and higher turnover rates for front line staff. In 2010, the depth of the jobs crisis our caseworker turnover rate was 18% in preventive services and residential care, and 41% in foster family care programs. Higher staff turnover rates increase the length of time children spend in care.
Longer lengths of stay ending up costing the State more money!!
The child welfare agencies have cooperated with every reform initiative of state and local government, which has led to millions in costs savings in foster care. The agencies have
average overhead costs of under 15%yet they are unable to sustain operations vital to the state and the counties without a reasonable cost of living adjustment.
2. Restoration of critical Legislative adds to recent budgets:
- Post Adoption Services: These services are vital to support adoptive families in meeting the on-going needs of their children. These services are offered on a regional basis so they can be accessed by adoptive parents throughout the state. The success of these programs has been documented in several studies. It is imperative that the state fund these essential services or they will disappear. There are 15 programs now funded at $4.9 Million.
Community Reinvestment Funds: we support continuation of these programs which are designed to support New York State’s priority juvenile justice goal of
minimizing the need for residential placements while protecting the
community. These funds were targeted to the counties with the highest numbers of juvenile delinquents in care including Nassau, Suffolk, Monroe and four NYC boroughs. These programs were newly created in 2011 and are perfectly aligned with NY’s juvenile justice reform agenda since they provide community-based services to younger youth at risk of juvenile justice placement in the specific zip
codes with the highest rates of juvenile justice placements. Providers have been demonstrating the need and usefulness of these programs. Advocacy last year resulted in a restoration of 50% of the funding. We request restoration of the initial funding commitment of $5 Million.
Safe Harbor (sex trafficking): We are currently awaiting distribution of the $1.5M in funding allocated to the five boroughs of NYC and Westchester, Erie, Monroe, and Onondaga counties in last year’s budget. Each county is expected
to submit a plan to OCFS in which it lists the service providers that will receive funding for working with victims of sex trafficking. COFCCA is working with a coalition advocating for continuation of these funds at the original $3 Million.
Legislative Policy Issues:
1. Social Work Licensing: COFCCA supports the Governor’s recommendation to provide a permanent exemption for the State agencies and those programs which they license, regulate, or fund. We also ask the Legislature to:
* Support the reform to the examination process to enhance cultural competence and
provide comprehensive language translation services for the many languages that
our social workers practice in.
* Clarify the definitions of and limit the restricted scopes of practice.
* Reopenthe grand parenting period, which would allow many current practitioners with
the appropriate degree and experience to obtain licensure, at a cost savings to
agencies and the workforce.
2. Adoptee Bill of Rights – Support Legislation allowing adoptees to obtain
copies of their birth certificates at age 18. The proposed legislation was amended last year to address many of the concerns raised about birth parent confidentiality and the burden on DOH. The current bill is similar to one passed in Illinois that allows the birth parent
to “opt out” of providing identifying information.
In this bill, copies of birth certificates would be obtained from local registries. The original birth certificate would be obtained from the local registrar and not the NYS DOH, which reduces logistics of carrying this out via DOH. That registrar has access to the original birth certificate as well as the birth certificate issued after adoption. Therefore
an adult adoptee can determine the location of their birth form the certificate issued after their adoption. The adult adoptee can contact the local registrar where the birth occurred and obtain a copy of the original birth certificate. To address concerns that having a second certified birth certificate could create identify theft problems, the bill is amended to provide an adult adoptee with a non-certified copy of the birth certificate (means no NYS seal). In addition, the original birth certificate will be stamped to indicate it had
been superseded by another birth certificate issued by NYS.
The legislation would also provide an opportunity for a birth parent to change/update
contact preference. It would allow for contact through an intermediary and also
provide a birth parent who does not want to meet the ability to share certain
information (e.g. medical history).
For more information about these priorities or other child welfare and juvenile justice issues, please contact James Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies(COFCCA). Jim’s email is JPurcell@cofcca.org and phone
numbers are (212) 929-2626 or (518)-453-1160; or Edith Holzer at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-929-2626