June 8, 2016
By Tara Jessup
New York, NY – The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) did not ensure that adequate care and rehabilitation services were provided to youths in the Close to Home program, according to an audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
Close to Home takes a community-based approach to put youths on a path out of the criminal justice system, but ACS has abdicated its oversight of the program, failing to meet with children and parents or adequately monitor troubled providers, potentially putting hundreds of children at risk.
“Every child in the Close To Home program deserves a chance to get back on the right track, but the Administration for Children’s Services mismanagement and hands-off approach to oversight is robbing them of that opportunity,” Stringer said. “The leadership of ACS has abdicated its responsibility to provide oversight of this program by not holding Close to Home providers accountable. This agency must take immediate action to ensure these children get the services and care they need.”
The Administration of Children’s Services launched the Close to Home juvenile justice program in 2012 to place youths ages 7 to 15 years old who have been determined to be delinquent by Family Court and who do not require a secure placement into residential care for rehabilitation. Placement in this program allows children to live in a home-like environment closer to their families and communities, instead of a detention center, to provide an easier transition back into society after treatment.
The Comptroller’s Office made fourteen recommendations to ACS, including that it periodically verify that children in the Close To Home program are receiving required services; develop a system so supervisors can ensure staff conduct required monthly face-to-face visits with children in Close To Home’s care, and make sure staff discuss incidents including assaults, altercations, and AWOLs during these meetings; ensure that site visits assess providers’ operations and verify if youth and communities actually benefit from the program; and make sure that corrective actions taken by providers on heightened monitoring and corrective action status are adequately tracked.
“ACS must take real responsibility and provide the necessary oversight to turn this program around. These are New York’s children, and we all have a stake in their future. Whether it’s the conditions of our homeless shelters for families, the resources missing from our classrooms, or the lack of services in our juvenile justice programs, we cannot and will not let our children suffer any longer,” Stringer said.