Narrowing the Front Door to the Child Welfare System

COVID-19 and Lessons Learned

In New York City, the COVID-19 shutdown forced a temporary but radical reduction in the child welfare system—halving the number of reports, investigations, and family separations, reducing surveillance of families in their schools and in their homes, and restricting support of voluntary preventive services. Early indications seem to suggest that this shutdown did not endanger children. Rates of substantiated abuse did not rise and in fact may have dipped; rates of substantiated neglect remained unchanged; and children stayed with their families and in their communities. We would like to take a look at this data together and see what solutions emerge.

There is widening consensus that there has been insufficient investment in alleviating poverty and reducing stress on families to create conditions where families can thrive. This includes the stress created by the constant struggle to make ends meet and living where access to everything from transportation to excellent schools to green space is limited by current and historical racist policies. A shared view also seems to be emerging that we have over-invested in intrusive interventions in families’ lives, including high levels of surveillance in targeted communities, which further add to family stress. While there remains much disagreement on the way forward, these shared perspectives offer a foundation for convening together to help chart a better course. Learn more information here.