James Files Lawsuit On Behalf Of Foster Kids


Public Advocate Letitia James, along with 10 foster children, filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), accusing the agencies of gross mistreatment of children in New York City foster care.

According to the lawsuit, ACS and OCFS failed to protect foster children from mistreatment, provide them with suitable services, or place them in appropriate environments. The suit alleges that the agencies are directly responsible for neglecting structural deficiencies in the City’s child welfare system.

Public Advocate Letitia James
Public Advocate Letitia James

“Our foster children are suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a result of a system that fails them every single day,” said James. “ACS has delegated foster care to 29 contract agencies, but has consistently failed to monitor these contract agencies – leaving thousands of children languishing in the system with no permanent home. Lives are being ruined during our children’s most formative years, and our legal action seeks to put an end to this injustice.”

James has long been advocating for reform to the New York City foster care system. In 2014, James sponsored Local Law 104, which requires ACS to report information about the children who age out of the system. Last year, James published two reports about the system’s failings. This month’s report was based on information obtained from a multilingual hotline that allowed children and their advocates to give their first-hand accounts of the system.

The lawsuit labels New York City as one of the most dangerous foster care systems in the county and presents statistics to back up that title. Currently, 11,137 children are in New York City’s foster care system, which is about 60 percent of children in foster care in the state. New York State ranks 46th out of 48 states and territories for instances of maltreatment of foster children.

Additionally, New York City foster children spend about 27.2 months in foster care while children throughout the rest of the state spent 15.1 months. Throughout the country, the average is 12.4 months.

In New York City, it takes longer to be adopted than in New York State or in any other state. In 2013, New York City foster children spent about 55.8 months, equivalent to more than 4.5 years, in foster care before being adopted.  The city ranks last in the number of days until a child is freed for adoption. The New York State average is 22.1 months, while the City’s average is 42.2 months.  The nation’s average is 16.8 months, which is 2.5 times less than the City’s average.

Every year, 1,000 children “age out” of the foster care system in New York City. Of those young people, 80 percent have no safety net to fall back on. Research shows that these children are more likely to be unemployed, homeless, or incarcerated when they reach adulthood.  Within three years after leaving the foster care system, 20 percent of people find themselves in a homeless shelter.

“Hundreds of millions of public dollars are spent every year on a system that further devastates children who have already suffered the loss of being removed from their homes,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP , who is representing the foster children.