By the Numbers:
A Statistical Portrait of the Court's Child Protective Cases
In 2006, at the height of a surge in child welfare investigations and removals, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) filed more than 12,000 abuse and neglect petitions with the court. By 2014, that number had gone down to just over 9,800—a decrease of over 20 percent.
Among those filings, the proportion that result in kids being placed in foster care has fallen even more dramatically. Ten years ago, more than 60 percent of abuse and neglect petitions involved children who were removed from their homes, while families on court-ordered supervision made up just under 40 percent. By 2014, that ratio had flipped.
Much of that reduction is due to City investment in preventive services designed to help families at risk of foster care get on their feet and keep kids at home. ACS also credits the drop, in part, to improved efforts to work with families right at the start of the court process. Since 2009, it has required child protective workers to convene “child safety conferences” with families before filing abuse or neglect petitions, in order to discuss safety concerns and direct families to preventive services.
About half of conferences result in a petition for court-ordered supervision, rather than removal to foster care. In approximately 15 percent of cases, the conferences avert the need to file court petitions at all, according to ACS officials.
The ACS data shows the number of children placed in foster care and the length of time they stay in care by age. Court data charts the numbers of petitions, dispositions, and time to court action over time and by borough.
Babies and Toddlers in Foster Care
Children in foster care, by age
The city has drastically reduced the number of children placed in foster care, but the drop has been far less dramatic for babies and toddlers than for older children. This chart shows children entering foster care by age from 2004 – 2014. The number of 0-3 year olds entering foster care declined by 0.3% from 2004-2014 while the number of children 4 years old and above entering foster care declined by 31% over the same period.
Median length of stay in foster care, by age
Babies and toddlers stay in foster care longer than kids of other age groups.
Returns to foster care within three years of discharge, by age
The total number of children who return to foster care within three years of being discharged has dropped by 50% since 2004, but the age group of babies and toddlers dropped by 21% while older children dropped by 57%.
Court Burden and Function
Child protective petitions filed in Family Court
The total number of child abuse and neglect petitions filed in NYC Family Court has dropped by 20% since 2006. The drop is much steeper in cases where children are removed to out-of-home care. Meanwhile, the proportion of cases involving children under court-ordered supervision (where children remain with their parents or caregivers under the supervision of ACS and the court) has increased dramatically.
The Kings County Family Court in Brooklyn continues to oversee far more cases than that of any other borough. Brooklyn also runs counter to the citywide trend of declining cases and saw a 19% increase in the number of petitions from 2006 to 2014.
Percentage of first permanency hearings held
within nine months of a child's placement in out-of-home care
By law, Family Courts are required to hold a first permanency hearings eight months after a child is placed in out-of-home care. Their success in doing so is often used as a proxy measure of court efficiency.
As of 2014, the Kings County Family Court continued to be much slower to hold permanency hearings than other borough courts. The second chart shows the total number of permanency hearings handled by borough, in addition to the timeliness.
Time from when petition is filed to disposition
There is no legal time limit in which NYC Family Courts must hold a trial—or "fact-finding" hearing—to determine whether allegations of abuse or neglect are true. It's common for cases to appear before the court (and sometimes for children to be in foster care) for months before a judge has decided whether the abuse or neglect actually happened. In fact, the majority of cases are settled, never going to trial at all.
If a judge does decide the allegations are true, he or she will enter a "dispositional order" saying what should happen to the family next. Time to disposition is another common proxy measure for court efficiency.
Time to permanent exit from out-of-home care
Among children who entered out-of-home care in 2013, more than 60% were still in care 12 months later.