2017-11-01 / Front Page

Avella, Hevesi Bill Expanding Protections For Foster Children Receives Governor’s Signature

On October 24, Governor Cuomo signed into law a piece of legislation (S4833-A/A7554-A) introduced by NYS Senator Tony Avella (SD 11) and Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi (AD 28) to amend the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP) to expand the definition of “relative guardian” to include additional adults with close relationships to the foster child.

This legislation was first introduced in the NYS Legislature in March and instantly received overwhelming support through memorandums of support from Lawyers for Children, Citizens Committee for Children, the New York City Bar, the New York State Bar Association, New York State Kinship Navigator, the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, the New York City A.S.F.A. Coalition, and the Committee on Children and the Law. As the 2017 Legislative Session came to an end in June, the bill passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously.

“As Chair of the Senate’s Children and Families Committee, I believe that getting this legislation signed into law was crucial to improving the future of foster children across the state. All children in this state, whether they are foster children or not, deserve to have every possible opportunity afforded to them. I thank Assembly Member Hevesi for pushing this legislation in the Assembly and his dedication to securing the future of the children and families of our state,” said Senator Avella.

“Hundreds of children will now leave the foster care system and live in permanent homes, exponentially increasing their chances for success and self-sufficiency. New York States Social Services law now has an expanded definition of ‘prospective relative guardian,’ including adults with close relationships to the child, who are not related by blood, marriage, or adoption.  This expanded list of individuals, if deemed appropriate by a judge, will be eligible to become kinship guardians.  I want to commend my colleagues in the State legislature, particularly Senator Avella, who carried this bill through the Senate.

Additionally, I would like to thank Stephanie Gendell from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC), The Schuyler Center for Advocacy and Analysis (SCAA), The Office of Court Administration (OCA), the Children’s Aid Society, JCCA, Sheltering Arms, the Legal Aid Society, Council of Family and Child Care Agencies (COFCCA) and Lawyers for Children for their incredible work and guidance while crafting this legislation,” said Assembly Member Hevesi

Additionally, this legislation rectifies an anomaly in the current law that only allowed KinGAP assistance beyond the age of 18 if the Guardianship Assistance Agreement did not commence before the child’s 16th birthday. This meant that a 14 or 15-year-old (or younger), who may want to go to college or participate in a vocational program while living in the guardian’s home, would be blocked from a permanency option that may be the best, and often the only, option available. Such children are faced with an untenable choice: to delay permanency until they reach the age of 16 (thus costing the state and county continued foster care assistance), to limit the assistance available only until they age out at 18, or to sacrifice the kinship guardianship permanency option altogether.

KinGAP was designed for a foster child to achieve a permanent placement with a relative who had been the child’s foster parent for at least six months. This program provides financial support and in most cases medical coverage for the child, beginning with the child’s discharge from foster care to the guardian. The level of financial support is similar to the maintenance payments received while the child was in foster care. Experience with the program, especially in New York City where it is frequently utilized, has demonstrated its enormous value, not only for the children and families who are its beneficiaries but also for the state in its constant quest to improve its record in achieving timely permanency for the children in its care. That need for improvement cannot be overstated, Avella and Hevesi explained.

 

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