Opinion: Why New York state needs a Child Victims Act fund

Financial support is needed for struggling foster care and prevention service providers.

Kathleen Brady-Stepien is president and CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies

Kathleen Brady-Stepien is president and CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (Image courtesy of Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies)

Nonprofits that provide foster care and prevention services on behalf of New York City and New York state also provide quality care and services to over 900,000 children and families across New York through a wide array of programs and services – including behavioral health, intellectual/developmental disabilities, special education, early childhood, after school, anti-violence programs, and housing. Collectively these agencies employ more than 55,000 workers. Government relies on the programs in caring for New Yorkers. The future viability of all of these programs and services for New York is at risk and we must act urgently in this year’s state budget to plan forward. 

In 2019, the Child Victims Act became law, allowing thousands of survivors an opportunity to seek justice and receive their due compensation for the pain and suffering caused by individual abusers. As the association of child welfare nonprofit organizations in New York state, the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies strongly supports and affirms the goals of this important legislation. 

recent report from SeaChange shows that as a result of the pending lawsuits that have been filed, many nonprofit foster care agencies who have been a staple in their community for years, are now facing the very real likelihood of filing bankruptcy and closing their doors. These closures would result in massive gaps in service.

The state must act to create a Child Victims Act fund this year to ensure that survivors can access justice as well as to ensure that we continue to have a viable social services safety net in New York State. The SeaChange analysis shows that the organizations have less than two months of cash on hand. Insurance simply is either unable to be located and/or is inadequate for covering the cases, with decades-old coverage not sufficient for the realities of 2024. 

The Legislature has introduced a potential solution, steadily gaining support, via a bill to create a fund.  Earlier this year, the Albany Times Union Editorial Board called attention to this issue, as well as the Newsday Editorial Board

It is essential that the state find a solution with urgency, so that New Yorkers relying upon the nonprofit providers continue to be supported. As the state gets closer to the final budget deadline, we look to Gov. Hochul and the Legislature to ensure that the goals of the Child Victims Act are realized for survivors, and New York continues to support thousands of New Yorkers via critical social services. 

Kathleen Brady-Stepien is president and CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies.