About

NYC Family Policy Project’s mission is to explore and build evidence – through original research, data and policy analysis – for the policy visions of parents and young people impacted by the child welfare system in New York City.

NYC child welfare system has devastating impacts on Black and Latino families, particularly Black families, who are disproportionately investigated, monitored and separated. FPP takes as its starting place the vision articulated by parents and youth impacted in reports from Rise, YouthNPower and the Narrowing the Front Door Work Group, which argue for a curtailed child welfare system and expansive city investment in families.

FPP offers credible, deeply researched and accessible policy briefs and data analysis; develops partnerships with academics to develop original research focused on NYC; and works in coalition with parents and youth with lived expertise, advocates, allies and disruptors working on the ground in impacted communities to develop research-driven transformative policy solutions to reduce the scope and harm of the child welfare system and to improve conditions for families.

FPP consists of the following program areas:

Information – Provide credible and accessible information that illuminates the impact of NYC’s child welfare system as well as concrete examples of solutions so that advocates, policymakers and elected officials have more tools for improving NYC family policy.

Research – Vision and develop research protocols that seek to identify and understand how to deliver the resources most needed by parents to secure their families’ health.

Policy analysis – Publish timely informational policy papers and analyses.

Place-based analysis and community policymaking – Child welfare in NYC is highly localized to a few communities, and some solutions need to be hyper-local and involve parents, youth and key community members with deep community ties.

Collaboration – FPP joins and develops forums with diverse stakeholders, centering those impacted, that function as critical spaces and containers for discussion, disagreement and imagining.

Central to our theory of change is that, with greater information about local child welfare impacts and the drivers of child welfare involvement, more organizations that don’t think of themselves as involved in reducing over-reliance on child welfare can get involved in making meaningful improvements to neighborhood life that reduce family stress and state intervention. Secondly, our guiding belief is that good policy decisions are made by diverse groups of informed people, particularly those whose lives will be most impacted by the policy, who collaborate to work through complexity and disagreements and hold real power to develop solutions. Our broader goal is to build a stronger culture of that kind of work around family policy in NYC.

Staff

Nora McCarthy, Director: Nora was the founder and director of Rise, a NYC parent advocacy organization, for 16 years. Nora also edited the citywide youth newspaper New Youth Connections (NYC) and a magazine by teens in foster care, Represent. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, wrote the Upstream City column for The Imprint, and has written for publications including Newsday, Slate, The Appeal and Child Welfare Watch. Nora is on the Steering Committee of United Family Advocates and is a board member of the International Parent Advocacy Network. Email: nora@familypolicynyc.org

Dr. Tricia Stephens, Senior Research Advisor: Tricia is an Assistant Professor at the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work. She holds a PhD from New York University and specializes in the effects of historical and contemporary trauma on mental health functioning for people of the African Diaspora and on child welfare, particularly the intersection of parental trauma exposure and family stability. Tricia has practiced as a social worker in NYC for over 20 years, in child welfare and mental health settings. Tricia serves in an advisory capacity to several grassroots and community-based parent serving organizations in NYC and is a co-chair of the Narrowing the Front Door Work Group to reduce child welfare involvement in NYC.

Caterina Pisciotta, MSW, Pre-Doctoral Fellow: Caterina is a doctoral candidate in the Social Welfare program at the City University of New York and a pre-doctoral fellow at FPP. She has both direct practice and research/evaluation experience in the areas of child welfare and juvenile justice.

Mahima Golani, Policy Analyst: Mahima focuses on leveraging city and state family policy to enhance family and community well-being. Mahima’s experience includes working as an Education Consulting Project Assistant with the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) and as a Research Assistant at the Infant Studies of Language and Neurocognitive Development Lab (ISLAND; Brito Baby Lab). Her expertise lies in translating research into accessible advocacy and policy. She is deeply committed to developing and supporting community-centered, creative, and evidence-based approaches to tackle embedded structural oppression. Mahima holds a M.S. in Neuroscience and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Email: mahima@familypolicynyc.org

Current Priorities

Information 

  • Child Welfare Impacts Data: FPP is sharing new data on NYC child welfare impacts to make it easier for communities impacted by child welfare to vision, plan and advocate for their own solutions.
  • Informational Explainers: FPP seeks to make system data, practices, funding and issues more accessible through “explainers” that break down complex policy topics in simple language.
  • Upstream City” column in The Imprint – From June 2022-Sept 2023, Nora’s column explored how NYC can shift away from reactive surveillance and intrusion in stressed families and toward direct investment in family health and networks of community care.

Research 

  • Direct Support by Mandated Reporters: This study with Dr. Tricia Stephens of the Silberman School of Social Work examines organizations that have affirmative policies and practices for providing direct support to families in crisis and managing risk as a primary response before utilizing mandated reporting. We seek to understand transferrable organizational factors (culture, attitudes, practices) that lend support to proactive family support instead of reactive mandated reporting. 
  • Family Economic Supports and Child Welfare Involvement: At FPP’s request, NYC’s Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence (CIDI) is examining the economic status and public benefits use of families impacted by the child welfare system in order to model economic policies that may be more protective of families sanctity. This study is overseen by an advisory board that includes researchers from Columbia University, the Center for Guaranteed Income Research and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, as well as representatives of the Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Social Services and Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, along with parents and young people impacted by the system who are affiliated with YouthNPower, Rise and the Center for Family Representation.
  • Material Support Provision through Child Welfare: This study with Dr. Kelley Fong of the University of California – Irvine examines the role of the child welfare system as a provider of material resources amidst America’s shrinking safety net. The meaning, role, benefits and drawbacks of child welfare as a gateway and gatekeeper to family resources are explored through interviews with child welfare professionals, advocates and parents and young people impacted by the system.
  • Collective Efficacy and Child Welfare in NYC: FPP is collaborating with staff of the Poverty Tracker at Columbia University to examine the relationship between collective efficacy and child welfare involvement in NYC. Collective efficacy refers to the capacity of neighborhood actors to take effective action together to protect neighborhood life. Research suggests that neighborhood collective efficacy may be protective against child welfare involvement.
  • Community Advisory Board: In the coming year, FPP will develop a paid Community Advisory Board that centers impacted parents and youth will, once trained, serve as the gatekeeper of knowledge production and implementation, participating in all aspects of research, policy and practice recommendations. Advisory board members will be trained in research methods so that they can merge their lived expertise with strong research fundamentals. Please contact Nora to join: nora@familypolicynyc.org

Policy Analysis 

  • Cash Matters Series: Through a series of explainers, interviews and “teach-ins” in 2024, FPP will seek to strengthen connections between advocates with expertise in cash access reforms – such as policy changes to TANF and increased state and city support for guaranteed income programs – and child welfare advocates in order to support movement-building for cash access reforms that are likely to reduce child welfare involvement.
  • Key Issues in Child Welfare Policy: FPP is examining and collaborating with others to build accountability around three key policy areas – reform of the New York State Central Register (SCR), which a 2024 FPP report suggests could be filtering out far more hotline calls to reduce investigations; CARES, the alternative response investigative track in NYC, which is a newly expanding program; and Family First Prevention funding, which has potential to expand the child welfare footprint rather than reduce it if not carefully managed.
  • Framework for Neighborhood and Family Health: FPP is developing an “ecological” accountability framework that situates child welfare impacts within the context of NYC’s family policies and neighborhood health conditions. This framework and public data set can help local leaders and the family policing advocacy community hold city government as a whole accountable for addressing conditions that drive child welfare involvement and creating conditions for family flourishing.

Community Policymaking

  • Community-led Policymaking: FPP views the ecological accountability framework as a first step in reframing child welfare involvement and in making targeted adjustments to NYC’s family policy and investments in community planning to support family flourishing. In the coming years, our goal is to coordinate and support local efforts around family-centered neighborhood planning to enact approaches that support and sustain community and family health.

Forums and Roundtables