Evaluation of the New York City Home Rebuilders Demonstration. 2.4 Characteristics of the Families Served

09/14/1998

In part, the outcomes of the project are dependent on the families served. As shown in the previous section, the agencies were located in diverse sections of New York City and Long Island. However, the agencies reported similarities in the characteristics of families served.

All of the agencies reported that most of the families served were either Black or Hispanic and that most of the "families" consisted of single mothers ages 20 to 40. Miracle Makers reported serving a significant number of teen mothers who caseworkers indicated were one of the most resistant groups to serve. New York Foundling reported serving teen mothers through a program outside of the HomeRebuilders demonstration. The majority of families had at least two children. Although the agencies were unable to quote an average age for the children in care, several of the agencies reported a decline in the number of newborns served. The agencies reporting a decrease attributed it to a change in New York City policy regarding babies born with positive toxicology reports. In 1992, a clarification of state policy regarding children reported by hospitals with positive toxicology for cocaine was issued. Up to this time, children in allegations with a confirmed positive toxicology report were routinely placed into foster care based solely on that evidence. The clarification emphasized that the medical report alone was not credible evidence of child abuse or neglect. The new state policy required that other credible evidence was necessary to substantiate an allegation of abuse or neglect and place the child into the care of the state.

All of the agencies reported that parental substance abuse played a role in the majority of cases. Crack cocaine, alcohol, and to a lesser extent heroin (one agency reported a rise in the use of heroin during the study) were used by many of the parents. AIDS was another factor reported. Several of the administrators stated that during the period of the study, the number of families with AIDS may have been at its peak, which therefore had an effect on the number of children orphaned. All of the agencies reported that some of their parents were mentally ill, depressed, or were abused by other family members or significant others. Some of the agencies emphasized that a percentage of the parents had only a grade-school education. Lack of adequate housing plagued families in all of the agencies.

Although the majority of the parents lived in the borough or county in which the agency was located, all of the agencies reported serving families living in all five boroughs. Two of the agencies, Harlem Dowling and St. Christopher-Jennie Clarkson, reported that they were serving families that had relocated either upstate or out-of-state. In some cases, the parent moved for better drug rehabilitation programs and decided to stay instead of returning to the drug-infested areas in which he or she lived. Other families moved to be closer to family members.

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