Written by Andrew Malekoff Friday, 01 July 2011 00:00
Among the casualties in the latest round of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget cuts is a network of child-care centers based in family courts across New York State that offer safe havens for children. The Children’s Center in Nassau County Family Court is operated by North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center and is rated among the top utilized Children’s Centers statewide, according to the New York State Unified Court System.
The Children’s Center is a place where parents who cannot afford child care can leave their children, from ages 6 weeks to 12 years, as they await court appearances. The philosophy of the children’s center is to offer a two-pronged approach for children: quality drop-in child-care services while their parents attend to court business, and a place where families can learn about and gain access to vital services.
Despite consistently high marks for the Children’s Center in Nassau County Family Court, its future is uncertain. Here are the facts on some of the benefits of the Center:
1. In 2010, the Children’s Center took care of almost 2200 children;
2.The Children’s Center was accessible to all families seeking to use the Center 99.5 percent of the time;
3. Ninety-nine percent of families utilizing the Children’s Center have a household income of less than $25,000 dollars annually;
4. The three most frequent referrals for families utilizing the Children’s Center were to: Child Health Plus (health insurance), Food Stamps, and WIC (a federally-funded health and nutrition program for women, infants and children);
The result of curtailing this service, according to a recent report by the New York Law Journal, is increased stress for at-risk children and their families, decreased family court efficiency and reduced access to legal services for women.
In addition to quality child care, the Children’s Center provides a literacy-rich environment for children. Studies demonstrate that children in low-income families are eight times more likely to read to and share books with their young children when provided with books and encouragement. Since 2006, the Children’s Center at Nassau County Family Court has distributed more than 26,000 free books to children as part of the federal Reading is Fundamental Program.
At the Guidance Center, our mission is to restore and strengthen the emotional well-being of children and families. At the Children’s Center, we provide opportunities to enhance vulnerable children’s lives in many ways. The Children’s Center offers a safe haven in a stressful environment, worthwhile things for kids to do, peace of mind for parents awaiting their court appearances, valuable health- and nutrition-related resource information and referrals for families, plus a chance to reduce their court-involvement in the future.
If you are interested in seeing the Children’s Center at Nassau County Family Court survive, write to your local state legislator and attach a copy of this column.