Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone effected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially people at greatest risk, including our first responders, the elderly, those with certain health conditions and the homeless. Our hearts go out to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who have lost their jobs, and who have spiraled into circumstances which will soon leave them unable to meet their basic needs. We lift up our children, especially those who are poor and food insecure, those without basic health insurance, and those living in shelter or in child welfare or juvenile justice settings.
For the past nearly 50 years, under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman, our mission has been to level the playing field for all children to ensure that they could all reach their full potential. That goal has just become a little bit more difficult, which in turn has caused us to sharpen our focus and strengthen our resolve. We continue our critical work related to abatement of childhood lead exposure, youth justice reforms, child welfare reforms and expanded health coverage across the state. We have expanded our work to specifically address the unique challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health and Economic Justice – We are collaborating with our national office and a myriad of state partners to advocate for urgent action to streamline eligibility, expand coverage and ensure no cuts to Medicaid on the state level as well as for dedication of additional resources in the next federal coronavirus package, including direct cash assistance for those with low income, an increase in SNAP allotments to ensure every family and child has adequate food, moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures and increases in federal support for state Medicaid programs.
Education Justice – We are working with our coalition partners with the Dignity in Schools-New York Campaign to share and collect information regarding COVID-19 impact on communities, families, young people, and our education system. We released a survey to assess student needs to reshape our policy agenda and messaging to elected officials. We have created a format for workshops to connect to and inform families and resources including those from the NYC school district.
Child Welfare – We are working with our partners through the NYS Child Welfare Coalition and CHAMPS-NY to collect information about the impact of COIVD-19 on children and families in the child welfare system, and make inquiries to ensure that children are safe and well, that local departments of social services have the flexibility and resources they need to protect their workforce and support young people and their families, and to support service providers working with our families in communities.
Youth Justice – We released recommendations to reduce the number of youth in detention state-wide, with our Raise the Age New York Coalition. We have called for a moratorium on detention and immediate release for those youth who are in detention for administrative reasons (including failure to appear or technical probation or parole violations), an immediate moratorium on and release from custody for all misdemeanor and low-level felony arrests and bench warrants, and the release of all youth with underlying health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to complications associated with COVID-19, regardless of charges. In the weeks ahead, we will continue standing with our youth justice allies, working with public officials and system stakeholders to reduce the number of youth coming into contact with the family court and adult criminal court systems, and monitoring closely the conditions for youth in facilities state-wide.
As you can see, the work of CDF-NY has been made even more urgent than ever before in our lifetimes. We remain deeply grateful for your ongoing support and we look forward to working with you to tackle these challenges to ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable children and families are met. Please be safe. Practice social distancing, wash your hands, take care of your mental health, look out for your neighbor and know that we will be here as we navigate this new normal.
Naomi Post, Executive Director