Brooklyn - Assemblywoman Joan L Millman (D-WF, Brooklyn) and State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) today announced that legislation designed to strengthen the oversight, control and accountability concerning the placement of more than 1,400 developmentally disabled New York State children in out-of-state programs and facilities, has become law.
"Billy’s Law," inspired by Vito "Billy" Albanese, a New York victim of abuse and neglect at a New Jersey facility for mentally disabled youth, passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly and Senate on June 23, 2005.
"The goal of Billy’s Law is to create a system of oversight for our most vulnerable children," said Assemblywoman Millman. "This law is going to ensure that we know where we are sending our children and that those places are safe. It is time to stop talking about protecting at-risk children, and to finally hold New York accountable for the nearly 1,400 out-of-state placements every year." She concluded, "While Billy’s Law will help the children we send away now, my ultimate goal is to have enough facilities here in New York so we can bring our children home."
Senator Golden, the Senate’s sponsor stated, "Approximately 1,400 developmentally disabled children from New York State are placed in residential educational facilities out-of-state each year when placements cannot be found within New York State. It is essential that New York State guarantee the safety of the children, our most vulnerable, whom we place out-of-state each year. It is for their safety, and for the families of these children who are physically distant from them, that this law is necessary in New York."
Golden continued, "I applaud Governor George Pataki and his untiring commitment to seeing this legislation become law. This new law has made New York State a better place for our disabled and their families."
Vito Albanese, father of Billy Albanese whom which the law is named, "On behalf of New York’s families of children and adults with disabilities, I thank Governor Pataki for signing Billy’s Law yesterday. I also thank Senator Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Joan Millman and their excellent staffs for their hard work and dedication to Billy’s Law. This new law demonstrates the Governor’s sincere concern for the well-being of New York’s citizens with disabilities."
Albanese continued, "My sentiments are shared by the organization I helped to found, the Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect. I thank Governor Pataki and members of the New York Legislature for so decisively putting an end to "out of state out of mind" attitude to these vulnerable citizens. With Billy’s Law, you have created a model and a benchmark. May this bill also stand as a tribute to Governor Pataki and our hard working New York Legislators."
The Golden and Millman legislation goes a long way to improve a system that is currently failing our children. This bill will ensure that the New York State Education Department (SED) conducts a thorough investigation before placing any facilities on the registry of "qualified facilities." To ensure facilities are safe, licensed, and the subject of regular inspections, the evaluation will include:
- Establishes the Council on Children & Families, an out-of-state placement committee comprised of State commissioners of the Office of Children and Family Services, Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities, Education, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Health and Probation. These are the Commissioners who have responsibility for out-of state placement of children.
- Requires that each appropriate agency establish a registry of approved programs that would be accessible on line. It also requires common criteria for approval.
- Requires the establishment of uniform contract parameters for agencies placing children out of New York State
- Requires that the Commissioners establish similar processes for placement of a child out of state.
- Requires current resource information to be available to State and local agencies.
- Requires that the Commissioners develop a process for integrated funding under which money would follow the child instead of requiring the child to "fit" into each separate agency’s funding stream. This process when developed will also allow for the money to be used to keep a child in their own home and community.
- Requires an on-going annual report to the legislature on these items and many others.
This law will go into effect in ninety days.