Assemblyman Scarborough
reports to
the people
FALL 2005

Greetings Friends and Neighbors:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to update you on some of my activities as your state representative during the recent past. As I write this (July 2005) the legislative session in Albany has ended, and I will now spend most of my time in the district working on the issues and concerns of my constituents.

This has proven to be a very exciting period, full of changes and opportunities. Early in the session I was appointed the chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. This is a committee with far-reaching responsibilities, and I am honored to have been appointed to this position by Speaker Sheldon Silver. Among the issues that come under my committee are: child care, day care, foster care, after-school programs, child support and visitation, as well as other issues related to children and families in New York State. I have already been introduced to a whole host of important issues that need to be addressed, and clearly even more are on the horizon.

Additionally, for the first time in twenty years, the legislature and the governor were able to pass a budget on time. This allowed many groups and individuals that are affected by the state budget to benefit from an early resolution of the issues, and not have to wait additional weeks or even months to learn what impact the state budget would have on their areas of concern. Hopefully, we can continue this practice; however, we need not only an "on-time" budget, but a budget that is good for the people of our community, our city and our state.

William Scarborough
Assemblyman, 29th AD

photo Assemblyman Scarborough greets Ms. Diana Reyes, mother of Angel Reyes. Angel, age 12, and VaSean Alleyne, 11, were hit by a car driven by a drunk driver. VaSean was killed, and the mothers were in Albany for the passage of "VaSean’s Law," which greatly increases penalties on drunk drivers who cause injury or death. photo Assemblyman Scarborough with (L-R) Rev. Edward Davis, Angel Reyes, Monique Dixon and Diana Reyes. Ms. Dixon is the mother of VaSean Alleyne, who along with Angel was hit by a drunk driver while leaving school. VaSean died, and persistent lobbying by the two mothers led to the passage of "VaSean’s Law."

Activities as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families

I was honored and pleasantly surprised when Speaker Silver appointed me as chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. This is my first chairmanship of a full committee (I was previously chair of a commission) and often the first full committee a Member receives is one covering a smaller area of responsibility. Children and Families is a major committee with a wide area of responsibility, and the result has been an extremely busy, but gratifying, session for me. The status and treatment of our children and our families is of paramount importance, and continues to change as our society changes. As a result, this will always be an area in flux, requiring constant updating and monitoring. This year there were some important developments that came before the Committee on Children and Families:

Permanency Bill (Scarborough) A.7225-A / (Meier) S.4363-A

Far and away the most important legislative initiative to come before the committee is the issue known as the "permanency bill." This bill, which was the result of a three-way negotiated agreement between the governor, the Assembly, and the Senate, will provide for comprehensive reform of the court and agency procedures for children subject to foster care or other state oversight.

New York State has responsibility for 30,000 children who cannot be cared for in their homes. A 2003 federal audit of the state’s handling of child care cases found that forty percent of the cases examined did not meet federal child care standards. The state was given an opportunity to respond with a plan that would comply with federal standards. A follow-up audit will be conducted from Fall 2005 to Spring 2006; if the state fails this audit, we will be subjected to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, much of which would be passed on to New York City and other local governments.

This legislation should bring NYS into federal compliance, and be a major benefit to families involved in the system. It requires:

  • Holding "permanency" hearings for children in foster care every six months to determine if changes in conditions require a different course of action for the child
  • Continuing court jurisdiction of child welfare cases throughout the period that a child is placed in foster care
  • Providing parents with counsel from the beginning of the potential removal of a child into foster care throughout the entire time their child is in foster care
  • Requiring a hearing each time a child might be removed from the home and placed in foster care
  • Strengthening requirements that authorities must diligently search for parents not charged with abuse or neglect to inform them of their right to apply for custody of their child if they choose to
  • Expediting appeals of parents faced with termination of their parental rights
  • Strengthening educational planning for children in foster care. This can include court-ordered mandates to school districts to comply with and implement educational plans laid out in the child’s overall action plan.

One area of disagreement between the three parties were the conditions under which an agency (or the state or local government) could terminate all services to a family whose child was under state care, and cease all efforts to re-unify that child with its biological family. Previously, those conditions included cases of "severe" abuse or neglect. After intense negotiations, the following circumstances were included in that category: 1) where an infant is abandoned at the age of five days or less (under the state’s safe haven law, and 2) when the family whose child is placed in foster care refuses all services aimed at correcting family problems for six months and testifies in court that they intend to continue to refuse such services in the future.

Companion legislation to the "permanency bill," also sponsored by Assemblyman William Scarborough and Senator Raymond Meier, will make an important change in the role of other family members in foster care cases. Called the "grandparents bill" and strongly supported by AARP, this legislation mandates that if a child is found to be unable to remain in the home of the biological parents, the governmental or private agency handling the case must seek out close relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.) who might be willing and able to take the child into their home and inform them of their right to apply for custody of the child in question. A major change included in the legislation is that those relatives will be presumed to be the best and first choice for placement, unless there is evidence that placement there would be detrimental to the child’s well-being. In the past, relative’s notification was sporadic at best, and those who sought custody of their blood relative had to fight their way into the process, and had to prove that they were a better choice than a non-related foster parent.

Other Activities

On July 7, 2005, the Committee on Children and Families and other sponsors held a "Town Hall Meeting on Foster Care" at Queens Borough Hall. Other sponsors were the Assembly Subcommittee on Foster Care, chaired by Assembly Member Michelle Titus; The New York State Foster and Adoptive Parents Association; The Southeast Queens Neighborhood Network; and The National Council of Negro Women. Panelists included representatives from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and other experts on child care and foster care issues. Valuable information was shared , and future sessions are planned.

On Thursday, September 8, 2005, the committee will hold a hearing on the issue of children in foster care under ACS being allowed to participate in a clinical trial testing experimental HIV/AIDS drugs. Hundreds of foster children with AIDS were subjected to this clinical trial for over a decade. Federal health agencies and others have questioned the appropriateness of foster kids being included in the testing of experimental drugs, and ACS is also reviewing this episode to determine whether the parents and/or guardians of these children had given proper consent, and if they were fully informed about the implications of such participation. Our hearing, to determine whether state legislation is needed to protect children participating in clinical trials, will be held at 250 Broadway, Assembly Hearing Room 1923, New York, NY. The time is 10:30 A.M. Call Judi West at (518) 455-4371 with any questions.

photo Assemblyman Scarborough and colleagues greet Hazel Dukes, head of the NAACP in New York State, along with Linette Townsley and members of the Jamaica NAACP Youth Chapter. Pictured also are Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark and Assemblywoman Michele Titus.
photo Assemblyman Scarborough welcomes NY City Comptroller William Thompson to Albany.
photo Assemblyman Scarborough and colleagues welcome members of the Sikh and Indian communities from Queens.
photo Assemblyman Scarborough introduces a panel of experts in the fields of nutrition and obesity. The Assemblyman chaired the panel discussion along with State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Westchester. Senator Hassell-Thompson is seated at left.
photo Assemblyman Scarborough greets former Olympic champion Bob Beamon. Mr. Beamon, a graduate of Jamaica H.S. in Queens, set a world record for the long jump at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. That record lasted for almost 30 years.
photo Co-Chairs Assemblyman Scarborough and Senator Hassell-Thompson. The workshop resulted in a resolution calling for state action in the area of nutrition and obesity.

"Agenda 59" About to Begin Its Third Year

Agenda 59, the Adopt-a-School Program established by Assemblyman Scarborough and the 29th A.D. Task Force at Intermediate School 59 in Springfield Gardens is about to enter its third year of operation when school opens in September. This program, also sponsored by Councilman Leroy Comrie, has worked closely with the school administration to identify "at-risk" students and work with them in an after-school program providing tutorial assistance, mentoring, readiness skills and other training programs. The program has been run by The Southeast Queens Neighborhood Network, and its success has led to requests by other schools that the program be expanded to include their sites. Linkages have also been established with York College, in particular the specialized high school at the college. Training classes preparing students to take the entrance examinations are available to I.S. 59 students who have shown promise, and other linkages are planned for the future. Assemblyman Scarborough, Councilman Comrie, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection are funding the construction of a state-of-the-art environmental lab at I.S. 59 set to begin operation in the coming school year. This lab will teach environmental science to I.S. 59 students as well as students from area schools that "feed" into I.S. 59.

As a further linkage, Assemblyman Scarborough was able to get $100,000 in capital funding for the Queens Bridge to Medicine School, also on the York College Campus. This funding will go toward the construction of the only DNA laboratory in Queens, and one of only two in the New York area. Once constructed, this lab will also be a valuable resource for interested students from I.S. 59 and other area schools, as well as the York College community.

photo Assemblyman Scarborough speaks at a press conference celebrating passage in the Assembly and the Senate of a bill increasing penalties on persons who engage in human trafficking. Scarborough pointed out that persons smuggled into the U. S. by human traffickers are often forced into prostitution to pay off their debt. photo Assemblyman Scarborough with Shawn Chin-Chance, who served as an intern to the Assemblyman during this session. Mr. Chin-Chance is about to engage in "Mock Session," where interns replace Assemblymembers and debate their bills.

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