We believe that in order to truly affect change it is not enough to provide support and opportunities to youth and families on the ground, but also to advocate on their behalf. We fight for the policies and legislation that can open up opportunities systematically across the city. Good Shepherd Services is a leading voice in public policy discussions and within numerous coalitions. We are especially active at the city and state levels. Every year, our advocacy work translates into budgetary, legislative, policy, procurement, and programmatic changes that benefit the children, youth and families we serve.
Learning to Work
Learning to Work is a City Wide student support service program that supports over-age and under credited students in completing their high school diploma. Since 2005, Good Shepherd Services has served over 30,000 students, placed over 7,000 students in internships or paid trainings, and supported the post-secondary education enrollments of 2,500 students across the Bronx and Brooklyn. Between 2017-2020, 87% of GSS students exiting our programs, graduated with a high school diploma. For the last 10 years, the funding levels of these programs have been threaten. Last year, the City proposed a complete elimination of the program. Good Shepherd helped to mobilize over 4,000 individuals to participate in 16 virtual rallies that called on the Mayor and the Chancellor to restore funding to Learning to Work. The final cut was the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 school year was 25%. This year the Mayor announced that DOE will experience cuts in the 2021-2022 school year which means that the 25% cut Community Based Organizations experienced this year, will carry on to the next school year. The Coalition is advocating for a full restoration of the cuts and will be hosting a series of borough virtual rallies to denounce the cuts.
Learning to Work rallies will feature youth, parents, schools and Community Based Organizations who will speak to how these in school supports have been vital during the pandemic and how devastating additional cuts will be to both Transfer Schools and Young Adult Borough Centers.
On March 10th, Gary Adams and Luis Fuentes from our Bronx after school programs hosted the first #FundYouthNYC City Wide virtual rally to denounce the Mayor’s Preliminary budget proposal to eliminate School’s Out New York City (SONYC) summer funding that will impact over 45,000 middle school students across NYC. Good Shepherd is a middle school SONYC provider in both the Bronx and Brooklyn.
You can join the #FundYouthNYC Summer Camp Borough Rallies one the following dates:
- Staten Island Rally – Wednesday, April 14 at 6:00 PM
- Manhattan Rally – Wednesday, April 21 6:00 PM
The rallies will be live streamed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GoodShepherdServicesNYC
In January of 2021, New York City Mayor De Blasio released the Preliminary Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 which extended the Fiscal Year 21 cuts to DOE community partnership contracts to Fiscal Year 22 and eliminated all middle school School’s Out New York City (SONYC) summer slots. In February of 2021, the DOE restored the remaining $3.1M of the original $9.16M Fiscal Year 21 cuts made to the city’s Community Schools Initiative. Last month, the Learning to Work Coalition met with DOE leadership and learned that the Office of Budget and Management informed DOE that the cuts experienced in Fiscal Year 21 will likely continue onto next year as well as additional cuts. This means that the 25% cut CBOs experienced in FY21 for the Learning to Work contracts and that the $9.16M cut to Community Schools will carry on to FY22. For Good Shepherd Services, this cut amounted to $2 million in Fiscal Year 21. While City officials share new about cuts, the NYC Mayor De Blasio announced in December of 2020 that the NYC Department of Education (DOE) would expand the Community Schools Initiative to the 27 neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. The request for proposal for the schools was released in February of 2021. Annie Minguez Garcia, Director of Government and Community Relations, is leading the advocacy to fully restore the LTW, Community Schools and SONYC cuts that support youth across this city.
In January of 2021, NYS Governor Cuomo released the Executive Budget which proposed $38 Million cut to the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) which includes a 8% cut to Preventive Services. Good Shepherd is leading an op-ed to raise awareness to the preventive services cuts and Hawa Diaby, a Supervisor at Good Shepherd Services’ North Bronx Family Center preventive services program testified at the Citizen’s Committee for Children Virtual Rally for New York’s Children. The Executive Budget also cut both Advantage and Empire State after school. Michelle Yanche and Annie Minguez Garcia are on the policy Committee of the NYS Network for Youth Success and hosted the Regional After School Forum in March to denounce the cuts. Several after school staff from Brooklyn joined Annie Minguez Garcia in the Network’s virtual Advocacy Day in February to advocate with the legislature for restoration. Sandra Cummings, Community Schools Director at Boys and Girls High School, joined Annie Minguez Garcia and the NYS Community Schools Network Virtual Advocacy Day to advocate for Community Schools funding in January. The Executive budget did include $6 million for the Making College a Success Initiative which supports foster youth attending college.
Teens Take Charge hosted a Mayoral Forum on March 4th which covered education, youth employment, mental health, safety, and more issues important to youth across NYC. You can stream the full forum here. Good Shepherd partnered with Teens Take Charge to feature questions from the following three participants:
- Lisbeth, a student at Dewitt Clinton High School, a Community School in the Bronx asked a question about the importance of expanding Student Success Centers in NYC schools.
- Assanatu who receives support from Good Shepherd’s Future Focus program asked the candidates if they would commit to expanding funding to provide housing opportunities for youth aging out of foster care.
- Abraham a student at our Monroe Young Adult Borough Center which is a Learning to Work Program would commit to restoring funding to educational supports for older youth.
You can view their sections here.
On March 9th, Kenny, a Good Shepherd Learning to Work grad from Brooklyn partnered with Advocates for Children for an interview with CBS 2 to advocate that the State Education Department and the NYS Board of Regents give students aging out of school this year the opportunity to return in the 2021-2022 school year & earn a high school diploma. You can view the interview here.
Fostering Youth Success Alliance
On January 26, more than 75 college-age youth in care joined child welfare agencies and other advocates from across New York State for Fostering Youth Success Alliance’s (FYSA) annual advocacy day in Albany virtually. Advocates met with 48 State Senators and Assembly Members and their staff to share their stories and stress the importance of fully funding the New York State’s Foster Youth College Success Initiative (FYCSI). FYSA was pleased that the Governor’s Executive Budget included $6 million in resources necessary for foster youth to access higher education in the 2021-2022 school year and thank the leadership in both the Senate and the Assembly who will fight to protect this investment during the budget negotiations. Good Shepherd Services operates a foster care agency in the Bronx and participates annual in the FYSA Advocacy Day and will continue to monitor the State Budget to ensure that legislators protect the $6 million included in the Executive Budget.
From 2015-2020 1,500 foster youth received direct support through the program and even more than 1100 are on track to do so this year. Nationwide just 18-24% of youth in care will enroll in college after high school and less than 3% will go on to graduate. FYCSI provides these foster care youth and alumni with the resources necessary to earn a college degree and achieve true independence, but it needs continued funding in order to do so.
Tele-Health Advocacy and Paper
Following New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in Jan, in which the Governor pledged to expand and improve access to telehealth services, the Clinicians in Child Welfare (CCW), whose members promote best practice and advocate to enhance the delivery of services in the child welfare system, released a report on why these services are so critical, especially to the communities hardest hit by the virus. Joan Siegel, Chief Medicaid Officer, and Annie Minguez Garcia, Director of Government and Community Relations are among the authors of the paper. Previously inaccessible to New York’s Medicaid recipients, expanded telehealth services have made strides in closing New York’s health equity gap – deeply benefitting the groups previously excluded from these services. The paper’s findings make clear that the city and state must permanently remove harsh restrictions hamstringing access to these critical services. The paper, “Accomplishments of Telehealth within New York’s Child Welfare System: An Exploratory Survey,” draws from quantitative and qualitative study results from 249 participants who responded to the survey to highlight how communities have used behavioral health telehealth during the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 120 were parents or caregivers, 71 were foster parents, 51 were individuals receiving services, and seven were unknown.
Key findings include:
- 76% of participants stated that they were able to connect to additional supports that were not accessible prior to telehealth.
- The majority of children and families reported telehealth is helping them to meet treatment goals and develop or continue the therapeutic alliance in the comfort and safety of their own home without travel time and cost.
- Participants identified safety, convenience, and ease of making and keeping appointments as areas improved through telehealth.
- Most noted that they were able to maintain or grow the connection with their therapist, service provider or care coordinator and were better able to work together to accomplish their treatment goals.
- The lack of technological infrastructure continues to be a challenge.
Advocating for Human Services Investments
Dana Altneu, Assistant Director of Contracts testified at the New York City Council Committee on Contracts hearing on the preliminary budget on the Human Services Council priorities. The priorities include: the restoration of the COLA on the personnel services line of all human services contracts at a rate of at least 3%, comprehensive emergency pay for human services workers retroactive to March 23, 2020, when non-essential workers in New York were ordered to stay home, and sufficient funding to fully honor the Indirect Cost Rate Funding Initiative for FY20, FY21, and going forward. You can view Dana’s testimony here.
Advocating for extension of the Eviction Moratorium
On January 25th as the eviction moratorium in New York state is set to expire, Rosanna Cruz—a Benefits Assistance Program leader for Good Shepherd Services — testified before the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare regarding the importance of increasing access to rent relief programs. At Good Shepherd, we provide individuals and families with hands-on assistance in applying for public benefits. During the course of this pandemic, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of clients requesting assistance with rent relief. But burdensome requirements are preventing too many families from accessing this necessary service. Some New Yorkers collecting unemployment are even finding that they now don’t qualify for rent relief. Rosanna called on the City to expand the number of people eligible to apply for rental programs—and place special attention on helping families with children at risk of entry to shelter. You can view Rosanna’s testimony here.
In June 2014, we participated in the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in the Reconnecting Youth Working Group, which focused on innovative approaches to connecting young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and work, to education and the workforce.
Good Shepherd Services was invited to participate in the White House Summit on Working Families, which focused on setting an agenda for a 21st century workplace that works for all Americans. The event helped identify initiatives that benefit America’s working families, businesses and economy, and discuss issues facing the entire spectrum of working families.
We publish key position papers to ensure that City leadership is informed and attuned to the needs of communities in which we work. These include the Covenant for Success which was shared with the City Mayor and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and was done in collaboration with The Clark Foundation, the United Way and other local funders and non-profit organizations.