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COFCCA Statement on 2024 Executive Budget Proposal

COFCCA Statement on 2024 Executive Budget Proposal Every day in New York, staff work tirelessly alongside children and families in New York’s child welfare programs to connect families to supports when there is a need for housing, food, clothing, mental health and medical services, and assist them in getting the resources needed to keep their families safe, healthy, and together. Staff support children and youth in foster care, their families of origin, and foster parents working to achieve children’s permanency goals.

In her Executive budget proposal, Governor Hochul recognizes the human services sector including foster care staff and programs with a 2.5% cost of living adjustment. While we appreciate the Governor’s recognition of the sector, this number is simply inadequate given the collective ask from the sector for an 8.5% increase, in line with this year’s consumer price index. Programs, including all human services programs such as foster care prevention programs and health home care managers serving children, need to see the full 8.5% investment in order to keep up with ever-increasing costs and to achieve meaningful staff salary increases.

Today, New York’s foster care programs do not know what their rates will be as of April 1, 2023 due to the state’s actions in setting aside a long-established rate-setting system this past year. While we appreciate clarifying language that was added to allow additional increases outside of the COLA, we do not have information on any increases that may be provided and what the rates will be. COFCCA continues to advocate for full funding of the foster care rates through June 30, 2023, as well as a return to the rate-setting system so that these programs have predictable funding as they continue to do the vital work of caring for children and youth in foster care.

The turnover rate for front line staff in New York’s foster care programs is 49%; turnover for caseworkers in New York’s family foster care, prevention, and residential foster care programs is 24%. The state must invest in this workforce to turn the tide from families’ current reality of beginning therapeutic work over and over again, too often, every time a new worker starts with them. Each budget year that New York does not invest in creating career pathways for child welfare professionals and in raising their salaries to retain them in the field is another year that New York wastes the opportunity to make a real difference in achieving positive outcomes for children—promoting family stability, reducing lengths of stay in foster care, and achieving lasting permanency for children.

We note that the budget includes reference to new federal requirements related to the federal IMD Exclusion. In order to ensure access to care for children and youth in residential foster care settings, COFCCA has requested the state must commit state-only Medicaid funding until there is a federal solution providing federal matching funds for services provided to this population.

We remain hopeful that Governor Hochul and the legislature will work together to ensure that New York’s final budget this year invests in children and families by:

• Investing in foster care workforce salaries in response to inflation and the rising minimum wage to ensure the sector has the workforce needed to care for our most vulnerable children and youth.

• Fully funding current foster care rates through June 30, 2023.

• Increasing funding for the Child Welfare Worker Incentive Scholarship Program and the NYS Child Welfare Worker Loan Forgiveness Incentive Programs by increasing the funding for these programs to $1 million each, to create meaningful career pathways in child welfare.

• Expanding and Improving the Human Services Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA): increasing the Human Services COLA, consistent with the Consumer Price Index- this year at 8.5%, and ensuring that it is equitably invested across the human services workforce, to include prevention workers and health home care managers.

• Increasing prevention funding to support families safely remaining together: COFCCA urges the state to increase reimbursement to counties for uncapped prevention investment, to 75% as proposed in A.10242 (Hevesi) of 2022.

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