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Life in New York City: Special Issue

January 11, 2015
Plain English Version
Ruth Fremson, The New York Times

Ruth Fremson, The New York Times

Life in a Family Shelter

Life in a homeless shelter is all the stress a family needs. However, families cope with stress in different ways.

New York City officials are dealing with the recent deaths of two young children in shelters. In one family, a stepfather beat a three-year-old girl to death. In the other case, the mother beat a four-year-old girl to death.

There are more than 160 city-financed family shelters in New York. The city is now reviewing its child safety polices.

High-risk families include:

  • single 18-24-year-old parent raising more than three children;
  • a man living in the household who is not the biological father;
  • children with medial needs;
  • past or current child welfare involvement with the Administration for Children’s Services agency.

Families may be considered high risk even without previous complaints of child abuse or neglect.

There are about 12,349 families living in shelters with children under age 18. About 2,500 of these families are considered at high risk.

The city wants to put high-risk families in special shelters. These shelters have more services such as on-site medical care.

Trained social workers are being hired to work with high-risk families. They are getting to know the families.

For example, a worker at a Queens shelter was checking on two families who had been identified as high risk.

The mother was an undocumented immigrant from the West Indies. She sat with the worker at a small desk in the corner and answered some basic questions. Her 6-year-old son has behavioral issues. She answered that she had been meeting every week with an on-site case manager.

Then the worker moved on to another room. She sat with a mother of a 3-year-old girl who has sickle-cell anemia. The mother reported that she had been using the shelter’s medical services. A doctor and nurse are on-site three days a week at this shelter.

Afterward, the worker said she spends 20 to 45 minutes going through a series of questions with each family. She said, “As long as they know your intent is to help them; they will give you the answers.”

Source: The New York Times January 7, 2015

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