Brooklyn, N.Y.—When children fall through the cracks, who catches them when their families fall short? For better or worse, they often land in the hands of the state.
For the second consecutive year, Assemblyman William Scarborough, Queens County 29th District, chair of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families, presented the Children’s Studies Special Topics class — Children, Government and Public Policy in New York State — to give students an inside view of the state in action.
Scarborough explains that he assembled a diverse roster of speakers “to present the issues from the perspectives of the various stakeholders involved in setting and implementing public policy.”
Throughout the fall semester, students benefitted from this impressive roster. Every week, a different distinguished speaker addressed the class on the welfare and rights of children and youth involved with the state.
Senior Hannah Yafai, a double major in psychology and children’s studies, particularly liked the juvenile justice legislation sponsored by the course’s first speaker, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, Kings County District 18, chair of the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Children and Families. “New York State spends over $200,000 a year on each child in jail,” said Yafai. “Most are low-level offenders who should be placed in intervention programs that cost less and produce better outcomes.”
The Honorable Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, the administrative judge for the Family Court of New York City responsible for all family courts in the city’s five boroughs, was another invited speaker. The courts, which make determinations on cases involving juvenile delinquency, abuse and neglect of children, domestic violence, supervision of sexually exploited minors, foster care and child support, receive an average of 251,000 petitions for judicial hearings per year. There are only 55 judges.
“We say we value our children, but if we are not financially supporting our child welfare system, then we don’t,” said the judge.
“I hoped the students would see what government was doing in the name of its citizens and with tax dollars,” Scarborough reflected. “I wanted them to be aware of some of the tragedies that occur when government does not function well. Based on their reactions and comments, I believe I succeeded.”