Establishes the Peer Advocacy and Mentoring program; provides peer support, advocacy and mentoring for youth in residential care.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law, in relation to establishing the peer advocacy and mentoring program
PURPOSE: This bill directs the Office of Children and Family Services, in consultation with the Office of Mental Health, to contract for the establishment of a peer advocacy and mentoring program designed to provide support for youth in residential facilities operated or licensed by the department.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Sections 1 of the bill adds a new section 522-a to the executive law directing OCFS within amounts appropriated to establish a Peer Advocacy and Mentoring Program through contract with a not-for-profit organization(s) specializing providing peer support and advocacy to youth. Services would be provided to youth residing in residential care licensed or operated by OCFS or OMH, as well as those youth transitioning or preparing to transition out of such placements, but priority would be given to services for youth placed or committed to state operated secure, limited-secure and non-secure juvenile detention facilities and other residential facilities licensed to care for court placed youth. This section sets out who can serve as peer advocates and mentors, the access they shall have to youth in residential care and to other offices designed to assist youth.
Section 2 provides that the bill shall take effect on the 90th day after enactment.
JUSTIFICATION: New York State licenses and operates various residential care facilities and homes for youth including foster care, residential treatment and juvenile justice. The support of peers, or individuals who have had similar residential experiences, are valuable for people in all areas and youth peer supports are no exception. Youth in residential care have often experienced various traumas in their young lives and associate some of those traumas with the adults in authority who are making decisions on their behalf.
Youth who have experienced similar settings and hardships only to navigate their lives in a positive way are uniquely equipped to gain the trust and serve as a role model for youth in care. Peer advocates would be between the ages of 16 and 30, have resided in a state operated or licensed residential placement as a youth and have completed training approved by the Commissioners. The peer advocacy and mentoring program would serve as an outside, independent advocate for youth placed in OCFS operated or licensed residential care to help ensure their rights are protected and they have positive role models as they heal wounds and prepare to transition back into the community.
Given the recently revealed disturbing results of a 2007 US Department of Justice investigation of four OCFS operated juvenile justice facilities which found the use of excessive force and failure to provide mental health care and treatment, the program would prioritize services to youth in state operated juvenile justice facilities. Independent oversight to protect the rights of the approximately 1,000 youth in these particular care settings is essential. Some distinguishing features of youth in the juvenile detention facilities are that at least 65% have a mental health diagnosis, more than half are on a psychotropic medication, more than half are special education students with an IEP and the majority have experienced some form of trauma in their lives and have been involved in the child welfare system before being placed in a juvenile detention facilities. These children need all the supports they can get.
These defining characteristics combined with the appalling findings of inadequate mental health treatment and treatment plans, insufficient substance abuse services and improper medication management coupled with evidence of brutal treatment for behavioral issues clearly demonstrate that some outside oversight is needed. While a peer advocacy and mentoring program is not sufficient to provide the independent oversight that is necessary in our state operated juvenile detention centers, it can play an important role in bringing a voice to these youth and some transparency to the system while at the same time providing real examples and connections to a future filled with hope and opportunities.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: S.6961/A.10806 - 2010 - Referred to Finance
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: To be determined.
EFFECTIVE DATE: 90 days after enactment.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 3076 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE February 8, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sens. HUNTLEY, DIAZ, MONTGOMERY, STEWART-COUSINS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Children and Families AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to establishing the peer advocacy and mentoring program THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The executive law is amended by adding a new section 522-a to read as follows: S 522-A. PEER ADVOCACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM. 1. THERE IS HEREBY CREATED WITHIN THE OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, A PEER ADVO- CACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM. 2. THE OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES SHALL, IN CONSULTATION WITH THE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH AND WITHIN THE AMOUNTS APPROPRIATED THEREFOR, CONTRACT WITH A NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATION OR ORGANIZATIONS SPECIALIZING IN PROVIDING PEER SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY TO YOUTH AND THE NEEDS OF YOUTH, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL NEEDS, TO ESTABLISH A PEER ADVOCACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM. SUCH PROGRAM SHALL BE DESIGNED TO PROVIDE PEER SUPPORT, ADVOCACY AND MENTORING FOR YOUTH RESIDING IN RESIDENTIAL CARE AS SUCH TERM IS DEFINED IN PARAGRAPHS (B) AND (G) OF SUBDIVISION FOUR OF SECTION FOUR HUNDRED TWELVE-A OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES LAW. 3. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY INCONSISTENT PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, PRIORITY FOR SERVICES UNDER THE PEER ADVOCACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM SHALL BE GIVEN TO YOUTH WHO WERE PLACED IN RESIDENTIAL CARE PURSUANT TO SECTION 353.3 OF THE FAMILY COURT ACT, AND WHO RESIDE IN FACILITIES DESCRIBED IN SECTION FIVE HUNDRED FOUR OF THIS ARTICLE. 4. PEER ADVOCATES ACTING AS EMPLOYEES OR VOLUNTEERS IN THE PEER ADVO- CACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM SHALL: (A) BE INDIVIDUALS BETWEEN THE AGES OF SIXTEEN AND THIRTY WHO HAVE:EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD08768-01-1 S. 3076 2
(I) PREVIOUSLY BEEN PLACED IN RESIDENTIAL CARE AS SUCH TERM IS DEFINED IN PARAGRAPHS (B) AND (G) OF SUBDIVISION FOUR OF SECTION FOUR HUNDRED TWELVE-A OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES LAW; (II) EXPERIENCED DISABILITIES OR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH NEEDS; AND (III) SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED TRAINING THAT HAS BEEN APPROVED BY THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH AND THE OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, QUALIFYING SUCH INDIVIDUALS TO WORK IN THE PEER ADVOCACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM; (B) HAVE REASONABLE AND APPROPRIATE ACCESS TO YOUTH IN RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET WITH YOUTH IN A PRIVATE, CONFI- DENTIAL SETTING; (C) SERVE AS A LINK FOR YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES TO OTHER SUPPORTS INCLUDING THE ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD AND THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN AS DESCRIBED IN SECTION FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE-B OF THIS TITLE; AND (D) NOT IDENTIFY, IN ANY WAY, OUTSIDE OF THEIR SCOPE OF EMPLOYMENT OR DUTIES AS A PEER ADVOCATE, THE NAME OR IDENTITY OF ANY YOUTH SERVED WITHIN THE PEER ADVOCACY AND MENTORING PROGRAM WITHOUT THE EXPRESS WRIT- TEN CONSENT OF SUCH YOUTH. S 2. This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after it shall have become a law.