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Family Enrichment Centers to Expand Across Eight New BK Neighborhoods

Opponents welcome the resources, but not the child welfare system's involvement.
The C.R.I.B. (Community Resources In Brooklyn) in East New York. Photo: Nigel Roberts

The expiration of the eviction moratorium Tuesday has added pressure on many financially strapped Brooklyn families struggling to make ends meet.

To alleviate the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is expanding its Family Enrichment Centers (FEC) from three to 30 across the boroughs.

Currently, Brooklyn hosts one of the three facilities in East New York, and eight more Brooklyn neighborhoods are slated to get FECs over the next four fiscal years: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Coney Island, East Flatbush, Flatbush/Midwood, Flatlands/Canarsie and Sunset Park.

"These will be located in neighborhoods that have been identified by the The Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity as hit hardest by the pandemic, and as having experienced severe equity gaps based on race," Administration of Children's Services (ACS) Commissioner David A. Hansell explained in a memo.

Community hubs addressing community needs

First launched in 2017, these community-based hubs are walk-in centers that provide a range of services and support programs based on the needs that each community self-determines.

ACS told BK Reader that some of the creative programming at the FECs include family movie nights, a therapist-led Healing Through the Arts offering for families recovering from community violence, cultural activities, and Café con Amiga (Coffee with Friends) facilitated by Spanish-speaking parent leaders. 

East New York's C.R.I.B. (Community Resources in Brooklyn), located at 2779 Atlantic Ave., provides services in eight areas: health and well-being, economic stability and employment, child development and education, parenting skills, positive relationships, community engagement, and supportive advocacy. 

According to its website, the center also provides alternatives to foster care that help families to stay together safely when they're struggling to make ends meet. If that fails, the organization assists with foster care and adoption options.

ACS's controversial child welfare involvement

The centers are "part of the agency's primary prevention approach to reducing child maltreatment," ACS noted in a 2020 announcement of an independent organization's evaluation of the three FECs.

ACS described its prevention focus as "an approach that proactively addresses families' service needs that may unintentionally lead to child welfare involvement if left unaddressed."

The evaluation showed that the centers had a positive impact on the families served.

However, some parent advocacy groups like Rise oppose FEC expansion because of ACS's child welfare role.

"We want community support that's not connected to the child welfare system," Jeanette Vega, co-executive director of Rise, said at an Aug. 13 protest at City Hall, which was video recorded and posted to Facebook.

Vega rallied the demonstrators in a chant of "Nothing about us, without us."

She said Rise wanted to see the City's child welfare system dismantled because it believes ACS targets low-income Black and Latino parents for investigations into child neglect and abuse, ultimately leading to family separations.

"Families in New York City do not want the enrichment centers," Vega stated.

According to Gothamist, Black or Latino families accounted for 74% of child abuse or neglect investigations in 2017. More than 70% of those cases were for neglect, which advocates argued were poverty related. 

Rise urged the city to spend its FEC expansion funding on a parenting peer support system.

ACS provided this statement to BK Reader In response:

"ACS does not determine what reports are made to the State hotline, known as the SCR. However, as part of our work to address racial disproportionality in the child welfare system, ACS is working closely with mandated reporters - like doctors, teachers, social workers, etc. -- to clarify that reports to the hotline should be made only when the reporter has reasonable concerns about a child's welfare.

"ACS is required to investigate all reports forwarded to us by the state SCR. We cannot choose which reports to respond to."

About the Author: Nigel Roberts

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