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Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

01.08.2024 | Gothamist | “I can't imagine a scenario where there won't be a significant disruption to children's education,” said Jennifer Pringle, project director for Advocates for Children. “It just is ridiculous that families are going to be moved mid year when school, for so many families, is a primary source of support and stability.” 

Pringle said she expects a large number of absences at the schools once the moves begin. 

“Having a policy saying you don't need to bring your kids is fairly meaningless unless there's policies in place that give some degree of security to parents that they'll be able to reconnect with their kids,” she said. “They don't know how long it's going to take to process the application or where they're going to be sent afterwards.” Read article

01.08.2024 | Chalkbeat NY | But some advocates worry that schools will soon have fewer resources at their disposal to address student behavior without resorting to suspensions. The city has used one-time federal relief funding to hire hundreds of social workers and expand funding for restorative justice programs, which prioritize peer meditations and other methods of talking through conflicts. Those programs are on the chopping block next school year as federal relief money runs out. Department officials have not said whether they are looking for alternate funding. 

“With each of these, we continue to be concerned about the expiration of federal funding and what that will mean for support for students,” said Randi Levine, policy director at Advocates for Children. “It’s important for students to have access to mental health professionals who can help work with students and help address student behavior.” Read article

01.04.2024 | Univision | Según la organización Advocates for Children of New York, más de 1,100 niños con necesidades especiales esperan un cupo en preescolar, por lo que asegura que el alcalde Eric Adams no ha cumplido la promesa de brindar un asiento a cada menor. No obstante, la ciudad afirma que son las familias las que no han dado esas sillas a los niños que necesitan los servicios. Watch video

01.03.2024 | NY1 | It’s a process advocates fear will interrupt children’s education — and could leave some families sleeping on the street while awaiting new shelter, as happened to single adults already forced to re-apply. 

“I desperately hope that the city has a better plan in place for families,” Jennifer Pringle, project director at Advocates for Children, said. “You don’t want children outside in this weather. You don’t want anybody outside for prolonged periods of time in this weather.” 

The 60-day notices don’t apply to all shelters housing migrants, so far they’ve been handed out to families staying in a class of shelters known as Humanitarian Emergency Response Centers, or HERCs. Watch video

01.03.2024 | NY1 | It’s a process advocates fear will interrupt children’s education — and could leave some families sleeping on the street while awaiting new shelter, as happened to single adults already forced to re-apply. 

“I desperately hope that the city has a better plan in place for families,” Jennifer Pringle, project director at Advocates for Children, said. “You don’t want children outside in this weather. You don’t want anybody outside for prolonged periods of time in this weather.” 

The 60-day notices don’t apply to all shelters housing migrants, so far they’ve been handed out to families staying in a class of shelters known as Humanitarian Emergency Response Centers, or HERCs. Watch video

12.22.2023 | Advocating for additional education funding as the state develops its budget will be her organization’s top priority, said Randi Levine, policy director at Advocates for Children, a group that supports the city’s most vulnerable students.

“We need the state to step up and help to save some of these important programs,” she said. “All options need to be on the table.” Read article

12.13.2023 | Chalkbeat NY | Rebecca Shore, the litigation director of Advocates for Children, which brought a class action lawsuit that led to the court order this summer, said the Education Department has been making efforts to comply. But failing to implement elements of the order is unacceptable, she said. 

“The budget constraints the city is announcing should not impact their compliance,” Shore said. Asked if her organization is planning to go back to court to enforce the order, Shore said her team is “discussing our options.” Read article

12.12.2023 | The New York Times | Taslima Amjad has called, emailed or visited government offices in New York City nearly every day for months, in search of help for her 3-year-old nonverbal son. 

Her son has physical difficulties and developmental delays and needs one-on-one help and therapy sessions to learn. He also has the right — enshrined in federal law — to attend a special preschool class with only six students, for free, to get that support. 

But this school year, officials told Ms. Amjad that no spots were available. Months later, he remains in a regular large class of about 15 students. He is not eating his lunch and rarely participates. Until recently, the program required him to leave early — at 11 a.m. — since his teacher is unequipped to support him. 

“They have no idea how much my son is suffering,” said Ms. Amjad, who lives in the Bronx. She added: “I cry all day, every day.” 

The family is searching for a special education preschool spot a year after Mayor Eric Adams pledged to provide access to every student who required it. While many 3- and 4-year-old students with disabilities learn with their general education peers, those with more advanced needs are often entitled to small classrooms with additional staff.

But at the end of last school year, more than 1,110 children were waiting for a seat, according to Education Department data released this week. Over 40 percent of preschool students never received a single session of a required support service — like speech therapy — in their special education plans. 

The gaps are emerging as financial challenges threaten the city’s broader network of prekindergarten services. Many special education seats are paid for through federal pandemic relief dollars, which expire next fall. Officials have not offered a plan for maintaining the spots. 

Thousands of other seats for free preschool for 3-year-olds will also be eliminated after the mayor announced separate budget cuts last month.

Nicole Brownstein, an Education Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that every student “deserves access to the programs and resources they need to succeed” in school. Officials are working to place students in “programs that will best suit their needs and working closely with our contracted partners to find ways to bridge any gaps,” she added.

New York City’s prekindergarten programs grew into a national model under former Mayor Bill de Blasio. But he was also criticized for the lack of suitable seats for children with disabilities — who make up 20 percent of the overall public school system — even as the program added tens of thousands of general education seats.

At a news conference last December, Mayor Adams pointedly criticized the previous administration. He said the disparities were evidence of dysfunction “at its highest level” and promised to fix them. Every preschool special education student, he said, would “have the supports they need to flourish” by the spring.

“The previous ideas of universal 3-K and pre-K did not account for children with disabilities,” the mayor said at the time. “It was unfair, and it was wrong.”

One year later, though, the city has failed to follow through on Mr. Adams’s pledge.

During his administration, the city used expiring federal pandemic aid to open more than 700 spots and help close gaps but left hundreds of other students waiting. At a crucial developmental period, those children were missing hundreds of hours of specialized classroom time that could help improve their future performance. The list typically grows significantly during the school year, as more children are identified as needing help.

With the school year only halfway through, “the problem’s only going to get progressively worse,” said Betty Baez Melo, who leads early childhood work at Advocates for Children, which works with families that lack seats.

Many children with severe autism are assigned to classrooms with five other students, one teacher and two assistants. But in Manhattan, the Bronx and many sections of other boroughs, no spots are left in those classrooms.

In the Bronx, Kathia Morales worries her 3-year-old son, who has autism, is being left behind.

His special education plan mandates a small classroom. But since September, he has often been cared for by his grandmother while Ms. Morales, a single mother, works. They are struggling to navigate his speech delays and behavioral challenges alone.

“I’m at a loss because I don’t know what else to do,” Ms. Morales said, as her voice broke. “Time is being wasted. It’s not fair for him,” she said, adding, “I don’t think they’re taking this as serious as they should be.” Read article

12.06.2023 | NY1 | “For so many families, for so many students, school is the one source of stability when everything else is unstable, unknown, ever-changing,” Jennifer Pringle, project director at Advocates for Children, told NY1. 

But soon, that, too, may be upended. 

Mayor Adams has announced plans to limit some family shelter stays to sixty days. Families will either need to move out, or be moved to another shelter. Under federal law, homeless children have the right to remain in the same school, and be bused there. 

“No child is going to be displaced or their school is going to be interrupted,” Adams insisted during a press conference on Oct. 16. 

But the city already struggles to staff the school bus routes it currently has. And if a family is moved a borough or two away, the school bus or subway ride back to their old school may be so difficult that families feel they have no choice but to change schools. 

“I think that is a right in name only. I think it’s magical thinking that kids will be able to stay in their same school under those types of circumstances,” Pringle said. Watch video

12.06.2023 | The City | “I’m relieved to hear that it’s going to be delayed. The policy itself is very problematic to begin with, so the longer they delay it, the better. It’s going to be a mess,” said Jennifer Pringle, a project director at Advocates for Children of New York, a nonprofit that works with homeless children among other vulnerable groups.  

“I can’t see how this doesn’t lead to school absences, to mid-year transfers, tremendous upheaval for students, for families, and also schools themselves.” 

“I can only imagine the type of scrambling the principals will have to do. There’s not an office where a principal could call to find out where families are. There’s no data sharing agreement. It’s going to be very destabilizing,” Pringle said. Read article