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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

06.14.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Eighty-five of the new social workers will work at high-needs middle schools as part of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, ThriveNYC, officials said. At least 31 “Bridging the Gap” social workers will be added specifically for schools with higher concentrations of students in temporary housing — an increase that advocates had previously called for — but City Hall and other City Council members offered different figures. “Increasing the number of school social workers is a real notable step in the right direction,” said Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children New York. “We are eager to continue working with the City Council and administration to build on this necessary support for students who desperately need mental health services and behavioral supports.” Read article

06.13.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Advocates have called for 31 more social workers for schools that enroll 70 or more students living in shelters and that don’t have one. “We know the Council has been fighting for an influx of school social workers for high-needs schools, as well as an increase in Bridging the Gap social workers to assist students living in shelters,” said Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children, a group that has lobbied for additional counselors. “Given the numerous calls we get about children’s mental health needs going unaddressed in school, increasing the number of school social workers is a priority.” Read article

06.06.2019 | New York Daily News | As it now stands, 100 city schools that serve 50 or more students who live in homeless shelters do not have a social worker specifically tasked to addressing their needs, according to Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children of New York. “We get calls from families of students who need behavioral and emotional support and are not receiving it in schools,” she said. Read article

05.28.2019 | THE CITY | Rebecca Shore, director of litigation for the group Advocates for Children of New York, said parents file complaints for a host of reasons. Some students are placed into schools that don’t offer programs mandated on their education plans. Others are thrust into classroom settings that don’t match those mandated by the IEP. In some cases, services called for in the IEP simply are not provided. “When the parents come to us, unfortunately, usually it’s at a point where it’s been three or four or five or six years [without services],” said Shore, whose group provided the external review to THE CITY. Read article

05.21.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Suspensions have generally fallen, but lengthier out-of-school suspensions have remained relatively steady under de Blasio. Discipline reform advocates are hoping the city will aggressively cut down on these so-called “superintendent” suspensions, which were handed out more than 10,000 times last school year and which can last from six days up to an entire school year... City officials have strongly hinted that changes could be coming. A spokesperson previously said the mayor is “concerned with the length of our suspensions.” And the education department has quietly started sending students back to class faster after they are suspended. “I would expect suspension caps in terms of length,” said Dawn Yuster, the school justice project director at Advocates for Children. A bill making its way through the state legislature would cap suspensions at 20 days and eliminate suspensions for students in grades K-3, but it is not clear whether it will pass before the session ends in June or whether the city will consider those changes on its own. Read article

05.15.2019 | Gotham Gazette | Op-ed by AFC Executive Director Kim Sweet: 

Cutting funding for the program and then restoring it should not be viewed as a victory when thousands of students living in shelter lack access to the crucial help Bridging the Gap social workers can provide. Schools alone cannot end homelessness. But, with the right support, schools can transform the lives of students who are homeless. As Mayor de Blasio has stated, a quality education is “the most powerful tool we know for lifting one’s life chances.” To break the cycle of homelessness, the city must devote more attention and resources to the education of students living in shelter. The mayor should start by providing funding for at least 100 school social workers for students living in shelter in this year’s budget. Read op-ed

04.25.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | The added positions are welcome but far from enough, said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children, in a statement. She said the city needs almost twice as many social workers to address the growing population of homeless students, estimated at about 110,000. “We are pleased that the mayor has baselined funding for 53 Bridging the Gap social workers at schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters, ending the annual budget dance and helping to ensure the long-term continuity of the program,” Sweet said. “But 53 social workers is woefully insufficient to meet the need.” Read article

04.18.2019 | New York Daily News | In March, 15 groups who work with children and the homeless called on de Blasio to restore the money in his $92 billion budget — unveiled in February — which is the biggest in the city’s history. Now 35 city council members have joined the push, with all of them signing a letter delivered to the mayor on Wednesday that encourages him to fund the needed social workers... Advocates for Children of New York Policy Director Randi Levine said she was pleased to see local politicians pressuring de Blasio to provide funding for homeless students. “The mayor must not only maintain the Bridging the Gap social worker program, but expand it, given the thousands of students living in shelter who do not yet have access to this important support,” Levine said. Read article

04.16.2019 | Edutopia | Other problems in District 75 include the overrepresentation of minorities and boys within special education, the lack of evidence-based literacy instruction (an ongoing issue in special education classrooms everywhere), and the lack of accessibility in the older schools, according to Maggie Moroff, an attorney for Advocates for Children of New York, an advocacy group that provides free legal assistance to parents of at-risk children. That said, District 75’s self-contained model provides students with highly knowledgeable staff, technology that is suited to their needs, and appropriate behavioral supports, says Moroff, emphasizing that it also gives students a chance for a better future. “With the right training, all kids can learn and succeed. It’s really important that the school staff be given all the support and the training that they need to work with kids with a wide range of special education needs,” Moroff says. “Special education shouldn’t be a dead end for anybody. It should be a road to success.” Read article

03.29.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Advocates who want to see the city improve the way it supports students who are learning English, a vulnerable population more likely to struggle in school and drop out, are similarly waiting to see how the new chancellor’s new leadership structure will translate to the classroom. “We understand that practically, restructuring takes a long time and that getting new staff up to speed is also a time investment,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, project director for the Immigrant Students’ Rights Project for Advocates for Children of New York. “At this point, I think we’re very anxious to get started.”  Read article