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The state agency overseeing child and family services finally has adopted rules that aim to ensure due process for young people going through the juvenile version of parole.
The move last month follows a May ruling by Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead, who found the city’s handling of child parole violations to have “no force of law.”
The battle stems from 2012, when the city passed the Close to Home law, which seeks to place minors convicted of a crime in detention facilities near their families, run by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services instead of by the state’s child welfare authority.
Since then, ACS has run hearings that decide whether or not to revoke “aftercare” — or parole for youths between 7 and 17 years old.
But as THE CITY reported, the court found that internal rules used by ACS “did not constitute ‘regulations,’ within the meaning of Social Services Law.”
In that case, a 16-year-old boy from Manhattan was sent back to youth detention after he broke curfew and missed a caseworker appointment. He’d already served a year for possession of a stolen purse, and then had to do another two months.
‘Necessary and Fair Procedures’
The Legal Aid Society, which brought the lawsuit, asserted that a lack of official rules from the state Office of Children and Family Services created an unfair situation for children, putting them at the whim of internal ACS policy.
Edmead agreed, and cleared the aftercare revocation from the boy’s record, though he’d already served the time.
That same month, OCFS proposed new regulations “needed to promote … due process and the right to a hearing when a youth’s conditional release is revoked,” according to the State Register.
New state rules will now require, among other things, that ACS first document that they worked with the youth to try to correct behavior before they can directly seek to put them back in detention. ACS hearing officers are also allowed to now alter aftercare conditions, rather than automatically send kids back to a facility.
The final rules were adopted on Dec. 11, OCFS officials said.
Between 2015 and June 25, 2019, 155 children had their aftercare revoked under ACS internal policies, the agency said. Since the ruling, at least a dozen children have been released, according to the Legal Aid Society.
ACS officials said they are working to reach settlements with lawyers representing kids who previously had aftercare revoked under the old policy.
“Youth cannot be afforded less due process protections than adults when deprived of their liberty,” said Dawne Mitchell, Legal Aid’s attorney-in-charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice. “We are pleased that OCFS enacted necessary and fair procedural protections for youth facing revocation of their conditional release.”
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