• March 2007
  • Vol. 8, No. 2

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Family Assessment for Troubled Youths

A program run by New York City's Administration for Children's Services has succeeded in diverting many troubled teens and their families from Family Court and foster care placement. The voluntary Family Assessment Program (FAP) was begun in 2001 to provide assessment and referral services to families struggling to deal with teens' uncontrollable behavior, drug abuse, mental illness, or truancy.

Before the FAP, many of these parents were referred to the Family Court, which often declared the youths to be "persons in need of supervision" (PINS) and placed them in group home foster care. Since the creation of the FAP, families with these same problems go to the Administration for Children's Services rather than the Department of Probation, and they receive same-day assessment and referrals to individualized services.

A recent report examined the successes and challenges of the FAP, based on 2 years of interviews with teens, parents, administrators, and social workers. The report focuses on the experiences of families in the program, including youth who suffered from severe depression, a history of loss, drug abuse, troubled relationships, and cultural misunderstandings. Working with the FAP allowed these families to receive immediate referrals to mental health clinics, anger management services, family mediation, domestic violence advocacy, substance abuse programs, and more.

Challenges discussed include:

  • Approximately one-third of the families who come to the FAP do not return after the initial visit.
  • The program's success is dependent on the cooperation of the teens involved.
  • There is a lack of sufficient neighborhood services, especially peer counseling and skills training.
  • Many families need concrete services, such as help with sufficient food, shelter, and clothing, before they can deal with other family issues.
  • There has been a significant increase in the number of juvenile arrests, which may indicate that some of the youth who choose not to continue with the FAP wind up in the court system anyway.

The report offers a series of recommendations for the city government and social services staff, including the creation of respite centers, expanded services, and better coordination among services.

"There's No Such Place": The Family Assessment Program, PINS and the Limits of Support Services for Families With Teens in New York City by Sharon Lerner with Barbara Solow, is available on the Center for New York City Affairs, Milano Graduate School, The New School for Management and Urban Policy website:

www.newschool.edu/milano/nycaffairs/childwelfare/pins.pdf (762 - KB)

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