WNYC: New York City Loses Court Case Over Right To Arrest Foster Youth

May 7, 2019
by Mirela Iverac

A state appellate court ruled Tuesday that New York City can no longer arrest children who run away from their foster care homes, a long-standing practice that's only been challenged recently.

For at least 30 years the city’s child welfare agency has requested warrants for young people who leave foster care without permission. City officials said they take such action only when children are in grave danger, and that in 2017, only 69 warrants were issued.

Last year, the Legal Aid Society appealed after arrest warrants were issued for two of their clients. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court ruled that Family Court doesn’t have legal authority to issue warrants to return children to foster care.

“It's been awful, traumatic, inhumane and cruel to our clients,” said Betsy Kramer, an attorney at Lawyers for Children, a nonprofit legal clinic that filed an amicus brief in the case.

In the ruling, the appellate panel suggested the Administration for Children's Services needs a new legislative tool for children who haven’t been determined to be juvenile delinquents but will likely be a danger to themselves or others if they leave foster care.

“We are considering all of our legal options, including further appeal and the corrective legislation urged by the Appellate Division,” said Nick Paolucci, spokesman for the city’s law department.