Mayor Adams should not allow school programs that help tens of thousands of students to expire this year, says a coalition of immigrant advocates, attorneys and other service providers.
The group, which also includes housing advocates, urges Adams to allocate funds in his executive budget for students battling mental health, learning English and living in shelters.
“With the pandemic exacerbating the need for mental health support for students and the rise of newly arrived immigrant families, thousands of whom are living in our city’s shelters, the need for these programs has only grown.” , read the letter spearheaded by Advocates for Children and signed by more than 60 organizations.
“We are working with the City Council to find ways to sustain and build on the work we have done to help our students and schools through the budget process,” said Mayor’s spokeswoman Amaris Cockfield. “We appreciate the focus on these important initiatives.”
The advocates’ demands include reinvesting in a range of mental health services at 50 schools as teens recover from social isolation, disrupted routines and, in some cases, the loss of parents and caregivers in recent years.
More than 9% of the city’s public high school students reported attempting suicide in 2021, according to figures shared by the City Council earlier this month.
The program offers mental health clinics, trains teachers in de-escalation and, as a last resort, sends “mobile child crisis” teams to schools, instead of sending children to the emergency room. It comes with a $5 million price tag shared by the city’s Education and Health departments and its public hospital system.
The letter stated that the initiative was included in the mayor’s new citywide mental health plandespite the fact that its financing was not foreseen in its preliminary budget. City officials noted a $12 million investment to implement a citywide telehealth program to support high school students.
Other programs prioritized by advocates provide support to thousands of students recently arrived from South America, as well as their classmates living in hostels or learning English.
On the list is $10 million from the Children’s Services Administration’s budget for a new child care voucher program for undocumented families that could expire just as it’s getting off the ground, as the Daily News previously reported.
Called Promise NYC, the program officially began in January through community organizations in each county. In Queens alone, the Chinese-American Planning Council has been contracted to connect up to 205 children and their families with subsidized care throughout the county.
“We surpassed the number in just a month and a half,” said Sumon Chin of the Chinese American Planning Council, which has received more than 330 applications and opened a waiting list, “and we’ve heard similar stories in other counties as well.”
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The organization contacted more than 2,300 child care programs to find open spots near where migrant families are staying, but only heard from 130 providers with space for more children, Chin said. The Sino-American Planning Council runs its own early childhood programs, but they too are overcrowded.
“Families need to know if their children will be able to stay in their child care program in July,” the joint letter reads.
Public school employees use another $4 million to communicate with immigrant families through ethnic media, nonprofit organizations, calls and text messages, and print ads. His loss could have a profound impact on the hundreds of thousands of students without a fluent English-speaking parent, including 61,000 without internet access, data collected by advocates shows.
And while the school system recently beefed up its staff at shelters, nearly a quarter of those who entered this year were hired with $3.3 million in one-time City funds. Unlike most school employees who help homeless students during the academic year, those workers continue through the summer, making sure students have access to school buses and registration processes.
Approximately 14,000 students living in temporary housing have enrolled this school year, many of them asylum seekers.
The City Council noted other educational resources and supports for migrants, including school registrations available at humanitarian emergency response centers and navigation centers in multiple languages. The administration has also sent hundreds of millions of dollars to schools this academic year, rather than recouping the funds mid-year for enrollment changes, officials said.
“We want to celebrate the success of these programs and partner to make them have the greatest possible impact,” the letter said. “Instead, we are concerned that they are on the chopping block with no funding commitment beyond June.”