About Our 2021 Policy Agenda

The Families Together 2021 Policy Agenda is created by families of children and youth with social, emotional, behavioral and cross-systems challenges.

Our goal is to ensure that ALL children and youth have the support they need in order to succeed. We represent thousands of families from across the state whose children have been involved in many systems including mental health, substance abuse, special education, juvenile justice, and foster care. Our board and staff are made up primarily of family members and youth who have been involved in these systems.
Download our 2021 FTNYS Policy Priorities
Download the 2020 Youth Power Agenda

Address the Children’s Behavioral Health Crisis

GOAL: All children, youth and their families must have timely, affordable access to appropriate children’s behavioral health services within their community regardless of their insurance status

  • Restore the 5% across the board cuts behavioral health, child welfare, juvenile justice, education and developmental disabilities, place a moratorium on any new cuts, and preserve enhanced rates for CFTSS services.
  • Invest a significant portion of new federal funding, marijuana revenue, new tax revenue, and opioid settlement funding into behavioral health programs serving children and families:
    • COVID and Opioid Child Victim Care Coordination/Family Care Coordination Program. Expand Non-Medicaid care coordination funding so FPAs and YPAs can offer time-limited care coordination effort to respond to the unique needs of the family unit.
    • Emergency and Crisis Response designed for Youth & Families. Expand funding for mobile crisis teams so they can have a family peer and/or youth peer advocate.
    • Add to existing, effective community-based services and supports for additional family peer and youth peer services and training, flexible funds for child and family activities, youth and young adult clubhouses and safe spaces
    • Fund school-based supports that are not billable.
    • Prioritize investment in Evidence Based Practice Capacity such as Functional Family Therapy, Multidimensional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Family Therapy, and Common Sense Parenting and 4Rs & 2Ss
    • Establish a Revolving Start-up Grant Program for School Based Satellite Clinics to support the anticipated need for school-based service delivery expansion.
  • Reinvest state psychiatric bed closure savings into behavioral health community-based organizations.
  • Amend telehealth reforms to include all peers and ensure telehealth rate parity between audio, audio- video, and in-person.
  • Invest in school-based mental health to promote trauma-informed care, restorative practices, and wrap-around care:
    • Increase the number of school-based mental health clinics by 10% per year,
    • Triple the number of Community Schools, and
    • Double State Education Department investment in school-based behavioral supports.
    • These increases should promote trauma-informed care, restorative practices, and wrap-around care.
  • Provide a 3% COLA for the workforce and a 3% increase in contracts and rates for the human services sector for 5 years.
  • Expand Children and Family Treatment and Support Services (CFTSS) into Child Health Plus (CHP) (A303A/ S2539).
Put Families First in Child Welfare

Goal:  A “family first” system that recognizes the value of keeping families together when possible and ensures that, when necessary, children are placed with well-supported relatives or foster families.

  • Restore 5% cuts to prevention, foster care, kinship, and adoption funding streams.
  • Support access to timely and high quality parental legal representation statewide.
  • Pass a Miranda Bill of Rights for parents under CPS investigation.
  • Expand primary prevention and define eligibility for preventive services as broadly as possible.
  • Maintain the Family First Transition Fund to strengthen family-based foster care. 
  • Significantly reduce congregate care placements of children, especially those under 13 years of age.
  • Create a pilot project to reduce the number of children in residential care by transitioning youth from congregate care to families with essential supports. 
  • Merge KinGAP with the open-ended funding adoption subsidy. 
  • Restore and expand funding for local kinship caregiver programs.
  • Establish an Ombudsman for birth parents, foster parents, kin, and children in care.
  • Issue a moratorium on “aging out” of foster care, including expedited reentry to care, for at least until 180 days after the pandemic state of emergency has been lifted.
  • Pass the Child Poverty Reduction Act (S.2755/A.1160) so New York publicly commits to a plan to cut child poverty by half in ten years.
Achieve Youth Justice

Goal: A system restorative in nature that emphasizes  developmentally appropriate approaches to holding young people accountable:

  • Stop the criminalization of childhood by ending the arrest and prosecution of children under 12 (S4051)
  • Prohibit the Use of Chemical Agents by Police Against Minors (S4002).
  • Strengthen and expand protections for court-involved youth up to age 25, including retroactive sealing of records after 5 years (S282)
  • Reinvest funding from juvenile justice facility closures and expand Supervision/Treatment Services for Juvenile Program funding.
  • Establish state and regional councils and response units for mental health emergencies that do not rely on police by passing Daniel’s Law (A4697/S4814).
  • Pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act.
Promote Safe and Supportive Schools

Goal: End the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure that schools are safe and supportive environments for all students: Coordinating Systems.

  • Pass the Safe and Supportive Schools Act (A5197).
  • Expand alternative discipline, restorative practice training, and mental health programming in schools.
  • Support the School Mental Health Resource Training Center.
  • Develop multiple pathways to a high school diploma beyond high stakes testing.
Our Guiding Principles
  • Families and youth must be active participants in planning services for their family and in developing and monitoring policies and services within their communities and within the state. When families and youth are involved, services are more engaging, overall satisfaction increases, outcomes improve, and the need for expensive hospitalizations and residential placements are greatly reduced.
  • All children, youth and their families must have timely, affordable access to appropriate services within their community. Services must be cross-systems and ensure care is provided in the most integrated and appropriate setting possible. A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health estimates that 70% children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive the treatment they need.
  • Children and youth must receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. The education system must provide a safe and supportive environment for all students, promote emotional wellness and social learning, and embrace creative, collaborative problem-solving including community-based and restorative justice approaches to school discipline.
  • Families should never have to relinquish custody of their children in order to receive care and treatment for mental health and substance use challenges. Without funding for appropriate services, youth often end up in hospitals, residential treatment and in the juvenile justice system. Parents may voluntarily or may be forced to relinquish custody of their children to access these placements.
  • A trauma-informed perspective must be central to all policies impacting families and young people and should seek to prevent traumatization when possible, reduce re-traumatization, and preserve the dignity of the family and young person.
Youth Power Priorities

Youth Power regularly collects the input of young people through regional youth forums, focus groups, surveys and other input gathering events to gain insight into the issues of importance to young people with disabilities and/or involvement in systems such as: child welfare, addiction recovery, mental health, juvenile justice, and special education. The Priority Agenda represents the major issues YP supports and regularly works to address. Not all of the items on the agenda are legislative. A good majority of the work YP does to bring youth voice to government is through committees and regular meetings with government employees.

2021 Priority Agenda