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New ICL Policy Paper: Barriers to Reunification

ICL is proud to release our new policy paper, Barriers to Reunification. The paper finds that parents in the single adult shelter system and their children in foster care who are eligible to reunify have no direct path to appropriate housing, delaying families’ reunification.

Parents like Amanda are in this painful situation. When she regained custody of her 7-year-old son eight months ago, Amanda thought their separation would finally be over. Yet she remains in a single adult shelter and her son remains in foster care because she has been unable to secure permanent housing for the two of them—the final step to reunification.

While the City has made great progress in reunification, obstacles for families like Amanda’s persist. Parents in single adult shelters must return to a family shelter to qualify for the correct-sized supportive housing. For those seeking apartments in the community with vouchers, there is no process for a parent in a single adult shelter to increase their voucher size. And the City does not have a mechanism for tracking the extent of this issue.

“I do not want my son to have to live in a shelter, so we have no practical way to reunite in a stable housing situation,” says Amanda. “I want to see changes so that parents like me can reconnect with our children as quickly as possible.”

We developed the paper—and its recommendations—based on three decades of experience operating New York City’s only supportive housing program dedicated to reunification. Our innovative Emerson-Davis program offers 24/7 support for adults with mental health challenges who have been or are at risk of being separated from their childrenWe know that supporting families to reunite and remain together in permanent housing goes a long way towards mitigating the trauma of separation.

The City and State should establish specific funding streams for impactful family supportive housing models like Emerson-Davis. There must be greater flexibility in the housing system to allow parents leaving single adult shelters to qualify for larger apartments, and better information-sharing between City agencies to identify parents in single adult shelters with children in foster care.

Reunifying these families can be complex because of their diverse treatment and developmental needs, but implementing our recommendations would help to shorten foster care placements and shelter stays. ICL is committed to advocating for change so that parents like Amanda can reconnect with their children in appropriate housing—and rebuild their lives together.


Institute for Community Living 

ICL helps New Yorkers of all backgrounds and ages living with serious mental illness, substance use disorder, and developmental disabilities achieve greater health and independence.

Your gift will immediately help those with the greatest need. Please take a moment to help people get better with us. To discuss your gift or learn more about your giving options, please email Development@iclinc.net or call 212-385-3030, x 10004.  

Call 844-ICL-HOPE (844-425-4673) to connect to resources.

Visit iclinc.org to learn more about ICL programs and services.


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