NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Studies show that foster children fare better when they are placed with relatives, but in New York, many families say decades-old convictions are preventing them from becoming foster parents.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman met one Brooklyn family fighting to stay together.READ MORE: Explosion Rocks Home, Sparks Fire Overnight In Cypress Hills; 6 People Hurt
By the time Tyschim Haynes was 8 years old, he had already lived in 14 different foster and group homes.
“What was that time like for you??” Bauman asked.
“It was hard going house to house,” said Tyschim, who is now 11.
Then about three years ago, his aunt and uncle in Brooklyn were finally able to take him in through the foster system.
“It’s just better to be here with my family,” Tyschim said.
But within months of him moving in, the Administration for Children’s Services, ACS, alerted the family they had made a mistake. Tyschim’s uncle was convicted of robbery in 1992, which disqualifies him from fostering a child under New York state law.
“He was already comfortable with us, adjusted with us, you know, and y’all were just gonna take him,” Tyschim’s aunt Taniqua Gethers said.
Tyschim’s aunt and uncle had to choose — continue caring for their nephew without the financial aid and health services that come with fostering a child or put Tyschim back into the system.
“It was like, no matter what, we’re gonna take care of him,” Tyschim’s uncle Maurice Gethers said.READ MORE: NYPD: Officer Fires On Suspect Fleeing Traffic Stop In Brooklyn
And they still do as his legal guardians, but without assistance.
“We lose out on income. We lose out on Medicaid,” Taniqua Gethers said.
“We don’t have any, like, child care. We both have to work, so it’s like, we struggle,” Maurice Gethers said.
It’s a dilemma that’s all too common.
“New York has a very broad, extensive list of convictions that would automatically disqualify a family member as compared to other states nationwide,” said Kate Wood, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.
ACS told CBS2 it prioritizes placing kids with relatives because it “reduces trauma and improves reunification outcomes,” but when it comes to a caretaker’s criminal history, “ACS has no discretion” under state law.
“There really isn’t a safety concern involved because the child is, at times when they’re not removed, they’re remaining in the home of the relative but not being provided the same supports and services that they would be if they were in foster care,” Wood said.
The Legal Aid Society is now suing the city and state to give caseworkers more discretion in evaluating relatives.
“I just fear for kids that are gonna go through this again,” Taniqua Gethers said.MORE NEWS: CNN's Chris Cuomo Suspended Indefinitely Over Extent Of Help To His Brother During Scandal
Tyschim’s family has been able to scrape by, but they worry for the foster children whose relatives cannot.