By Megan Conn, Photo: St. Anne Institute, The Imprint, November 15, 2021
Across New York state, the footprint of group homes for children in foster care has steadily shrunk or disappeared altogether.
Back in 2013, the St. Anne Institute, a tidy three-story brick building in Albany, was home to as many as 88 teenage girls, but by last summer, the agency had cut its capacity to just 35. Last year, OLV Human Services closed two 8-bed group homes near Buffalo and downsized another. And Graham Windham — the agency that grew out of the orphanage founded by Alexander Hamilton’s widow Eliza — closed its 120-year-old residential campus just outside New York City, taking 70 beds offline.
Under the Family First Prevention Services Act, a law passed by Congress that took effect in New York in late September, federal funding for congregate care has been dramatically reduced. The law referred to commonly as “Family First” reflects the growing consensus that children thrive in family homes, not institutions, and that lengthy stays in residential programs without specific treatment goals can cause lasting harm.