ACS Doubles Number of ‘CARES’ Units in Two Years

ACS Doubles Number of ‘CARES’ Units in Two Years

By Forum Staff

On Tuesday, the City Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Jess Dannhauser announced that, in two years, the agency has more than doubled the number of CARES units from 31 to 64.

CARES, which is an alternative response framework, stands for ‘Collaborative Assessment, Response, Engagement & Support.’ The name, CARES, was suggested by a local father in 2020 who had previous experience with the alternative response.

CARES is an approach when there is no immediate or impending danger to children and where there are no allegations of serious abuse, ACS diverts the case to this non-investigative child protection response. Without launching a traditional investigation, the CARES program focuses on engaging families in supportive services that meet their needs and their ability to care for their children. Expansion of CARES is a core strategy for combating racial disparities in the child welfare system and reducing unnecessary child welfare investigations in New York City. ACS now directs 25% of incoming child protection cases to CARES.

“ACS is committed to addressing the racial disparities that exist in the child welfare system and reducing the number of families experiencing a child welfare investigation where unnecessary, and the expansion of CARES is a critical component of this work,” said Dannhauser. “I am pleased that we have not just expanded CARES but more than doubled the number of CARES units across New York City. Currently, 25 percent of incoming child protection cases are diverted to CARES, which means more support for families and a reduction in unnecessary child welfare investigations.”

Poverty, oppression and racial inequity are often factors that lead to reports to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). These families, of which the overwhelmingly majority are Black and Latinx, typically become known to the child welfare system not because their children are at imminent risk but because they need access to critical resources, like food, clothing and mental health counseling and more. To help reduce racial disproportionality among the families that come to the attention of the child welfare system, ACS has been working hard to remind New Yorkers that families can receive services and supports without the need to make a report to the SCR. For instance, New Yorkers can:

  • Contact the ACS prevention support line: 212-676-7667 (Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or to request support.
  • Visit to access free community-based programs.
  • Visit to access child care assistance.
  • Contact OCFS’s new HEARS family line (Help, Empower, Advocate, Reassure and Support): 1-888-55HEARS (Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

Over the past two years, the number of CARES units has increased from 4 units to 8 units currently in Bronx North; 4 units to 8 units in Bronx South; 6 units to 12 units in Brooklyn East; 6 units to 12 units in Brooklyn West; 6 units to 12 units in Queens’ 3 units to 8 units in Manhattan; and 2 units to 4 units on Staten Island.


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