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New York State Office of Children and Family Services Announces Direct Cash Transfer Research Pilot Program to Support Families at Risk of Poverty- Related Neglect

Pilot Studies Impact of a Direct Cash Transfer on Preventing Involvement
with the Child Welfare System
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today announced the launch of a Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) Research Pilot program in partnership with the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the Center for Guaranteed Income Research (CGIR) at the University of Pennsylvania, the Redlich Horowitz Foundation and Youth Research Incorporated (YRI). The purpose of the DCT research pilot is to determine the impacts of a universal cash stipend on participating families’ future contact with the child welfare system since data show that many families are reported for poverty-related neglect. It is the first DCT pilot in the country with this focus. 
“We’re taking innovative, bold steps towards building New York’s child and family well-being system grounded in prevention and upstream interventions,” said OCFS Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave. “For far too long, the child welfare system focused on a caregiver’s perceived deficits, often punishing them for simply lacking adequate resources. This program does much more than provide a monthly stipend; it helps ensure financial stability. By lifting such a heavy burden, families will feel less strain and have new-found independence to meet their needs, two key factors that encourage a nurturing environment essential for a child’s well-being and overall family strength.”
Research shows even modest economic and concrete supports are associated with reduced child maltreatment and involvement with child welfare services. Motivated by this research and the growing number of direct cash transfer pilots across the country, New York State will enroll approximately 150 households across three New York counties – Monroe, Westchester, and Onondaga – which will receive $500 per month, unconditionally, for one year, totaling $6,000 per family. Financing for the pilot is a mix of federal, state and private funds.
The New York State Direct Cash Transfer Research Pilot is the first program in the nation to study the impact of a direct cash transfer on future interactions with the child welfare system. The pilot will also explore the impact on parental physical and mental health, child development and financial stability. The pilot’s target population are households eligible to receive a differential response to child protective services reports that have been accepted by the New York State Central Register for Abuse and Maltreatment. This response, called Family Assessment Response (FAR), is an option for engaging with families who have interacted with child protective services, but where this is no safety concern for the child and/or family.The chosen counties have a high number of FAR-eligible cases, allowing for a robust evaluation.
The CGIR will execute a randomized controlled trial, considered the gold standard in research, to determine if receiving a direct cash transfer had a positive impact on parental physical and mental health, child development and financial stability, and whether it prevented future interactions with child welfare services.
Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz, said, “Families living in poverty must daily make tough and often heart-wrenching choices with their very limited household income. As such, unforeseen expenses can push them into crisis. This pilot program will assess the impact that modest additional income will make for low-income families and the well-being of their children. As co-chair of the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council, I am eager to see the research findings from this pilot program and to obtain guidance that will inform policies aimed at keeping children safe and reducing families' financial stress.”
Allison Thompson, Executive Director of the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, said,“The Center for Guaranteed Income Research has been examining the impact of a direct cash transfer for several years. Outcomes from our Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) – one of the first modern unconditional cash programs – found the cash transfers improved financial stability and led to better mental and physical health. We look forward to expanding our research as we evaluate the impact of a direct cash transfer on preventing child welfare involvement.”
Sarah Chiles, Executive Director, Redlich Horwitz Foundation, said, “We believe keeping families together is paramount, but too often, poverty drives families into the child welfare system. Providing financial assistance is a powerful source of stability for families and could be a public cost savings, making this pilot a win-win.  The Redlich Horwitz Foundation is honored to be able to make a financial contribution to support this important research pilot.”
YRI Executive Director Cassie Pustilnik said, “Youth Research Incorporated is excited to have been chosen as the pilot administrator in this one-of-a-kind demonstration project. Our Strategy, Equity and Advancement Team will directly support families selected to receive the direct cash transfer and ensure they are able to successfully participate in the pilot. Our agency is dedicated to working closely with our colleagues at OCFS to implement special projects and workforce development training and enhance systems that support child and family well-being. This project is a perfect example of how our partnership supports those critical priorities.”