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New York State Office of Children and Family Services Announces Payments Have Begun for Innovative 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 held a celebratory launch in Westchester County for its innovative Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) Research Pilot program, which will track and gauge the impact of a universal cash stipend on 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, and participating families have begun receiving payments. 

“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. “Research shows that in many cases of perceived child neglect, it isn’t because caregivers are purposely ignoring their children’s needs. It’s simply because they don’t have the ability to meet these needs. New York State is leading the way again with our first-in-the-nation universal cash payment pilot that tracks whether concrete financial supports that create more independence for families will reduce future interactions with the child welfare system. This is revolutionary and very exciting, and we’re transforming how we provide human services.”


OCFS is collaborating on the pilot 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) and will hold a second launch event in Monroe County on Aug. 9. Participating families reside in Westchester, Monroe and Onondaga counties.


Research shows even modest economic and concrete supports can prevent families from interacting with child welfare services. Motivated by this research and the growing number of direct cash transfer pilots across the country, New York State enrolled 150 households across the three counties who will receive $500 per month via a debit card, 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 registered by the New York Statewide Central Register for Abuse and Maltreatment. This differential response program, 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.


Acting Commissioner Gustave-Miles said, “This direct cash transfer is grounded in the belief that economic and concrete supports build toward true equity – when each and every family will one day be positioned at the same starting line and where these families in need will finally have the proper supports and resources to enjoy the stability they so desperately desire and deserve.”


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.


New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, "All too often, we see the devastating effect of childhood poverty first manifest itself through reports of neglect. This pilot program is aimed at providing at-risk families with additional financial resources to meet their most basic needs and adequately provide for their children. We look forward to learning whether this type of program will help reduce the likelihood of children intersecting with the child welfare system.”


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.”