Legislators Say Separate Agency to Make Child Welfare a Priority for New Jersey
TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan introduced legislation to create a new state Department of Children and Families to coordinate and refocus efforts to reform New Jersey’s child protection services.
The new department would be created by separating out the state’s Office of Children’s Services – which includes the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) -from the Department of Human Services and converting the agency into a stand-alone executive branch department.
After the measure’s introduction in both the Senate and Assembly, Vitale and Cryan released the following joint statement:
“Though we’ve seen some progress already in attempts to reform the State’s DYFS program, there is still more work to be done.
“DYFS today is light years ahead of where it was just a few years ago, when lax oversight, overworked caseworkers, and unclear regulations jeopardized the health and safety of the kids under our State’s care, and tragedy marred the positive mission of the agency.
“We’ve come far, and much of the credit for that goes to the advocates that have pushed for a greater standard from our child welfare safety net. But to progress to the next level, DYFS and other family-oriented programs need to stand as their own department within the executive branch of State government.
“By refocusing these programs as a stand-alone department in New Jersey, we are affirming our commitment to keeping kids safe and promoting families. This is about providing a singularly focused department for kids and families, giving them the attention and resources they need and deserve, and advancing the progress that’s already been made.
“At the same time, the Department of Human Services, will be better-equipped to efficiently handle the needs of the State’s disabled citizens, manage our Medicaid program, and provide greater focus and resources to one of the many other core programs that DHS handles on a daily basis.
“Protecting our kids strikes to the very heart of what government is all about, and is one of our most important obligations to our constituents. Elevating DYFS and family-focused programs to department-level, and giving them the tools, equipment and freedom to do the job shows that we are committed to the mission, and that the safety and welfare of kids is a top priority for the State of New Jersey.”