In the News

New York Needs to Invest in Our Communities & Our People to Make Us All Safer

By: Brian Parchesky, President and CEO of Berkshire Farm Center

Last month, in her State of the State address, Governor Hochul proclaimed her support for New York’s
children and our systems to help ensure that are well cared for. Unfortunately, in her budget address
this week she did not prioritize helping children in the child welfare system.

While a lot of New York’s political rhetoric has been focused on fixing our criminal justice system and
making our communities more secure, no one seems willing to commit to investing in the people and
programs which can help make our children safer, provide them with a pathway to success and, as a
result, keep our communities safer.

Last year, Berkshire Farm Center served nearly 8,500 children in 55 New York counties. Of those 8,500
children, 100% of them came to us with a history of trauma exposure and/or family crisis. By providing
opportunities for growth and change with New York children and families, we are not only empowering
them to reach their full potential but also working to reduce crime and create safer communities.
However, unless Governor Hochul and the legislature invests in those providing those programs, we will
have one hand tied behind our backs as we work to implement proven programs to get our children
back on better paths.

Simply mentioning concern for children’s mental health is not enough. New York State needs to
prioritize providing care for those children and families in the child welfare system before it is too late.
We need support to increase staffing for those providing care in group homes, foster care and
residential treatment center. There is a wave of bad consequences which is about to come crashing
down on all of us. Program providers – like group homes — can’t pay staff enough to keep them working
in these jobs. The vast majority of those working these often emotionally difficult jobs do so because
they care about the children and families they are helping and understand that they are making a
difference. However, some staff feel pushed to their own economic breaking point and forgo positions
helping our kids for less rewarding but higher paying jobs. With less staff, we can serve fewer children
and families and, for our staff who stay in these positions, it is becoming increasingly likely that they get
burned out and also leave for other professions which means we can serve even fewer children.

Who suffers when we can’t help New York’s children and families? The answer is simple: all New
Yorkers. Across the state, counties have limited capacity to care for these youths who need care,
counseling, and comfort. County offices regularly call Berkshire Farm Center and are pleading with us to
help, and too often we are not able to because we simply don’t have the resources.
We know that these programs make a difference for children, families, and communities. Now, we need
to invest in them. For too long, we have ignored those who work with youth in crisis. These programs
have been underfunded for years but now between the pandemic and inflation we are even further

Governor Hochul and the New York State legislature can no longer push this problem off for another
year. In the current New York State budget, child welfare workers are slated to receive a paltry 2.5%
increase in their pay. In times of inflation well above 6%, this amounts to a pay decrease for staff who
perform a critical role in our state’s social fabric. We need to do better.

Our staff needs an 8.5% cost of living adjustment as a starting point to get back on-track. Don’t just look
at it as an investment in our people. Look at it as a commitment to New York’s families and communities
that we’re going to do what is necessary to provide support.
That will make a difference to all of us in the long run.

Brian Parchesky is the President & CEO of Berkshire Farm Center & Services for Youth, a non-profit
organization focused on healing and strengthening children in a family setting by providing programs
and services in 55 of New York’s 62 counties.