Senate Passes Bill To Strengthen Home Visitation Programs

Martin J. Golden

June 23, 2008


The New York State Senate today passed legislation, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (R-C, Brooklyn) that would strengthen State support for home visitation programs that send trained child care experts into the homes of families at risk of abuse and neglect. The bill (S.7227) requires half of the savings achieved in certain areas in the budget of the Office of Children and Family to be reinvested in home visitation programs.

Senate action on the legislation comes on the heels of the tragic death of 3 year-old Kyle Smith, who was killed just a few blocks from the home where Nixzmary Brown was starved and tortured to death in Brooklyn 2006. According to law enforcement officials and news reports, Kyle was pronounced dead at a hospital in Brooklyn after being sodomized, doused with cold water, brutally beaten and forced to do push-ups and other exercises as a form of punishment.

"How many more defenseless little children will be brutalized, tortured or killed before State government takes decisive action?" said Senator Golden, Chairman of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices. "In addition to tougher penalties for those who would harm innocent and defenseless children, the Senate Majority is also fighting to strengthen and expand child abuse prevention programs to help stop these tragedies from occurring in the first place. I firmly believe that we can help to protect New York’s children from the horrors faced by little Kyle and Nixzmary, but we need the State Assembly to get on board with these initiatives before the close of this year’s session."

"Home visiting programs are designed to better prepare young and inexperienced parents, many of whom may be at risk of abusing their children, for the responsibilities they face," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. "We need to do everything we can to prevent children from potential harm. The tragic death of Kyle Smith could have been prevented -- this legislation will help prevent horrible tragedies like this in the future."

Research in the last decade has highlighted the effectiveness of home visitation programs in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The programs involve direct, face-to-face visits made by trained professionals to the homes of families that are considered to be at risk of abuse and neglect. To determine which families are considered to be "at risk" of maltreatment, New York State has a screening process that uses a number of variables including Medicaid births, infant mortality and teen pregnancy rates.

In March, the Senate passed "Nixzmary’s Law" (S.675-B), sponsored by Senator Mary Lou Rath (R-C-I, Amherst) to establish the class A-I felony of aggravated murder of a child and the class B felony of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

In New York State, more than 75,000 children each year are found to be abused or neglected, often by the people charged with caring for them.

The bill was sent to the Assembly.