NEW YORK (Jun. 19)
Six Jewish-sponsored child care agencies in New York City are among 77 cited in a suit filed in federal court here against New York City which was charged with operating a program of child welfare services which allegedly discriminates against children on the basis of religion and race.
The six agencies are the Hebrew Children’s Home in the Bronx; Ohel Children’s Home Fund of Brooklyn; the Maimonides Residential Center of Far Rockaway in Queens; and the Jewish Board of Guardians, the Jewish Child Care Association and the Louise Wise Services, all of New York City and beneficiary agencies of the Federation of Jewish. Philanthropies. The suit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which provided the names of the six Jewish agencies, and the Legal Aid Society.
The suit charged that “unconstitutional discrimination” existed in the aid program and that the alleged victims were 10,000 Black children, most of them Protestants. The suit said they are among the 28,000 city children who for such reasons as parental neglect and juvenile delinquency must be cared for outside their homes.
The suit also claimed that the basis of the aid program is a network of “voluntary child care agencies” on which the city relies to care for the children and that about 85 percent of the 28,000 children are placed in residential centers operated by the 77 agencies.
SUIT CALLS FOR NEW PLAN
The suit charged that the overall plan was unconstitutional because “the city funds and relies upon voluntary agencies organized according to religion to fulfill its legal responsibility to provide services for children in need of care.”
The result, the suit charged, was that “children are separated by religion in violation of the First Amendment, by race in violation of the 14th Amendment, and are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”
The suit asked convening of a three-judge court to ban the statutes and practices for use and funding of the 77 agencies and to ban placement of children by race and religion and the placement of children in injurious and inappropriate institutions such as the New York State Training Schools. The suit also asked the court to order defendant city and state officials to submit a plan for child-care services prohibiting racial and religious discrimination in admission and discharge policies and practices.
Most of the agencies are organized on religious lines and give preference to the child whose religion matches that of the agency, in line with state law which requires the city to try to place children in agencies according to religion. The agencies have 20 days to file replies and no comment was accordingly forthcoming from the officials of the agencies.