|STATEMENT OF NEED
Every day in New York City 311 babies are born. Approximately 54 percent of these babies are born into poverty and join 624,813 other New York City children who live in poverty. On any given day in New York City over 8,500 children are homeless and living in shelters, and 147 children are reported as being abused or neglected (Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Inc., 2002).
In 2002, a family of three living on a household income of $14,269 is not poor, according to the national poverty levels established by the federal government. Therefore, this family is not entitled to federal financial assistance even though it takes two to five times their household income to meet bare-bones expenses in New York City (New York Times, 2002). Over 2 million New York Children under age 19 are at or below 200 percent of the poverty level (US Census Bureau, 2002).
New York State in general presents social risks for its children. The overall social health of the states is satisfactory, but New York fails its children by ranking poorly on reported incidences of child abuse and neglect and on high school completion. New York ranks either worst in the country on child poverty and last in the country on income inequality (Miringoff, Miringoff & Opdycke, 2001).
Over half of the elementary and middle school students in New York City are reading below grade level (Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Inc., 2002). Educational disadvantages magnify for immigrant children who are nearly one-third of the total student population in New York City schools. Many of these children face academic barriers because of their limited proficiency in the English language. They often live in families whose socio-economic status prevents educational –enhancing investments – home computers, cultural events, tutoring and travel (Rivera-Batiz, 1996).
The purpose of the Quaranta Chair is to increase and enhance opportunities for children who are deprived of the basic elements of healthy development and well-being. The core functions of this chair will be realized through, research, information dissemination and advocacy in child welfare.
The primary goal of the Quaranta Chair is to be a locus of change for a fragmented system of child and family services with the expectation that these changes will influence the development of healthy children, healthy families and healthy urban communities. Specific objectives of the Quaranta Chair are to generate research on child welfare policies and practices; to apply research in renovating social services systems; and to develop practices across systems that serve individuals, families and groups. Once fully funded, this chair will attract to the Graduate School of Social Service an expert whose scholarship will influence policy and impact social work practice. The Quaranta Professor will be a nationally recognized scholar dedicated to a high level of teaching, research and practice in the area of child welfare. Her/his efforts will focus on addressing the aforementioned challenges faced by the child welfare system.
This newly established chair is named in honor of Dr. Mary Ann Quaranta, a child and family advocate and consummate practitioner, who served as dean of the Graduate School of Social Service from 1975 to 200, having fulfilled faculty and administrative roles for the school 15 years prior to her appointment as dean. Dr. Quaranta’s efforts on behalf of vulnerable children exemplify the Jesuit tradition. Her special concern for the poor and oppressed and her work to change the conditions of those so affected clearly reflects the social justice teachings of St. Ignatius. Her vision was the development of these children’s personal potential. She is currently the provost of Mary Mount College of Fordham University. Her leadership in multiple local and national organizations has influenced many social work fields and settings, earning her wide acclaim.
Dr. Quaranta’s multi-faceted legacy propelled the Graduate School of Social Service to top national ranking. Her impact in both policy and practice initiatives is far reaching and includes acquisition of scholarships through New York City’s baseline budget to finance Administration for Children’s Services workers’ masters of social work educations. Dr. Quaranta led a collaborative community effort to found and fund West End Intergenerational Residence for the provision of educational, daycare, social and residential services to homeless mothers and children.
William Meezan, Ph.D., currently holds the Mary Ann Quaranta Chair for Social Justice for Children. Link to Dr. Meezan's Profile >>
New Quaranta Chair Seeks
Justice for Society's Most Vulnerable Children
William Meezan, Ph.D., grew up in the University Heights section of the Bronx. His parents were socialists during an era when the political movement experienced a negative Cold War tinge.
“I was brought up with an extraordinary sense of people’s responsibility for each other and what a just world could look like,” said Meezan, who will be installed as the Mary Ann Quaranta Chair for Social Justice for Children in April at the Graduate School of Social Service.
Today, Meezan is internationally recognized as a public policy expert on the welfare of families and children in the child welfare system and the mental health impacts of those it serves. But after 40 years of work in the field he said he is disillusioned about the state of American family in general and in the social welfare systems that are supposed to support them.
“I’m not convinced that things are going to get better,” said Meezan. “The values this country holds around families are noxious. We don’t support parents until they get into trouble.”
Meezan said the endowed chair appointment will enable him to spend the next 18 months working on two “think pieces” about the child welfare system. The first piece will deal with why the current system has lost its integrity, and the second will deal with how to get it back on track.
Meezan attended the University of Vermont as a pre-med physics major before shifting his focus toward social work. From there he went to Florida State University for his master’s degree.
When Meezan came back to New York, he worked at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children in Westchester. There, he encountered a young boy who had survived on the streets for nine months. During the boy’s case conference, Meezan argued that the boy should be released from the institution and placed in a foster home. The decision makers felt otherwise and Meezan nearly left the field in frustration.
A mentor tempered his anger by encouraging him to move on to Columbia University’s Ph.D. program to make a difference in policy. His dissertation, which dealt with child welfare worker decision making, directly addressed the frustration that arose from his Westchester experience.
Read the rest of the article in Inside Fordham. >>