Curran Recognizes Director of Foster Care Unit for Winning NY Social Worker of the Year
Maria Lauria recognized for innovative approach to reducing racial and class bias in foster care removals
MINEOLA – Nassau County Executive Laura Curran recognized Maria Lauria, Director of the Nassau County Department of Social Services (DSS) Foster Care program for being awarded Social Worker of the Year by the New York Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Lauria, who is from Farmingdale and has worked at DSS for 30 years, pioneered a practice now known as “Blind Removal Meetings.”
Under Blind Removal Meetings, when Child Protective Services (CPS) is contemplating removing a child from their home, CPS will delete all names, ethnicity, neighborhood, race and any other identifiable information from the documents. Instead, staff attending the blind removal meetings focus on what happened, relevant family history, and parents' ability to protect and care for the child. The goal of this approach was to create better outcomes for children and to decrease the overall number of children removed from homes by diminishing racial and class bias.
After seven years of implementation, minority children being removed from homes decreased from 57 percent to 21 percent. Counties from across New York have taken notice of Nassau County’s progress, and Maria has this year led several trainings for Social Services workers across the state to train them on the Blind Removal Meeting process.
Professor Jessica Pryce, director of the Florida Institute for Child Welfare at Florida State University, led a Ted Talk on Blind Removal Meetings last year, garnering over 1.2 million online views.
“Nassau County is leading the way on improving outcomes for all children involved in the child welfare system – and Maria is a big reason why,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “We will continue to pursue innovative solutions that make Nassau a better and fairer place for all our residents.”