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Nassau's social service shuffle isn't the answer

Members of the Nassau CSEA at a meeting.

Members of the Nassau CSEA at a meeting. (June 28, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

It doesn't make sense for Nassau County to disrupt a program that for two decades has successfully kept children out of foster care. Although the county has announced plans to change its staffing by March, it does not have to. An arbitrator's decision that the county is blaming for the move doesn't demand this at all.

In 2012, the Civil Service Employees Association filed a grievance against the county about a program for juvenile offenders run by the nonprofit Family & Children's Association of Mineola. The CSEA alleged that the county didn't give the union enough time to respond to a request for bids to operate the program, as the union's contract with Nassau demands. An arbitrator agreed and, in a preliminary decision, told both parties to meet and try to resolve the issue. If that didn't happen, the matter would return to him.

What the county and the union agreed to was that this program, which serves an at-risk population of juvenile offenders, should not be disturbed. Instead, the county struck a deal to let the CSEA take over another program run by the Family & Children's Association that keeps kids out of foster care by helping improve the parenting and environment in the children's homes.

This is not a jobs program, it's a needed resource for high-risk clients that could get more expensive and less effective if the county brings it in house. In future negotiations, the county should eliminate the clause allowing CSEA to bid. The CSEA has the right to bid the program it grieved, but the county has the right to stay with proven operators. If Nassau has to play "Let's Make a Deal," it needs to look behind another door for the solution.