The Foundling’s President and CEO, Bill Baccaglini, spoke at City and State’s Virtual Healthy New York Summit. The virtual conference, which focused on COVID-19’s impact on New York healthcare policies, brought together decisionmakers and experts from all sectors to identify challenges posed by the pandemic and propose solutions to improve health outcomes for New Yorkers.

Appearing on the event’s “Addressing Health and New York’s Most Vulnerable Populations” panel, Bill Baccaglini addressed the impacts of COVID-19 on the communities we serve. “We can’t go back to business as usual… we learned that tech can be our friend here if we use it wisely. This is not an either or, this is an integration. The mental health issues emanating from this pandemic in disinvested communities will be with us for years to come.” He also advocated for the continued use of tele-health, which has seen positive results in the past few months. “I think if we stick to the traditional clinic-based approach, we’re going to miss something big,” he stated.

Watch the full video below (the panel featuring Bill Baccaglini starts at 1:58:45):

Learn more about the Virtual Healthy New York Summit at City & State here.

DD Twins in Harlem

By Renee Pili, AVP, Developmental Disabilities Division

Direct Support Professionals Week is September 13-September 19. To meet some of our DSPs, make sure to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

The New York Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities programming has doubled in size in recent years. This growth makes me proud to work at The Foundling and shows just how powerful and committed our organization is to fulfilling needs across the community. Today, we provide Residential Housing, Community Habilitation, Day Habilitation, Employment Services, Nutritional Services, and Clinical Services to 1,000 men and women across New York City and surrounding counties.

We wouldn’t be able to do this work without our incredible team of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who help our program participants achieve the highest quality of life possible. Bringing love and compassion to their jobs every day, Foundling DSPs have brightened the lives of the people we serve during a year that has posed enormous challenges.

The essential and critical role our DSPs play in shaping the lives of the people we serve cannot be overstated. They do so much more than what’s in their job description. They connect with program participants on a personal level as they would with members of their own family. DSPs at The Foundling show up early and stay late. They will run to the pharmacy in the middle of the night – or drive hundreds of miles to help facilitate a family visit in another state.

In previous years, Foundling DSPs traveled with residents on vacations. One group flew to West Palm Beach, Florida for a week! Many of them had never flown on a plane before, been to the beach, experienced nightlife, or stayed in a resort. Another group of residents spent over a month and a half in a house on Lake George while their residential home was renovated, and their DSPs took two-week shifts to make it happen. The group got to enjoy the walkable lake town, watersports, mini golf, arcades, and steamboat rides. Our residents were able to have these wonderful experiences because of their DSPs’ willingness to be with them.

Most of our staff work full-time and meet with our program participants four to five days a week. Each person in our care has different needs and abilities, so our team is trained to provide a wide range of supports. Some people need 24-hour care—assistance eating, bathing, and dressing. Others may need help cooking a healthy meal, doing laundry, or maintaining friendships and relationships with others. For those seeking employment, DSPs will take them to job interviews and work with them on resume building, workplace etiquette, meeting deadlines, and travel training.

This year, when the pandemic hit, our team of DSPs educated all 1,000 program participants in mask wearing and social distancing—it has since become an ingrained part of their day-to-day routine. Many worked overtime to cover shifts when colleagues got sick—some working round the clock. A few DSPs even volunteered to transfer to a residence where residents and staff member tested positive for COVID-19, because they needed help. And staff did everything they could to keep morale up. One house manager slept at one of his rental apartments so he wouldn’t potentially infect his wife, son, and mother-in-law.

With all the time they spend together, with everything they’ve experienced this year, our Direct Support Professionals really have become like family to the men and women who call The Foundling home. For some, the DSPs are the only family and friends they have. Ironically, it’s when a person becomes less and less reliant on a DSP over time that we know we are achieving success.

Our DSPs have shown again and again that they will do whatever it takes to give the individuals in our care happy, healthy, well-rounded lives. Their generosity and their commitment know no bounds. And I am proud to call them my colleagues, now more than ever.

Invisible Children - Washington Examiner

Washington Examiner reports on how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to decreased reports of child maltreatment across the country, with insight from The New York Foundling:

“Bill Baccaglini, the president and CEO of the New York Foundling (the city’s oldest foster care agency), said he is “very concerned that once the clouds lift, that we will see a spike in reports.” He told me, “I have a bunch of friends in the domestic violence world. They are already seeing it now.” The Foundling also runs a school in the Bronx that serves children who have spent time in foster care and who are at risk in other ways. Baccaglini said the “stressors of the last four to five months will hit those kids’ families harder than your family or my family. And sometimes, the reaction is to strike out at the most vulnerable. Those tend to be kids.””

Read more at Washington Examiner.

National Kinship Month

The Bronx Daily reports on National Kinship Care Month, providing quotes from NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services and kinship care organizations and providers – including The New York Foundling.

“This “National Kinship Month,” The New York Foundling honors and celebrates the countless extended family members who, every day, share and join our mission of providing children with familiar, stable, and caring homes,” said Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO of The New York Foundling. “While all of us strive to keep families together, when temporary removal of a child is required, The Foundling believes that the long-term outcome for a family is much more positive if the care is provided by kin.  This work wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous commitment of kin caregivers across New York City, who support their family members and provide children with a safe and nurturing family setting as parents address the stressors that led to separation and disruption of the family unit.”

Read more at The Bronx Daily.

Personalized Learning

Fast Company profiled The Foundling’s Haven Academy in their article on personalized learning: “With remote learning likely to continue in some form at least through 2021, a greater degree of independence is being forced on students by structural necessity. Perhaps it’s time for schools to look anew at personalized learning, a model that in its best incarnations is not algorithm-led but student-led.

Haven Academy students have been relatively successful at learning during the pandemic—a reminder that any remote-learning strategy, particularly one that is personalized, requires that schools give educators the time and resources to invest in relationships with their students. At the academy, that happens through educator training, close coordination with social work staff, and family support services provided via nonprofit operating partner The New York Foundling.”

Read more at Fast Company

 

Medical Temperature Checks

For over 150 years, The New York Foundling has worked in partnership with our neighbors to ensure that everyone can meet their full potential when facing challenging situations. This hasn’t changed, and our staff continue to provide life-changing and meaningful support in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series shares how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.

In the final post for our blog series, “Our Work Continues”, we share how The Foundling’s medical clinics adapted their efforts and work to deliver essential health services to youth in foster care over the past five months. With clinics located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, The Foundling provides free medical services to all young people in Foundling foster care programs, as well as children in other agencies city-wide. Using a personalized, multi-faceted, and wide-reaching support model, The Foundling’s medical staff work as a team to improve the health and wellbeing of children each and every day.

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Across The Foundling’s four medical clinics, 38 medical staff care for nearly 700 children in foster care at any given time and track about 3,000 visits to the clinic each year. “We do the same kind of work a regular pediatrician’s office does,” says Kendra Morgan, a Nurse Practitioner, “but our clinics are designed specifically for helping children in foster care.”

Like pediatrician’s offices across the country, The Foundling’s clinics have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but with safety measures in place to protect both staff and our patients. “We schedule telehealth appointments when possible, but many still need to be seen in person—particularly infants and children due for vaccinations,” explains Bonni Krauss, a Registered Nurse.

“Many children across the country are falling behind on their vaccinations because of COVID-19,” elaborates Margaret Dewar, Assistant Vice President of Medical Services. “But not our kids. Not if we can help it.”

Every family member coming into the clinic is screened before they come through the door and given a face mask if they aren’t wearing one already. Additionally, staff coordinate transportation if needed, so families can travel to and from their appointments safely.

“Managing fears and educating families about COVID-19 has been a large part of the work we’ve been doing since March,” says Margaret. “We sent letters and made phone calls whenever we received new information about the virus.”

Staff who work across The Foundling’s medical clinics attend weekly webinars and receive updates on New York’s guidelines as they evolve.  They also make themselves available to families for consultations on nights and weekends.  “We have after hours staff covering the phones 24/7, and we also give families our work cell phone numbers, too. We want our families to know that we are there for them to answer COVID-19-related questions,” Bonni says.

Both Kendra and Bonni agree that the increased communication between staff and the families has brought them closer together and is resulting in more positive outcomes. One patient, who found out she was pregnant during this challenging time, wasn’t really engaged with her prenatal care at first. “But Bonni was persistent in scheduling all her appointments, coordinating all her rides, and talking her through her fears surrounding being a new mother during COVID-19,” Kendra continues. “In the end, the patient went from not being engaged to being very engaged in her pregnancy, because she had Bonni to plan with and confide in. She knew she wasn’t alone.”

The health services staff has relied heavily on each other over the past five months. “Everyone was willing to help each other out and cover shifts across clinics,” says Margaret. For example, “one of our psychiatrists is also a trained pediatrician. She offered to fill in should the need arise.”

“We had a few patients test positive for COVID-19, but thankfully a lot less than we expected,” Margaret continues. “It was tough. We had to grapple with test shortages, PPE shortages, and adhere to the State’s frequently changing guidelines. The great collaboration we needed to happen in a time of uncertainty did happen. I am very proud of our team.”

Jessica Nauiokas

New York Times reporter Eliza Shapiro profiles how Mott Haven Academy helped their students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Shapiro shares with readers how “Jessica Nauiokas, Mott Haven’s principal, spent the first few weeks of the lockdown figuring out how to get cash and food into the homes of the school’s most vulnerable children, so that they could eventually focus on their studies.”  The article includes a quote from a parent who shared, “there were a lot of times I wanted to give up because it was too much for me” and “had it not been for Mott Haven, ‘I probably wouldn’t have home-schooled. I probably would have skipped it.'” READ MORE 

For over 150 years, The New York Foundling has worked in partnership with our neighbors to ensure that everyone can meet their full potential when facing challenging situations. This hasn’t changed, and our staff continue to provide life-changing and meaningful support in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series shares how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.

Since 1982, The Foundling has been the only specialized provider of family support and prevention programs that serves the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing community in all five boroughs of New York City The Foundling’s Family Services for Deaf Children and Adults helps keep children out of foster care by strengthening the family system and increasing access to available community supports. All of our therapists and interventionists are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), and pre-COVID-19, they met with families in their homes and in their communities.

Since the onset of COVID-19, our team has been helping families overcome the hurdles that followed, ensuring that they stayed on their continued path to family stability.


The Foundling’s Family Services for Deaf Children and Adults is supported by 11 staff members, including therapists, interventionists, supervisors, and an interpreter. Since March, home visits shifted to videoconference – using platforms like videophone devices that simultaneously transmit and receive both audio and video signals over telephone lines, or online solutions like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These weekly sessions run for 45 minutes or up to an hour and a half, depending on each family’s needs.

“We’re used to meeting in person,” says Diana Abayeva, a program interventionist. “It was a hard transition at first, because some of our families didn’t have smartphones or cellular reception. But thankfully we were able to resolve these technology issues.”

“Our families are managing just like the rest of us,” adds Diana. “Homeschooling their children on top of their parental and work duties or finding childcare when daycare was closed—it’s a challenge. And they want to get this right.”

“Some have reported loneliness and frustration at home, particularly when family members they’re quarantined with don’t know sign language,” therapist Kenya Bryant says.

That’s why program staff are working with the families to improve their communications skills and encouraging family members to learn American Sign Language. “And it’s working,” Kenya continues. “It’s bringing families closer together.”

Families have used this time to pick up new hobbies, and they’re reporting a heightened focus on practicing self-care at home.

And practicing self-care is needed: the virus has posed unique challenges to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community. “One of the downsides to our families’ ability to communicate during the pandemic is that people are wearing masks,” Diana explains. “Many people who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing rely on reading lips, but this is not possible with the speaker is wearing a mask. This hinders their ability to be independent.”

As an alternative, some Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing prefer to communicate in writing using the Notes app on their smartphones.

Another challenge revolves around doctor’s appointments. One family needed mental health services for their child, but the provider only conducted telehealth sessions through an encrypted videoconference platform. While the child logged into that platform, their mother, who is Deaf, had to join separately via videophone. She had a hard time keeping track of who said what across the different platforms during the appointment. Not being able to know what the doctor said about her child’s health—or what her child was saying about their own health—was incredibly emotional and frustrating. “I talked to the provider and convinced them to switch to Zoom and hire an interpreter to join the sessions to the conversation for the mother,” says Diana. “That worked out so much better.”

Getting credible and reliable news resources can be another challenge. “We have been directing them to vloggers and reporters who use sign language when posting daily news,” Kenya says.

In response to COVID-19, families have received donations such as household items, electronic devices for communication and remote learning, clothing, and money to purchase food. “We are doing everything we can to help get them through a tough time,” says Diana.

To learn more about how The New York Foundling is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, visit our emergency response page. Stay tuned for more stories from the frontlines as we continue to support our neighbors on paths to stability and strength.

Read past posts in the ‘Our Work Continues’ blog series:

For over 150 years, The New York Foundling has worked in partnership with our neighbors to ensure that everyone can meet their full potential when facing challenging situations. This hasn’t changed, and our staff continue to provide life-changing and meaningful support in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series shares how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.

In Puerto Rico, The Foundling serves 1,500 children through Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Our Early Head Start program is home-based and serves expecting mothers, infants, and toddlers. The program promotes strong parent-child relationships and helps provide high-quality early learning experiences. Our Head Start program delivers high-quality early education and child development services to children ages 3-5 in San Juan, Cataño, Vega Alta, Coamo, and Toa Baja.

The families and Foundling staff in Puerto Rico have shown tremendous resilience and perseverance, despite the devastation caused by the 2017 hurricanes, a series of earthquakes at the start of 2020, and now, ongoing hardship as families try and stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In response to devastation caused by hurricanes in 2017 and earthquakes in 2020, The Foundling’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Puerto Rico were already accustomed to delivering services in new and creative ways when COVID-19 hit. “How school and teaching is conducted here changed after Hurricane Maria,” says Carmen Villafane, Senior Vice President of the two programs. “We’ve had some practice with online learning and using digital tools.” Throughout the pandemic, our teachers have become more and more creative with their teaching methods. They’re finding new online learning and practice programs for students. They’re posting instructional videos on how to do the day’s activities, and they are recording videos of themselves reading stories and sending them to the families.

Since schools in Puerto Rico have been closed since March due to the pandemic, teachers and staff have also been sending care packages to students and their families with materials including scissors, paper, pencils, markers, glue, crayons, and other craft materials. That way, when teachers assign activities and projects to do, the families are able to complete them. “Without these materials, the children would lose the crucial skills they need to progress to the next step in their education,” Carmen explains.  “So, we’re doing everything we can prepare them and ensure that nothing stands in their way of educational success.”

Activities are geared towards promoting children’s cognitive, social, and emotional growth for later success in school. The program delivers developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate learning experiences in language, literacy, mathematics, social and emotional functioning, science, physical skills, and creative arts.

Teachers host a weekly virtual class and support activities throughout the week. In addition to engaging children and parents, other members of the household are welcome to join as well. During this time together, everyone is able to participate in activities such as songs, stories, and crafts, as well as teacher-guided discussions about COVID-19 and general health and safety measures. “Off-screen, the parents have done a wonderful job working with their children on educational activities,” Carmen commented. For example, teachers will recommend an activity for parents to work on with their children at home, such as making homemade Play-Doh or “Plastilina,” and the parents will share their videos of family craft-time with the teachers.

Early Head Start, which provided home-based services to 36 families before COVID-19, is now held online. Vocational home visitors, who work with a child’s family to ensure their home environment supports their well-being and education, are trained to identify family needs in both online and in-person settings. They develop programming, handle assessments, and if a need arises that requires specialized care, they provide referrals to nurses, social workers, mental health professionals, or other community resources.

Throughout the year, and especially in times of crisis — be it a hurricane, an earthquake, or a global pandemic — the families served by our Head Start programs often struggle to have their basic needs met. “Food is too often in short supply,” Carmen notes, “It’s a common challenge our families face. But with the help of local charities and generous donations, we have been able to buy and supply grocery bags full of food to the families we serve.”

“I am so proud of my employees,” Carmen adds, “They have all gone the extra mile, which is what we need in this moment, and what we’ve needed in every moment since Hurricane Maria. Earthquakes still affect south Puerto Rico every day, and there’s no end in sight. And yet, despite the uncertainty, our staff wakes up every morning prepared and ready to serve. I couldn’t be more proud of them for their hard work and continued commitment. The Foundling’s presence here in Puerto Rico really makes all the difference.”

To learn more about how The New York Foundling is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, visit our emergency response page. Stay tuned for more stories from the frontlines as we continue to support our neighbors on paths to stability and strength.

Read past posts in the ‘Our Work Continues’ blog series: