In a press release, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. announced that beginning today, the non-profit organization The New York Foundling is supporting survivors of sex trafficking through its new child and youth sex trafficking intervention program, “the Phoenix Project.” The innovative program will serve approximately 50 to 70 young people ages 12 through 21 each year at locations across New York City.
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Staten Island Advance recently profiled the work of our Staten Island Community Partnership, which has worked to address acute community needs that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiatives over the past few months have included food distribution, laundry cards, funds for necessities, a school supply drive, and even fun events for families.
“I know we have had a meaningful impact through our outreach and initiatives by the positive responses from residents. They have expressed such heartfelt gratitude when we connect that it brings both a smile and a tear to our faces. Just the idea that we are helping to feed dozens of families each week is so rewarding and we are so pleased that we can continue the food pantry through the Spring,” says director Chris Dowling.
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The year ahead is filled with promise and hope—and a path forward as our community makes its way through and beyond the pandemic. As 2021 unfolds, we are pleased to share a new and innovative program that will support survivors of human trafficking, and we have a brand-new training center housed within The Foundling that will broaden our reach to youth, peer, and family advocates who work at community-based organizations across New York City.
For more than 150 years, The Foundling has been steadfast in its approach and commitment to providing programs and services focused on well-being, safety, stability, and helping people build supportive and healthy relationships. Our work has intersected with children and youth who been involved in human-trafficking, or found themselves susceptible to becoming involved in one. This is why we committed ourselves to partnering with victims and survivors: through therapeutic support and mentoring, our services allow survivors to increase their self-esteem and overcome the obstacles and hardship they previously experienced. The program has been named The Phoenix Project and staff at The Foundling will use several evidence-based therapy models to help survivors attain independence.
In addition to providing therapy and mentorship to survivors of human trafficking, The Foundling has created a training center, The Strong Families and Communities Training Center (The SFC Training Center), that provides specialized workshops and assistance to social service professionals and peer advocates working with youth and families across New York City. Since the start of the year, weekly trainings have been attended by 30-40 people.
Trainings are currently held in a virtual setting*—with more sessions scheduled each month. Topics covered include: strengthening communication skills, learning how to establish healthy and safe boundaries, helping youth and families obtain and secure services, navigating technology, and recognizing when there’s a crisis. The SFC Training Center looks to partner with community-based organizations and social service agencies in the months ahead—with hopes to train even more professionals who have built careers centered around service-delivery and supporting those who are experiencing hardship.
“With both of these new initiatives, we are intervening at the micro and mezzo levels. From expanding direct therapeutic services to an underrepresented population to enhancing family protective factors and providing skills for parents and youth to thrive, we’re helping everyone move forward,” said Shannon Ghramm-Smith, Senior Vice President of The Foundling’s Child Welfare and Behavioral Health Division.
* Trainings are currently being offered virtually and plans are in place to provide in-person trainings later in 2021 across all five boroughs of New York City.
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In Generosity’s recent article on employment for people with disabilities in Philadelphia, reporter Jaya Montague looks at New York City’s workforce development efforts as a potential model. The article contains insights from The Foundling’s Mia Guidel-Joshi, who shares how “the climate of workforce development for people with disabilities in New York City is very collaborative.”
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In a recent blog post, Youth Villages (which created the LifeSet program model) shares the story of Crystal – a young mother who has participated in our Mother/Child and LifeSet programs. With the support of Foundling staff, she has learned parenting skills to better support her children, moved into her own apartment, enrolled in college, and is now building toward a bright future.
As Hadiyyah Thomas, her LifeSet specialist, shares, “She is a young person who transformed in The Foundling’s programs; she matured.”
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Op-Ed: Forgotten Populations and COVID — Learning the right lessons
MedPage Today’s new op-ed focuses on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on two high-risk populations served by The Foundling – people with developmental disabilities and those in foster care. Written by two members of The Foundling’s leadership team – Dr. Joe Saccoccio, our Chief Medical Officer, and Sashoi Grant, our Vice President of Nursing – the article details the lessons learned in providing medical care to these communities, from the importance of educating on safety measures to maintaining a focus on mental health.
Read the op-ed below:
Op-Ed: Forgotten Populations and COVID — Learning the right lessons
At The New York Foundling — one of New York’s longest-serving non-profit organizations — we know all too well how COVID has upended countless lives across the city. The communities and populations we support, totaling 30,000 each year, have been hit particularly hard — from people with developmental disabilities to children and families in crisis.
We now know that COVID-19 is three times more likely to have fatal outcomes among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities than the general population. And the data tells us that most children in foster care have higher instances of medical and mental health diagnoses than children who are not in foster care — from asthma, to obesity, to long-term illnesses like diabetes — all putting them at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus without intervention. The communities in our care at The Foundling have faced immense challenges this year and are some of the most at-risk heading into the next few months.
While we may be entering a second wave and a dark winter, we do know what could be in store. We’ve been intentional about revisiting the most challenging moments of the first wave in New York, and reflecting on lessons learned. Medical care is a critical part of the history and legacy of The New York Foundling. And today, we continue to support hundreds of thousands of our neighbors — and during COVID, our work has not changed.
New York has learned some of the toughest lessons from the pandemic and stands to be more prepared as we head into a difficult holiday season. Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself addressed the current surge, saying, “We lived this nightmare. We learned from this nightmare. And we’re going to correct for the lessons we learned.”
With more than 37,000 COVID-related deaths in New York and over 200,000 new cases a day across the country, what have we learned, and how can we correct it?
Lesson #1: Continue to educate on and adapt to new safety measures. As the state proceeds with its plan to emphasize mask-wearing, enforce social distancing, and prevent overflow at hospitals, we must do our part to educate and support people with developmental disabilities, children in foster care, and children and families receiving preventative services.
And it’s not just why, but how we educate people that is so important heading into the winter. It’s important to find the right way to explain and demonstrate how severe the virus is, why social distancing is important. And with many people, especially those with developmental disabilities, unable to tolerate mask-wearing and other standard precautions, we must get creative to find new ways to keep ourselves and our clients safe. Staff at The Foundling have worked tirelessly throughout the year to find alternative safety measures for those who struggle to comply with the status quo, and will continue to do so.
Lesson #2: We need to prioritize mental health and emotional wellbeing, alongside physical health. In 2020, we learned that many of the people living in Foundling-run homes and residences for people with developmental disabilities faced difficulties understanding isolation. In instances of a positive case of COVID in a group home, there were times when the individual didn’t understand what was going on with their body, were unable to advocate for themselves, and when isolated, didn’t fully recognize why they couldn’t see their friends or loved ones. Supporting these individuals takes a tremendous investment from our staff in not just the physical, but also the emotional and mental wellbeing of our residents – in these difficult times, safety goes beyond physical health.
Lesson #3: We learned a valuable lesson on staying connected. Take, for example, families and children in the child welfare system, who we know are at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus without intervention.
Compounding to these factors are the strict “shelter in place” orders — which not only affect the children who have been placed into safe, stable, supportive, and loving homes, but also have a devastating effect on children receiving preventive services, and children who live in under-resourced communities and neighborhoods across New York City.
Children in foster care and in preventive services already have heightened rates of anxiety and depression, and the winter cold, combined with a lack of one on one connection, only serves to intensify those issues moving forward – both from a public health and mental health perspective.
This winter will look very different from years past. Yet while we reflect on how much things have changed this winter, this is also a time to examine what we’ve learned. Let’s work together to find new ways to support each other so that we can all stay safe and healthy into the New Year.
Joe Saccoccio, MD, MPH, FAAP, is senior vice president for medical services, and Sashoi Grant is vice president for nursing, developmental disabilities, at The New York Foundling.
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In a segment airing on local television channel BronxNet, OPEN Host Daren Jaime speaks with our CEO and President, Bill Baccaglini, to discuss how The Foundling has provided education, child welfare, and healthcare services to children and families in The Bronx throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch the full video below or learn more on BronxNet:
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By Peter Rizzo, Co-Chair of The New York Foundling Junior Board’s Corporate Engagement Committee
I love Christmas. I love the holidays and this season of giving. For three generations, it has been an extremely important part of my family’s tradition, starting with my grandfather, Thomas Kelly, and his lifelong connection to The New York Foundling. In the late 1930s when he was a young boy, my grandfather and his siblings were dropped off at The Foundling by their mother. She entrusted them into The Foundling’s foster care when she could no longer take care of them herself.
It is this personal connection that led me to join The Foundling’s Junior Board. I help plan The Foundling’s Blue Party each spring, and I have coached youth in the Mentored Internship Program. Simply put, even before I joined the Junior Board, The Foundling has always been a part of my life—especially during the holiday season.
My grandfather was placed in several different foster homes before finding his long-term childhood foster home, where he lived until he joined the U.S. Navy. From there, he went on to make a good life for himself and his family. My grandfather and grandmother married in 1952 and had four children. On Christmas Eve in 1960—as he laid out presents beneath his Christmas tree—he thought of all the children living in foster homes or in homes lacking stability and comfort who would not have any gifts to open the next morning.
After a conversation with my grandmother, he drove into Manhattan that Christmas Eve and delivered presents to The Foundling. My grandfather was a ‘foundling’ himself, and understood what it felt like growing up with certain unanswered questions, so he gave back to the organization that helped him find a home, a family, a bright future, and lifetime of holiday traditions and celebrations.
And each subsequent year, my grandparents continued to send gifts to The Foundling during the holiday season. This quickly became family tradition—donating gifts to The Foundling each December. We have done this every year for as long as I can remember.
What started as an intimate tradition amongst my immediate family has now grown to include friends, friends of friends, and their families, as well. In 2019, my family and I had more than 100 people over for a holiday party and each guest brought at least one gift to give to The Foundling.
It is amazing how much the tradition has come to mean to me, as well as so many other people in my life. Everyone looks forward to this party every year. It is their way of acknowledging how fortunate we all are. Unfortunately, it is the first time since 1960 that the party will be cancelled. However, my family and friends were still able to donate gifts through Amazon to ensure the children and families of The Foundling were not forgotten. I look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come!
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Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an issue for 1 in 10 Americans – and women of color are disproportionately impacted. A recent article from Essence reports on non-profit organizations and programs that are working to close this gap, including our Staten Island Community Partnership. “Amid Covid, [The Foundling’s] been providing food pantry meals to dozens of families,” reporter Donna M. Owens writes.
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|Make an impact – provide housing and support to young people like Gianni this holiday season.|
After aging out of foster care, Gianni found himself with no place to call home. Facing homelessness while balancing work and college was difficult – Gianni struggled to figure out where he would sleep and what he would eat each day. His challenges were compounded when the pandemic hit New York City in March. Gianni lost his job, and with no funds for a computer, was unable to keep up with remote classes.
The Foundling’s Supportive Housing program provided Gianni with the stability he needed to get back on track. The program, which is uniquely designed for those who find themselves in Gianni’s shoes, utilizes subsidized housing, skills coaching, and emotional support to help young adults work toward independence. Not only did the program provide Gianni with an apartment to call his own, but his case planner helped him apply for benefits and secure a laptop from his university. “The Foundling eased my concerns about surviving, so I could focus on thriving,” he says.
Now living in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights in a safe and friendly community, Gianni has the resources to excel in his college studies, and the ability to focus on his passion: music production. He credits music with saving him emotionally, and with The Foundling’s support, he has the space to grow creatively. “I try to learn as many instruments and skills as I can,” he says. “It’s all a process.”
“I would not be where I am now if it wasn’t for The Foundling,” Gianni says. “Now, I see myself going to a 4-year college, playing sports, doing music. I see life now.”
|DID YOU KNOW: This year’s CARES Act makes a new charitable deduction available to taxpayers that do not itemize their deductions. Taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions may be able to deduct up to $300 for cash contributions.*
*Please consult your accountant or financial advisor to learn more about the CARES Act and your eligibility.
Your support can help young adults like Gianni build a promising future. Join us in transforming the lives of our neighbors this holiday season.