On Tuesday, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico leveling buildings, destroying roads and infrastructure, and causing a massive power outage across the island. Despite the conditions and wreckage, our dedicated and determined Head Start and Early Head Start staff won’t back down. They are visiting families, assessing damage and immediate needs, and doing everything they can to comfort and support not only the kids, but parents, family members and the entire community.
From 1854 to 1929, 250,000 abandoned or orphaned children in East Coast cities found themselves on journeys across the country. Shepherded by private organizations like the New York Foundling or the Children’s Aid Society, these orphans were resettled with families who promised to give them shelter, an education, and a place to grow up. It was an ambitious, unprecedented undertaking. It was the predecessor to our country’s modern foster care system. The experiment became known as The Orphan Train movement.
A desperate solution to a desperate problem, some of the stories turned out well and some far from well.
At The Foundling, we strive to provide the support and resources to help our neighbors to live their best lives – and during the holidays, this means providing those we serve with the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the festivities of the season!
Thanks to the generous support of our corporate partners, community supporters, and donors, we were able to host a number of parties and events to bring holiday cheer to the children, adults, and families in our programs.
Here are just a few of the ways that the Foundling community has been able to celebrate together this December:
Manhattan Lobby Decorating with Macy’s
Every year, volunteers from Macy’s decorate the lobby at our Manhattan location for the holidays! The trees, ornaments, and other holiday decorations bring festive cheer to our staff and the children, adults, and families in our programs all month.
Wreath Decorating at PJ Clarke’s
Our annual wreath decorating event, sponsored by PJ Clarke’s in Lincoln Square, provided holiday cheer. Children in our foster care program and their families, as well as scholars from Haven Academy, enjoyed a breakfast buffet, exciting presents, and fun decorating opportunities!
Crisis Nursery Celebration with Macy’s
Families who have been involved in our Crisis Nursery program throughout the year were invited for a night of family fun. This holiday party, sponsored by Macy’s, included a yummy dinner, temporary tattoos, a visit from Santa, music from holiday carolers, and presents!
Healthy Families Staten Island Holiday Party
Healthy Families Staten Island invited the families in their program to a grand celebration – festivities included delicious food, an appearance by Santa, face painting, and gifts for the kids!
Haven Academy Shopping Spree with the New York Jets
On Monday, a group of 30 scholars from Haven Academy received the experience of a lifetime – they were treated to a holiday shopping spree at Target by Brandon Copeland, linebacker of the New York Jets! The surprise event provided our kids with the opportunity to pick out great holiday gifts and enjoy dinner with Copeland and other Jets players.
Developmental Disabilities Holiday Party
At our Developmental Disabilities Holiday Party, our participants and their families enjoyed a visit from Santa, a tasty meal, and other festivities!
TD Bank Celebration
TD Bank, one of our corporate partners, recently provided gifts for our scholars at Haven Academy, and invited the school’s top spelling bee champions to a festive celebration at TD’s office. Scholars received presents and books, shared their hardest to spell and favorite words, and enjoyed sweet treats with the TD team!
Deaf Services Holiday Party
Our Deaf Services program hosted a celebration at our Manhattan headquarters, which included a visit from Santa, a catered meal, and holiday fun.
Santa Frank and the City Santas at Haven Academy
An annual holiday tradition, Santa Frank and the City Santas visited Haven Academy, with gifts for our Haven Academy scholars.
BTA MTA Gift Giveaway
Since the 1980s, the Bridge and Tunnel Association has organized a gift giveaway for our kids. This year’s event provided kindergarteners from Haven Academy with the opportunity to sing Christmas carols, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, and enjoy presents!
Happy holidays from all of us at The Foundling!
At The Foundling, we trust in the power and potential of people, and work to ensure that all of our neighbors have the tools to thrive.
That’s why we’re committed to evidence-based and research-backed programs that provide the support that allow our community members to weather tough times and work toward success. We believe that this approach is key to keeping our community whole and families intact and successful. These programs provide critical tools and support, and build a strong foundation for lifelong growth.
Nadia, who serves on our Board of Trustees, would agree.
When she became pregnant at 15, she knew she needed a supportive place to live, and guidance on how to care for her daughter. Through our residential Mother Child program, she found a safe home, parenting assistance, life skills training, and the encouragement to pursue her own aspirations.
Our caring staff provided Nadia with the support to be a great mother, as well as the motivation to pursue her education and career goals.
Now a Managing Director at a top professional services firm, Nadia is grateful that The Foundling provided her a helping hand when she needed it. Through her work on our Board, she enjoys giving back to The Foundling, and is proud to help support the next generation of parents, their children, and others in our programs.
This work helps people like Nancy, a mother of four who needed help after escaping an abusive marriage.
With the support of Foundling counselors and therapists in our Healthy Families program, she was able to work through her past trauma, adjust to life changes as a single parent, and provide the communication and stability needed for her four children to succeed. Now, she is an independent role model for her children, and her family is thriving.
“My experience with Healthy Families has been amazing,” Nancy says. “Family therapy helped me realize how to be a better parent. We are able to communicate better, manage time better. I’m able to keep up with my family because I got that help.”
The Foundling serves over 30,000 people each year, including many more like Nadia and Nancy – parents and families who are working to reach their full potential and transform their lives for the better. Throughout our 50+ programs, we provide this support to community members facing numerous obstacles – parents undergoing change, adults with developmental disabilities, youth in the child welfare system, and more. However, we can only do this important work with the help of supporters like you.
This holiday season, consider making a donation to make a difference in the lives of everyone the Foundling serves.
Interested in getting involved or learning more?
Guest Post by Steve Alschuler
When The Foundling launched its charter school, Haven Academy, more than a decade ago, it marked the beginning of an effort to understand the educational needs of children in foster care and to develop measurable, replicable strategies for meeting those needs. Simply put, ensuring the future well-being of these children must include providing them with an adequate education.
The Foundling’s education conference on November 19 – “Safeguarding Their Futures” – further placed the education of children in the child welfare system front and center. For a full day, experts from around the country convened to describe their own efforts and to share information about effective programs and research from New York and around the United States.
Made possible with support from the Conrad Hilton Foundation, this may have been the first conference of its kind, and we hope it’s not the last. Collaborating and brainstorming with other professionals, reviewing data and learning about effective programs, is essential if we are to raise education on the agenda throughout our child welfare system.
ACS Commissioner David Hansell kicked off the event and set the tone right from the outset. “Education,” he said, “is central to everything we do at ACS.”
We heard about several promising new programs from Jess Dannhauser, President and CEO or Graham Windham; Julie Farber, Deputy Commissioner of ACS; and our own Jessica Nauiokas, Head of School at Haven Academy. Janis Avery, CEO of Seattle-based nonprofit Treehouse, described her organization’s goal of raising graduation rates among children in foster care to match those of the general population.
Jennifer Pokempner, Senior Attorney for the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, described the current state of federal law. And we heard a fascinating presentation of research findings from a panel that included Mark Courtney of the University of Chicago, Vanessa Xiemenes Barrat of WestEd, Amy Dworsky of Chapin Hall, and Maryanne Schretzman of the NYC Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence.
Those of you who are familiar with The Foundling’s work in this area may already know how our educational programming has grown beyond Haven Academy, providing coaches to high school students and partnering with ACS and CUNY on The Dorm Project, supporting the education and life needs of youth from the foster care system as they attend college on CUNY campuses. These programs have proven extremely effective – putting many kids on a trajectory toward a successful life.
Still, these programs are small compared to the overall population. Most children in the child welfare system are attending public schools that, through no fault of their own, are ill-equipped to deal with their unique challenges. Only 9% of foster youth in middle school in New York City are proficient in math. Only 25% graduate from high school on time. Many change schools multiple times over the course of a school year as their addresses change.
Clearly, there is much to be done and many challenges ahead. All of us must keep this conversation going, continue supporting and conducting research, sharing information and collaborating with each other. This conference was an important milestone and we are proud to have been part of it.
Interested in learning more? View the full video of the conference below:
Read more about our Education Programs here.
Meet Sashoi – for 18 years, she has devoted her professional career to helping people with developmental disabilities live their best lives. With the support of The Foundling, she has continually worked to further pursue her calling – helping people grow and thrive on their own paths to strength and stability.
“The history and values are what have kept me at The Foundling. For 150 years, The Foundling has helped people be the best they can be, regardless of background or abilities. I’ve been proud to uphold these values in my career,” Sashoi says.
Sashoi joined The Foundling in 2001 as a Direct Support Professional, working with people living in a Foundling residence in the Bronx. There, she found incredible fulfillment in helping those in her care reach their full potential. That passion compelled her to complete a nursing degree while working at The Foundling. Today, Sashoi is Vice President of Nursing in our Developmental Disabilities Division.
Inspired every day by the people she serves, Sashoi is excited about the person-centered approach that the Developmental Disabilities Division has implemented in recent years. Through this framework, our caring staff works to help each program participant achieve their individual goals, develop independence, and thrive within their community.
This approach means that people like Nancy, a DD resident that completed our Employment program and now works for The Foundling , can achieve a degree of independence they never thought possible.
It means that twins Kenneth and Keith, who have severe developmental and physical disabilities, have the support to learn new life skills and transcend expectations.
At The Foundling, our mission and values drive the important work we do – and our impact is only made possible by the help of our devoted staff, the strength of the people we serve, and our committed supporters.
This holiday season, please consider making a donation to help continue this important work. With your support, we can help others like Nancy, Kenneth, and Keith reach their full potential.
Interested in getting involved or learning more?
Thanksgiving came early at a Bronx charter school on Tuesday for more than 500 students — some of whom are homeless or in transitional housing.
The feast at Mott Haven Academy Charter School was part of an annual event that provides a traditional meal with all the trimmings for some of the neediest children in the South Bronx.
Nine percent of foster youth who are in middle school in New York City are proficient in math compared to approximately 40% citywide. Only 25% of students in foster care graduate from high school on time compared to 45% citywide.
These were just a few of the numbers shared and discussed by education and foster care professionals from around the country at “Safeguarding Their Futures: Supporting the education of child-welfare involved children & youth,” a conference last week. They gathered at the New York Bar Association to share research and data gathering techniques and to brainstorm ways to collaborate across systems and agencies to make sure that youth in foster care get the education they need to succeed.
Just about every weekday, Nancy wakes up around dawn and travels from her home in The Bronx to The Foundling’s headquarters in Manhattan for a morning of work. As a Program Assistant, she ensures that her floor is organized and running smoothly, and her tasks – which include refilling the copier machine, stocking the kitchen, and organizing conference rooms and shared areas – help her coworkers work effectively and efficiently.
It’s Nancy’s first paying job, and she loves every moment of it.
As a participant in The Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities Division, Nancy has worked hard to achieve this level of independence. She’s lived in one of our supportive residences since 2004, and always felt like she could do more in her life. A few years ago, Nancy joined our Employment Services Program, where she had the opportunity to volunteer at numerous organizations and learn important work skills.
Since May, Nancy has worked for The Foundling, assisting staff in our Evidence-Based Community of Programs division. She enjoys having her own desk, supportive coworkers, and regular duties to complete, and particularly appreciates the independence and sense of purpose that employment provides.
Nancy’s supervisor, Maria Gomez, heralds her positive attitude and outlook, and remarks that her presence uplifts everyone on the floor. Nancy is committed to always looking toward the future, and finding joy in whatever awaits her. To that end, she plans to continue working for The Foundling, and hopes to someday move into her own apartment.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and we’re so proud that Nancy – as well as others in our programs at The Foundling – are supported in finding personal fulfillment, thriving in their communities, and living their best lives.
En la escuela Charter Mott Haven Academy de El Bronx, el 25 por ciento de los estudiantes no tienen un hogar. Es la primera escuela en toda la ciudad que está dedicada a jóvenes sin techo.
“Tenemos un equipo de trabajadores sociales que trabajan desde el principio, cuando los niños comienzan aquí en la escuela, para asegurar que tengan uniformes, que tengan comida, transportación, para que tengan las mismas experiencias que tienen otros niños que no vienen de la misma situación”, explico Sara Touma, directora de grados de 6to a 8vo de la Charter Mott Haven Academy.
Con esto, la escuela trata evitar los efectos negativos que sufren los niños al no tener un lugar donde vivir. Según las cifras más recientes del departamento de educación del Estado, uno de cada 10 estudiantes de la ciudad de Nueva York no tiene un hogar. Tienen que vivir en un albergue o temporalmente con un familiar.