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!

Happy Holidays!

By LaTasha L. Fermin, LMHC, Vice President of Family Justice Programs

The juvenile justice system is a maze for many young people not only in our community but across the country. There are far too many ways in, and too few ways out. Leading them out – or preventing them from entering in the first place – is about giving them a fighting chance to end generational cycles, go to college, have a career, and build a future without a criminal record shadowing them. Advocating for the teenagers and young adults in our community has led to recent changes in New York State law, including bail reform, that bolster the work we’re doing at The New York Foundling: diverting more young people from incarceration into programs like ours that are creating real sustainable change for the rest of their lives.

Teenagers and young adults involved with the justice system – or those are at risk of becoming involved through negative influences – need evidence-based interventions, including therapy programs that are supported by research, to address underlying issues such as trauma, family conflict, substance abuse, and verbal/physical aggression. They need holistic treatment that addresses challenges and barriers that they face daily in their family dynamics, in their community, and with regard to education, racial inequality, and mental health needs. Incarceration doesn’t resolve these root causes that are getting young people into trouble in the first place, nor does it deter them from getting into trouble again.

The Foundling was the first to provide evidenced-based services to youth and families in the juvenile justice system in New York City beginning in 2007. The services we provide are home-based and treat the whole family, not just the teenagers and young adults involved with the justice system. By coming into the home, Foundling therapists trained in trauma can better identify potential triggers and risk factors. At the same time, we can make sure the entire family’s needs are met—this includes the ability to have stable housing, a stocked fridge, and warm clothes during the cold winter months. If a parent or sibling has a substance abuse issue, we are also trained to treat those family members.

Collecting data from our evidence-based interventions is essential to ensuring our practice replicates the most successful outcomes from research. Our team tracks outcomes and measures success on a weekly basis, informing our future work and promoting continued success. The Foundling’s Kids Experiencing Young Successes (KEYS) program, for example, has a successful case completion rate of 88%; we wouldn’t have such a high rate without proper tracking, which allows us to focus on what works.

One positive change we are looking forward to with KEYS relates to helping more members of our community. Currently, all referrals into our program come from New York City’s Family Assessment Planning office, a program within the Division of Youth and Family Justice at the Administration for Child Services (ACS). Next year, we plan to increase the number of referrals we receive from school guidance counselors by 20%. These professionals are often among the first to identify when a young person needs help and will allow us to begin serving families before their situation is significant enough to be referred to ACS.

Many of the teenagers and young adults we’ve worked with are now on productive paths to stability, strength, and independence. If we’re to see continued increasing success, we need to advocate for and support the policies that are giving teenagers and young adults a fighting chance to get the help they need.

Instead of being labeled as the “problem,” it important to provide these teenagers and young adults with a restorative solution that will allow them to turn their lives around and look ahead to a brighter future.

Education Conference

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.

Education Conference - David Hansell

David Hansell, ACS Commissioner

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.

Education Symposium - Maryanne Schretzman

Maryanne Schretzman, NYC Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence

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.

Guest Post by Sister Carol Barnes

Nun and Baby

150 years ago today, on October 11th, three Sisters of Charity moved into a brownstone on East 12th Street in Manhattan in order to provide a safe haven for infants who were being abandoned during those difficult days. Initially, the Sisters expected to have 2 or 3 months to prepare their home for this purpose but within 24 hours, a faint cry alerted them to the fact that a new born girl, Sarah H., had been had been placed on their doorstep.

The community grew quickly, not just with children (126 babies were placed with the Sisters by the end of 1869), but also with wet nurses who provided nourishment for the children.

Sr. Mary Irene Fitzgibbon

To meet the needs of the growing community, the Sisters acquired the 68th Street property which provided adequate space for the new programs which evolved: St. Anne’s Maternity Hospital, St. John’s Pediatric Hospital and St. Mary’s Maternity Residence for single pregnant women. In addition, two hospitals for tuberculosis patients, both children and adults, were opened in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. All of this was accomplished under the direction of Sr. Mary Irene Fitzgibbon, the Foundling’s first administrator, in the course of the first 25 years of its existence.

Boy with Stuffed AnimalToday, The Foundling continues to expand, and in the spirit of the early sisters, responds to emerging needs, developing new ways of having a positive impact on the lives of children, youth, adults, families and communities.

Throughout these 150 years, the Sisters of Charity have continued to guard The Foundling’s Mission; currently, the Sisters of Charity Ministry Network carries out this critical responsibility through the exercise of its reserved powers.

As a representative of the Sisters of Charity, I am privileged to work with our incredible staff as we strive to integrate Mission into every aspect of The Foundling.

Learn more about The Foundling’s history:

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Christina, a Graduate of The Foundling’s Road to Success Program.

My recent semester at Johnson & Wales University was a memorable one, and getting ready to transition from a college Sophomore to a Junior is difficult, emotional, and exciting—all at the same time.

This past semester I began to meet with my academic advisors and they helped me plan the classes I will take over the next two years at school. It’s hard to believe that I’ve now completed two years…I’m halfway done with school, and it’s gone by fast.

Sophomore year was trickier compared to my Freshman year, which is what I expected, so it didn’t come as a surprise. My Abnormal Psychology course was quite intense, and required study time to keep up with the fast pace and new concepts. I was thankful for my Criminal Courts and Deviance classes, however. I learned so much in these hands-on courses, and even got to visit a juvenile facility!  I’m glad I was able to stay motivated, no matter how difficult a class may have gotten, or how difficult a professor may have been.

One thing I can say for certain: I remained focused on my goals and knowing that I completed two years! This has kept me excited for the rest of my college path, and the remaining classes I need to take towards my major in Criminal Justice.

The Foundling has stayed by my side for these past two years, and throughout my adolescence, and I know they continue to support me as I continue to grow and learn. I can’t wait to look back when I’m older at what I was able to accomplish, despite the challenges I had growing up in foster care. Today I have a great relationship with my foster family, and I’m in close contact with members of my biological family too—which is really special and important to me.

This summer is going to be really busy, and the work doesn’t stop. I am interning with The Foundling for a second summer, this time with the Human Resources Team as a Project Assistant (last year I interned with the Business Operations Team).  I can’t wait to learn about the different areas of recruitment, benefits administration, and other HR practices. These are skills I can bring back to campus at Johnson & Wales to continue my success.


The Foundling’s Road to Success program is a tutoring program especially for high school students who are in foster care. Watch this video story to learn more about Road to Success and how our wrap-around education services empower students to succeed in high school and beyond.

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Christina, a Graduate of The Foundling’s Road to Success Program.


Freshman year was definitely the year where you brace yourself for the following three years of college. Now that I am in my sophomore year, I feel ready to finish off the remaining years and earn my degree. I keep myself motivated by remembering that the end is going to be very beneficial. Yes, there is a load of school work—I must admit—but when you are determined, nothing is ever too much. This is the year for internships and connections in the criminal justice field, and I can’t wait to get started.


I’m beyond grateful that I’m enrolled in college because I am learning so much about myself about the world. This year has brought many different options and different views on life. I came into college determined to go into the FBI , and now that I am in my sophomore year, I see that there are more fields that interest me other than the FBI (for example a real estate attorney).


The best part about college is that you get to explore and change your mind as many times as you want until you find something that really fits you best!


I’m happy that The New York Foundling is by my side through it all, being there for me, whether I wanted to go into the FBI or become a doctor. Having support while in college is very crucial because many kids may not be as motivated when they don’t have someone there pushing them, or even just being there for them emotionally. I’m excited to finish the rest of this year and to start my junior year with a smarter and stronger mindset…because there is always room for improvement!


The Foundling’s Road to Success program is a tutoring program especially for high school students who are in foster care. Watch this video story to learn more about Road to Success and how our wrap-around education services empower students to succeed in high school and beyond.


Related posts:


Collectively guest written by a team of Foundling therapists and staff training in Multisystemic Therapy treatment.

I was working as a therapist with the Hernandez* family for two months before I started to suspect that there was something else going on. The case originally came in because Manny, a 17-year-old living in the Bronx, was doing drugs, cutting class, violating curfew, and stealing. The family needed Multisystemic Therapy treatment to help navigate these issues and get Manny back on the right path. Little did I know I would soon be treating additional issues—issues beyond Manny’s control.

Manny lived with his mother, stepfather and three younger siblings. His stepfather, Samuel, was calm and kind for the first several weeks but as time went on, I started to notice a change in him around the same time that I noticed a change in Manny. Manny started to attend school more and was working towards getting all his assignments in on time so that he could graduate high school. He also started producing clean drug screens. However, while he was making positive changes in behavior, his stepfather was starting to unveil some very negative ones.

One night during an evening therapy session with Manny, Samuel, and mom, Samuel became very angry after hearing that Manny tested clean on another drug screen. Most families would be thrilled to know that their son was steering clear of drugs, but Samuel’s reaction was just the opposite. He became volatile towards the family and myself—accusing Manny of faking his positive drug screens, and me of lying about his progress. Enraged, he threw his drink at me and stormed out. Afterwards, Mrs. Hernandez was visibly shaking, and Manny became very sad and withdrawn. That night was the first moment I witnessed possible domestic violence in the home, and unfortunately, it was not the last.


Stepfather lashes out despite son’s progress

Following that night’s incident, Samuel refused to attend therapy sessions. While the sessions went on in one room of the Hernandez home, he would be in another—listening in and yelling out obscenities. Samuel constantly made negative comments about his stepson’s improvement, stating that it wasn’t real and that Manny was still on drugs and carrying weapons. Later, I found out it was Samuel who was planting the drugs and weapons in Manny’s belongings because he desperately wanted his stepson to be removed from the home. Manny was a threat to his stepfather’s control, especially as he started to get clean and take responsibility for his actions.

Everything came to a head when I arrived for another session and saw wounds on Mrs. Hernandez’s face. She also reported that Samuel threatened bodily harm to the kids. It was clear that the family was in imminent danger, so that night I escorted them out of the home to a shelter placement center. It took three days to get them placed, but I was there every step of the way, supporting them and making sure they were safe. I built their trust not only by being their advocate as they faced barriers within the system, but also because it was the first time someone believed them. Samuel was well-educated, spoke English very well, and was very articulate. He used these skills to maintain an unhealthy sense of control.


Therapist continues treatment in shelter

They say the motto of Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is ‘Whatever it Takes’, but it is more than a motto. It is the backbone of the treatment itself. For example, the Hernandez’s treatment did not stop when the family got to the shelter. Mom and I worked with the school to get Manny the work he needed during the transition time, and I conducted sessions in the domestic violence shelter. While they originally needed me in the home, they really needed me when they were out of it. Thanks to the nature of MST, I could do just that.

Ultimately, despite the many obstacles and disruption, Manny graduated on-time with his high school diploma while at the shelter and enrolled in a college training program. Mom started a job as a home health aide and enrolled in a GED program that also teaches English. In addition, Manny and his relationship with his mother dramatically improved. Before, Manny and his mom did not communicate much and they struggled with trusting each other—Manny had no trust in her because he saw what was going on at home and how she would choose Mr. Hernandez over him. But after Manny showed mom he could be clean, and after mom showed Manny she would stand up for him, warmth increased and so did communication.

The resilience of both mom and Manny was astounding. Their ability to put anger, fear and setbacks on the backburner and focus on the positives enabled them to move towards a better life. It was a very intense and volatile environment to work in as a therapist. However, because Multisystemic Therapy aims to address all aspects of a youth’s life that contribute to their negative behavior, I could intervene and ultimately help the family escape a dangerous situation. I feel beyond privileged to be such a positive impact. This experience was not only humbling for me as a human being, but was such a true testament to how very wonderful this treatment model is.


 *Names have been changed to protect confidentiality. This post is also available on the MST Services website.

Related posts:

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Madeline Rizzuti, RDN


Ask yourself: is it realistic to lose 60 pounds by May? Is running a marathon something I can achieve? Is “eat healthier” a measurable goal? Setting unrealistic New Year’s resolutions only leads to inevitably giving them up. All too often people shoot for the stars and set impossible expectations for themselves. Hey, we’re only human!


Now that the New Year has made an appearance, maybe it’s time to kick that resolution into high gear. They key is making SMART goals. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and with a Time frame.


An example of a SMART goal is something like:


“I will prepare meals on Sundays to have leftovers for lunch at work, instead of ordering fast food.”


“I will exercise more by joining a gym and doing 2 spin classes per week.”


“I will drink more water by replacing daily sodas with water flavored with Crystal Lite at least 5 days per week.”


These are measurable, specific, time framed and realistic goals.


Some simple and basic improvements to your diet can be:


  • DRINK MORE WATER! Cut out sodas, juices, and all other sweetened beverages that add tons of excess calories daily.
  • ADD VEGGIES! Vegetables are a vital source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and (SURPRISE!) are super low in calories. Vegetables at each meal are a must!
  • GO LEAN! Choose leaner protein sources like skinless chicken or turkey breast, egg whites, fish, non-fat dairy, nuts, tofu, and > 90% ground beef.
  • CONTROL YOUR SNACKING! Plan your daily snacks. Packing snacks in advance and rationing throughout the day can help you avoid coming home after a long day at work and ravenously scouring the kitchen for a fix!
  • PLAN! Use food tracker apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It to help organize your diet and keep track of your intake.


You haven’t set any nutrition goals for 2016 yet? Make small, attainable goals. Once you’ve successfully changed your habits, add more! Take one of these tips and run with it. Make it specific to your lifestyle, make it realistic, and give yourself a time frame for achieving that goal. Good Luck! 


Madeline Rizzuti is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Education Counselor working for the Developmental Disabilities Program of the New York Foundling. She is a New York native who loves to cook and travel the world tasting new flavors.


*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The New York Foundling, its funders, regulators, donors and/or employees.


The information contained within this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only.


With each New Year many of us make resolutions in which we aim to better ourselves and our community. Sometimes these goals of ‘running every day’ and ‘cooking healthier meals’ fade .This year, let’s get back to the basics and focus on something seemingly simple: being kind.


The Foundling’s grant manager, Ava Rosenblatt discusses how we all can do so in her blog piece:


“The Secret to Being a Kinder Person”


Everyone wants to think of themselves as a good person, but actually doing the right thing, or even knowing the right thing to do, is not easy. However, there is one simple thing you can do that, once you start doing it, will almost immediately make you a better person: It’s called trying. Like any other achievement, being a better person starts with simply putting in a little effort. Here are a few things to try:


Recognize kindness as a strength. One of the biggest obstacles to kindness is the idea that kindness somehow makes someone “weaker” or less successful – also known as the “nice guys finish last” myth. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being kind is typically associated with satisfaction and feelings of meaningfulness in one’s life, and can even be better for business. Kindness towards others is also far from being weak – standing up for people in need often requires great bravery and personal strength.


See things from the other person’s perspective. You don’t have to agree with everything a person says and does in order to understand them. Taking the time and emotional energy to put yourself in another person’s shoes will help you relate to them better, and ultimately stimulate empathy – making kindness toward that person second nature. This is a good exercise for when you find yourself getting angry or holding a grudge against someone.


Avoid self-defeating attitudes and generalizations. People make all kinds of excuses not to care about one another, and even incorporate it into their life philosophy with the “everyone is just out for themselves anyway” attitude. The truth is, some people are out for themselves, and some aren’t – ask yourself which you feel better about being. There are many more excuses people use for not being kind, but they all boil down to this – being kind is difficult, and sometimes people just want to get out of doing difficult things.


Learn from your mistakes and accept your imperfections. Sometimes, you might say the wrong thing and make a situation worse. Other times, you may simply not have the emotional energy to help someone in need. Rather than using an excuse, owning up to your mistakes will help you avoid them in the future, and recognizing and accepting your imperfections will make you more tolerant of imperfections in others – preventing you from seeing yourself as “above” the people you are helping.


For more helpful hints and inspiration on how to improve our world,

visit Ava’s blog goodnessgeek.com

The Foundling offers dynamic, progressive and evidence-based services and programs to 30,000 children and families each year. What makes our programs so unique and successful are our dedicated and committed employees and staff. Get to know the people inside our organization by reading our blog each week as we highlight a new person.  We’ll ask questions about their role at The Foundling, what their passions and hobbies are outside of the office, and recognize their achievements and accomplishments.



How does The Foundling’s Foster Care Program help the people?

The Road to Success program greatly improves the academic performances of many of the students that we work with. We have helped students move from failing to passing and have helped them with graduating high school and successfully applying to college.



What are your major responsibilities at The Foundling?

As a tutor for the Road to Success Program, I work with students ages 12 and up, helping with homework and test preparation, and providing academic advising. I work with 19 students per week, for sixty to ninety minutes per student. I really enjoy the strong relationships that I have developed with my students and their families. Furthermore, tutoring leads to some successes that are possible only with individualized attention; it allows me to focus on the fundamental academic needs of my students over a long period of time. The consistent meetings allow me to push my students.



What inspires you most about working at The Foundling?

I am constantly inspired by the dedication of my colleagues. Despite dealing with intense situations and difficult cases, they manage to stay positive and continue fighting for their students.



Tell us about a student that has been successful!

I tutor a student in The Bronx and for much of the first year that we worked together, he had significant problems with mathematics. He was failing and really struggling to grasp the material from his math class. After a year of intense focus on fundamentals, he had a breakthrough. Since then, he has aced summer school and is now successfully passing his math classes.



What has driven you to be where you are today?

I have worked with children for most of my life, as a music instructor, tutor, and camp counselor. I am interested in pursuing a career in education however; I wanted to explore options outside of traditional school classroom. The Foundling provided me an opportunity to pursue my education goals while also getting involved with high needs students in a one-on-one setting.



Who is your role model and what do you admire about them?

One person I admire is my older brother. I find his insatiable thirst for knowledge inspiring. He’s always accumulating knowledge from a wide range of sources and becoming engrossed with something new. Watching him tear into dozens of books at a time makes me want to learn more about everything.



If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have never been to Europe and I have always wanted to go visit Italy in particular. The food is supposed to be amazing and seeing actual Roman ruins would be like a dream.



Tell us about the latest book you’re reading, or recently read?

I recently completed “American Pastoral” by Phillip Roth. It’s a really pessimistic novel about a family that is torn apart by a daughter’s decision to commit a terrorist act. It deals with the collapse of the American Dream and is astoundingly well written.



What is your spirit animal and why?

I like to think I’m a dog of some sort, maybe a Labrador: friendly, happiest around people and always ready for some goofing around.



Want to learn about other Foundling staff? You can meet some of our other employees on TheMuse.com.