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We’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new series of blogs by Foundling friend, Celia McGee. Celia will be writing biweekly family book reviews for us to share with all of you! The reviews will live on The Foundling Blog, here on our website. We know how valuable reading is for everyone and hope you all take advantage of these great recommendations.

 

Celia is a book reviewer and arts reporter who grew up loving to read. She wants to share her passion for books and reading with the Foundling family by blogging about new books for every age of child, teenager, parent, grandparent or foster parent. As a journalist, Celia writes for The New York Times, and has been the publishing columnist and a book reviewer for The New York Observer, a features writer and book reviewer for the Daily News, and a writer for New York magazine. She lives in New York with her husband, and misses her daughter, Honor, who is away at school.

Celia McGee

Celia and her daughter, Honor

Dana Guyet is the Vice President for Preventive Services at The Foundling. She’s been with us for two years. She has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Rutgers University and received a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan.

 

Click to view Dana’s video blog

Dana's Video Blog

 

I’ve always had an awareness of and concern for social justice issues. As a child I was raised to always look for ways to help others and to recognize and appreciate differences in people. My undergraduate studies in sociology reflect this interest and, more specifically, my interest in people in the context of their social environment. At 18, I participated in a mentor program that paired college students with special education children from the local elementary school. I was matched with an 8 year old boy and unlike many of my peers, I had a feeling that simply meeting him and helping with his homework once a week or taking him to lunch wasn’t enough. So, I dug deeper – I met his mother (who also had a keen interest, which I deeply respected, in who I was and the influence I would have on her son) and developed a relationship with his family. Over the years, we remained in contact and our families became friendly and helped each other out. I know this is perhaps an unusual route for a mentee/ mentor relationship to take, and it does not devalue the work that my peers or anyone else does, but it felt more real and substantial at the time. People often forget that giving, volunteering or charitable work in general is a two-way street. I gained so much inspiration, understanding, growth and knowledge from this boy that I was set up to “help” and I continue to lean on those experiences today. In fact, he contacted me again just recently, now as a grown man with a child of his own, just to check in on his “big sis.”

I believe that my relationship with him, my curiosity about how people function in their environment along with my desire to promote social justice, led me to the field of social work. After starting out in New York at the Salvation Army working as a case manager in the late 90s, I ventured to Detroit to get my Master’s in Social Work at the University of Michigan. Upon completing my MSW, I returned to New York, and spent some time working for ACS before joining The Foundling in April 2011. I’m currently the Vice President for Preventive Services here. Preventive Service programs exist to prevent child abuse and neglect before it happens, thereby keeping more children out of foster care placement. In many cases, we can prevent unintentional and intentional harm from coming to a child by providing support and much-needed services in a pro-active manner. Though we accept both referrals from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and self-referrals, the majority of our clients come to us on a strong recommendation, or mandate, by ACS that they receive services to mitigate the possible risk of harm to their children.

The model we use in our child welfare prevention programs is called Functional Family Therapy for Child Welfare (FFT- CW) and it is different from many of the traditionally used methods for several reasons. FFT-CW is an evidenced-based model that works relationally, meaning with the whole family, rather than just the individual child or parent, to empower them to address the issues that present a risk and to create a functional family structure. The model is “evidenced-based” as many of our programs at The Foundling are which means that it has been tested in clinical trials and has proven efficacy. We support families by providing direct intervention and/or linking them to community services, such as mental health care, recreational outlets and other support services, to address any issues they may be facing that increase the risk of abuse or neglect. We work with around 650 families each year in our prevention programs.

FFT-CW is not only proven to achieve positive outcomes for children and families, but it is cost effective because it is a short term intervention of 3-6 months, compared to the traditional service model that might involve working with a family for 1-4 years. Because of this, we can touch more families, and help them develop the skills necessary to move away from being dependent on “the system” – which is the ultimate goal. Keeping children safe in their own homes with their families through preventive services like those we offer at The Foundling has the best long-term outcomes for all involved and costs far less to society than a child who is removed from the home and enters foster care. Sadly, however, the child welfare system exists for a reason and sometimes removing a child from the home is necessary even with the best treatment possible. We apply services on a case-by-case basis and are constantly evaluating the home situations of our clients while they are in our care.

One story a therapist from our Queens program recently shared with me- about a family who had been referred to us by ACS for services- illustrates the model’s effectiveness well. The mother was struggling with serious depression and as a result, their home was in atrocious physical condition when the social worker arrived to meet the family. A very important component of the FFT-CW therapy is to create a bond by engaging the family at the very beginning, in order to gain the trust of your clients. In keeping with this model, our social worker was careful not to respond to the filth with disgust or fear. Eventually she was able to approach the subject with the mother. When she removed a photo from the wall and cockroaches came pouring out as a result of an infestation the therapist stood with the mother without demonstrating any reaction. Later on, the mother expressed that this meant so much to her in that moment and helped her to gain the confidence she needed to address the situation because she knew she had support. Upon returning to the home several weeks into the treatment, our therapist found that the condition had greatly improved and that the family had made this change on their own and by working together. The FFT-CW model aims to instigate sustainable change within the family structure, and help them to function effectively, but on their own terms.

Another of our highly successful evidenced-based programs is Healthy Families -Staten Island (HFSI). This is a fully voluntary, early intervention, child abuse and neglect primary prevention program for families with infants and toddlers in Staten Island that is funded by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services. Pregnant parents or parents with infants up to 3 months old are referred to the program through health care providers, pharmacies, hospitals and other community outlets. To participate in the program either parent or child must live in our catchment area and must meet enrollment criteria. . Fortunately the criteria are very inclusive so it is rare that a family isn’t eligible. When this does occur we will refer them to another appropriate provider. The Healthy Families program has been shown to be highly effective at reducing the rates of child abuse and neglect among participants as compared to the general population. In our HFSI program we work with about 100 families.

Across The Foundling’s Preventive Services programs, we’re striving to meet families where they are, without judgment and to help guide them toward changes that they can apply to all facets of their lives in a positive way. Most importantly, I’m proud that we help protect children and young people from serious abuse and neglect and support families to make positive and sustainable changes.

For more information about The Foundling’s preventive services or HFSI, you can call us at 212-633-9300 or check out our programs and services on our website.

Click here to listen to our young scholars play a short number and hear Tom discuss his experiences on camera!
Tom Photo

Thank you  to our guest blogger, Tom Winnick, for this timely piece for Volunteer Appreciation Week 2013. Tom is one of The Foundling’s most dedicated volunteers – he will be awarded our “Volunteer of the Year” award April 25 at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Cocktail Party.  When he’s not teaching music, Tom is studying to get his doctorate in  forensic psychology.

 

Music has always been an important part of my life. My father was a great lover of jazz music, and he introduced me to it at a young age. My music practice didn’t begin until I was in middle school though. At the time, I was struggling through art classes, and my teacher suggested I try my hand at music instead. Heeding her advice, I enrolled in the brass band to learn the baritone horn. Unlike art, music came naturally to me. I understood music theory and how to read the notes I progressed quickly and continued my study through high school in the jazz and marching bands – my father encouraging me all along. I may have been one of the only 17 year olds around going to Miles Davis concerts, but I loved it.

 

While music never became my career (I’m currently studying to get my doctoral degree in forensic psychology), it always remained a hobby and a great love of mine. About two years ago, I was presented with an opportunity to share this love with others when a colleague introduced me to The New York Foundling. I was looking for ways to get involved with the community and give back, and some Foundling staff members told me about a wonderful place called Haven Academy—a Foundling sponsored charter school in the South Bronx that serves kids in the child welfare (foster care) system. It was suggested that I could teach music to these youngsters at Haven Academy. The feeling was these children would benefit greatly and that a brass instruments class would fit nicely into Haven’s bustling after school activities while supplementing their existing music program. I was sold.

 

I began to collect the instruments necessary for the class immediately. I’ve long been a trumpet collector, so I knew where to start. I found instruments on ebay and received donations from friends and contacts in the music industry. Then, a friend in Seattle heard about the project and offered to refurbish all of the instruments at cost. With a full ensemble, brass band lessons kicked off at Haven in the fall of 2011. I’m now there three afternoons a week.

 

I encourage my students to study music on their own as well as take instruments home to practice. For me, volunteering with and getting to know these kids has been a tremendous experience. I grew up in a middle class household in LA, spent time in the Army, and moved to New York, but nothing prepared me for the perspective of a kid from the South Bronx today. Some of the issues they go through are bigger than anything I’ve ever had to deal with, much less as a kid. Many of them are struggling with things that I never thought could touch a child’s life.

 

Music is our bridge, and I use music as a means to communicate with my students. They’ve taught me so much that often I feel our roles are reversed. I remember one girl who was dealing with things at home and struggling with emotional and behavioral issues. Many days she would come to my class and just cry to me. I realized that I wasn’t just a music teacher; I was an adult that these kids could trust and talk to.

 

My hope is that, at least for some of the kids, music is something that they can have for the rest of their lives. Music can be a way to express emotions and to hopefully help these kids cope with some of the issues they have to deal with.

 

Last summer I had the idea to get one of my best students into a prestigious camp called the Gramercy Brass Band Camp. He was accepted and they granted him a half scholarship. Between me and the school, we covered the rest and got him there. It was a great opportunity for him. For a month leading up to the camp, this young man came to my house to practice and catch up to the children who would be there with him, many of whom had been studying music years longer than he had.  He ended up having a wonderful time and this year, we’re working to send him back, along with one other student who has progressed quickly.

 

I once had a conversation with the father of one of my students and he was very eager to have her continue her studies. He felt that her practice of music keeps her away from other activities that aren’t good for her or playing video games and watching TV. The students also learn music history and the evolution of music, which is something that I’ve always worked to teach my own kids, like my father taught me. One of my students affectionately calls jazz, “grandpa music.” And in a way he’s right, much of today’s music follows the groundwork laid out by early jazz musicians.

 

Volunteering at Haven Academy and The New York Foundling, for me, is about making sure the things I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had, can be passed on to our children, especially children that may not have these opportunities otherwise.

 

I don’t expect recognition for this, but I get back what I put in many times over.  I might be tired and burned out, but when I walk out of the school after class, it feels like a brand new day.

/get-involved/become-a-volunteer

Thanks to our very own Sister Carol Barnes for this contribution to the blog!
 

We at The Foundling rejoice at the election of Pope Francis, the new pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. We are particularly delighted that he comes from our hemisphere. He has a deep knowledge of the culture of Latino peoples who live not only in Latin America, but also in the United States and right here in New York. From what we already know about his leadership as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, we believe that what he did there and the way he did it are splendid examples of the service we currently offer at The Foundling.

 

The Sisters of Charity opened The Foundling in 1869 and welcomed abandoned babies and young children of all races, nationalities and religions. That tradition of non-discrimination continues through the decades and to this day. Our current programs serve children and families at risk of abuse and neglect, as well as those impacted by addiction, homelessness and domestic violence. We also care for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, as well as adults with developmental disabilities.

 

According to Rev. Thomas Rosico, an official spokesperson for the Vatican, “[The Cardinals] chose someone who has an extraordinary record for compassion to people not just within the Catholic Church…but those on the fringes, the poor, the destitute, the disenfranchised, those living in irregular relationships [sic], those who have suffered…” Truly the people the Archbishop cared for are replicated in the children, youth and families served by The Foundling today!

 

The compassion exhibited Pope Francis is core to all that we do at The Foundling. Together with the value of excellence these ideals are the essence of our programs and form the platform for a true ministry of the Catholic Church. We offer Pope Francis congratulations as he continues to advance his message of love and compassion.

 

 

Hello everyone,

 

I’m pleased to  share with you that we are now filming conversational discussions of selected blog posts. These will include posts from me, as well as “guest bloggers” – experts from The Foundling, professionals within our industry, volunteers and supporters.

 

We hope these video blogs will provide a useful and interesting new medium from which to gain knowledge, understanding and insights about the work we strive to do every day, and the issues facing the many children and families we serve.

 

We’ll be posting links to the video blogs here along with the written versions, but they can also be found directly on our youtube channel, www.youtube.com/user/NYFoundling.

 

Thank you for your support!

 

Bill Baccaglini