Supportive Housing

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.

The Foundling’s Supportive Housing Program helps young people aging out of foster care or at risk of homelessness as they learn to care for themselves and build a network critical to their lifelong success. Our Supportive Housing Program operates in Brooklyn and provides personalized support to residents, including counseling and connections to education and employment. Although COVID-19 has changed the landscape, the program’s dedicated specialists and case planners continue to help young people locate resources that provide basic living necessities, educational opportunities, job prospects, and more.


On a regular day, Anthony Beamon Jr. helps young adults apply for jobs and locate educational programs that can prepare them for future success. He edits resumes, assists with budgeting their expenses, points them toward funding sources when necessary, and coaches them toward achieving their goals. “I still do those things, but now it’s all done electronically instead of face-to-face.”

Anthony is an Educational/Vocational Specialist for The New York Foundling’s Supportive Housing Program, which provides housing and social support to 18-26-year-olds who have aged out of foster care or who have experienced homelessness. The program does more than make sure these young people have somewhere to live: it fosters responsibility and paves a path towards independence by enhancing each person’s educational and employment opportunities.

Right now, the future feels especially uncertain for some of these young people. Those who were enrolled in classes or working non-essential jobs pre-COVID-19 feel the virus has been a tremendous impediment to the progress they’d made. “It took the wind right out of their sails,” Anthony said. “But instead of focusing on what’s not available right now, we’re looking at what opportunities this situation creates.”

“I’ve been connecting residents with essential work opportunities. Places like supermarkets, pharmacies, and clinics are all hiring,” Anthony said. “As for educational opportunities, it’s a matter of helping them find programs that have made the shift to online courses and have adapted well.”

Anthony reminds program participants that anxiety over COVID-19 is affecting the whole world and that none of this upheaval is their fault. This can be challenging for young people who have experienced so much upheaval in their lives already. Simultaneously the program works to connect residents with community partners and a coach to ensure they are matched with personalized services based on their individual needs. “If a participant informs us they are running low on benefits [like food assistance], toilet paper, or other resources, I, along with their assigned coach, help them locate resources like a nearby food pantry,” said Anthony. “Community-based services are still open.”

Keeping the program’s participants motivated, empowered, and uplifted during these tumultuous times is our team’s primary goal. Former in-person meetings held on a bi-weekly basis with residents are now conducted electronically and more frequently. “I regularly check-in and let them know that I am there whenever they need me,” Anthony said. “This virus requires us to take things a step further. To be readily available to the young people who need us.”


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.

CAPP

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 will share how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.

Over the course of 34 years, The New York Founding’s Child Abuse Prevention Program (CAPP) has taught nearly 600,000 children in New York City how to recognize, resist, and report abuse. CAPP partners with hundreds of New York City elementary schools each year to present its Child Safety Workshop, which uses life-size puppets in skits to educate children about their right to safety. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of city schools, CAPP has been unable to present their workshops. Students in our programs abruptly had to adjust to social distancing, online learning, and other disruptions to their daily routines. Knowing this, The Foundling’s programs sprang into action to help the young people we serve stay connected, feel safe, and know they are supported outside of the classroom walls.


The closure of schools across New York has caused considerable stress and anxiety in many communities. While families are concerned their children may disconnect socially or fall behind academically, there are several additional dangers presented by the switch to remote learning.

“We really rely on schools, as a community, to have eyes on kids,” Marion White, CAPP’s director, explained, “To see them on a daily basis and see that they’re present, that they don’t have any bruises.” Over the years, CAPP has helped schools serve this function – offering the opportunity for children to express concerns to a trusted adult and state-mandated reporter. At the same time, CAPP’s puppet-centered performance provides children with an age-appropriate way to understand abuse and maltreatment.

As schools continue to remain closed, educators and child welfare experts alike have expressed concern about the increased risk of sustained child abuse and maltreatment during this time. Families are increasingly socially isolated, some without access to food, stable income, even shelter. As stress rises, healthy parenting may encounter obstacles, and children won’t have easy access to support resources.

“One of the greatest fears with remote learning is that students in New York City will have fewer opportunities to speak up and ask a trusted adult for help,” Marion noted. “In the first three weeks since schools closed city-wide, the number of reports made to the New York State Central Register have decreased by nearly two-thirds,” indicating the decrease in contact between children and state-mandated reporters.

“You forget how much schools are a center point for the community. To not have that feels like a loss of control,” Trevor Raushi, CAPP’s program coordinator expressed. “CAPP is one of the only programs in the city that provides the opportunity for children to speak directly to an adult [about possible abuse]. We’re really trying to find a way to replicate that support model remotely.”

To do so, CAPP has developed a plan of action that includes providing educators with informational materials, offering virtual Positive Parenting Workshops, and reaching out directly to children through educational activities. The hope is that this approach will continue to inform children about their right to safety, while also addressing factors that may cause child abuse or maltreatment in the first place.

“We’re addressing the same mission as always: to protect children,” Marion said.

CAPP’s first step was to provide online safety tools for families and students as schools transitioned into remote learning. With school occurring remotely, children are accessing the internet more than ever, putting them at risk of coming into contact with online predators.

“The goal here is to lock some of the doors before they can get in,” Trevor explained.

With that in mind, the team created resources for parents and caregivers that detailed simple instructions to keep children safe online, whether on social media or gaming platforms. Additionally, CAPP provided suggestions for alternative educational platforms, along with resources to help families cope with anxiety and manage stress.

CAPP distributed the documents to partner schools at the end of March, and so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“This is amazing,” one guidance counselor wrote, “Thank you all for putting this together in such an easily usable way. We are drowning in tasks and tech. You all just made my day!”

“Thank you so much,” another replied, “We posted it to our School Story on ClassDojo so it reached about 650 school members including parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, staff, and [administration].”

Moving forward, CAPP plans to create short video skits using the same puppets featured in the Child Safety Workshop to deliver educational messages online. Employing similar language and themes as Child Safety Workshop, CAPP hopes these video skits will remind students that even though they may not see their school teacher or counselor in person, they should still look to them for help when they feel unsafe.

CAPP is also collaborating with Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Centers, Prevent Child Abuse New York, The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and the Department of Education to identify further ways to protect children in this critical time. With the situation evolving and changing quickly, the team is working hard to address urgent needs as they emerge.


You can access a full library of CAPP’s resources here. To learn more about how CAPP and The New York Foundling are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, visit our emergency response page. Stay tuned for more stories from the front lines as we continue to support our neighbors on paths to stability and strength.

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 will share how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.

The Foundling launched Haven Academy to respond to the unique educational needs of children involved in foster care or whose families are involved in the child welfare system. The school utilizes a specialized trauma-sensitive curriculum that is helping to close the achievement gap for child welfare-involved youth. Although COVID-19 means that scholars cannot attend Haven Academy in person, its dedicated teachers and staff continue to providing meaningful engagement and support for the school’s community of families.


Work for Lauren Katzenstein used to mean commuting from her home in Queens to Mott Haven in the Bronx. Now it means getting out of bed. “My room has become everything from where I sleep, to where I work.”

Lauren is a social worker at The Foundling’s Mott Haven Academy Charter School in the Bronx, a Pre-K through 8th grade charter school serving one of the country’s poorest congressional districts.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, Haven Academy faced a remarkable challenge: continuing to support their students’ education while dispersed in a community that lacked basic internet access, food security, and – in some cases – even shelter. “This all happened so fast there wasn’t time to prepare,” Lauren explains, “this is trauma for a lot of people.”

The obstacles didn’t stop Haven Academy from mobilizing, not only to keep their students on track academically, but also to support the local community.

When the crisis hit, Haven Academy opened their cafeteria to provide over 280 hot, chef-prepared takeout meals a day, prepared for and distributed to the community with utmost hygiene and sanitation. From there, the staff began working directly with families to ensure long-term food stability.

Lauren noted that beyond the staff, the families of Haven Academy have gone to incredible lengths to support one another: providing food and meals to one another, offering emotional support, and more. “The sense of community has been awesome.”

Meanwhile, partners helped secure hundreds of Google Chromebooks and mobile hotspots to distribute amongst their students, ensuring every child stays connected with the school community. Jardy Santana, one of Haven Academy’s teachers, made clear: “We want to make sure that we’re there academically and emotionally.”

To that end, the staff of Haven Academy have built daily schedules that engage the students with teachers, social workers, and each other as much as possible. Each student has a single point-of-contact they check-in with once a day, and staff make themselves available by phone, text, and video call as much as possible. “We want to maintain a sense of normalcy,” Lauren added.

Despite the changes, the students have so far been engaged – perhaps even more so than in the classroom, according to Jardy. “They seem really excited about having this novel experience… they really like having their work through technology.”

Jardy noted that students have actually participated more and have been more responsive to feedback. Looking forward through the end of the crisis, she thinks incorporating more technology into the classroom could help bolster learning. “As an educator, I’m seeing all new ways of using technology in the classroom that I hadn’t thought about.”

Some challenges still remain, and both Lauren and Jardy noted that some families are struggling. “We’ve had a few separate mental health crises so far,” Lauren confided, “but everyone is working together to figure it out.”

It hasn’t been easy for the staff, either. “It’s been really challenging each day,” Jardy expressed, “Each day I have this moment of panic and uncertainty, of feeling like ‘oh my goodness when does this end?’ But those moments have been more and more infrequent. We’re doing the best we can, and parents have been really responsive and supportive.”

Lauren echoed that it’s been difficult “balancing [her] feelings and holding space for the feelings for everyone.” But the balancing act is just another challenge to overcome: “Seeing the sense of community has kept me and others on the frontline motivated and ready to push through obstacles.”


To learn more about how Mott Haven Academy Charter School and The New York Foundling are 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.