In an op-ed for MedPage Today, The Foundling’s Joseph R. Saccoccio, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and Ruth Gerson, MD, Senior Vice President for Mental Health Services, share how summer camp is extremely beneficial to children and teenagers – and after strict COVID-19 restrictions, the structure, social interactions, and new experiences of camp are more important for young people than ever.
The Foundling operates 44 Head Start and Early Head Start Centers across Puerto Rico, reaching nearly 1,500 students and families each year. From hurricanes and earthquakes to the pandemic, their spirit, determination, and drive remain strong. Learn about the impact the program has had on Bianca – one of our parents – and how she went from benefiting from Foundling services to volunteering on the parent council of Head Start.
“Parents are the teachers in the long run,” noted Betzaida Gonzalez, Child Development and Education Manager, “and now more than ever, we are walking hand in hand with students, parents, grandparents, and extended families. We’re giving them not only the school supplies and household essentials they’ve needed throughout the pandemic, but also serving as a foundation of support.”
For many families, including Bianca’s (featured in the photo above), the ongoing phone calls, text messages, emails, and support from Head Start teachers and staff this year has represented yet another instance of how The Foundling has continually provided her and her family with the ability to stand tall in times of uncertainty.
Bianca, now a mother of three, came to The Foundling’s Early Head Start Center in San Juan when she learned she was pregnant with her first son, Kermitt. She received pre-natal guidance and encouragement throughout her entire pregnancy, and when her son was born, received support and resources she needed as a new mom.
She later returned to The Foundling’s Head Start Center with questions and concerns about Kermitt and meeting all of his developmental milestones. Working in partnership with Head Start specialists, Bianca learned that Kermitt had mild attention deficit challenges. Kermitt began to receive the services and help he needed to succeed in school. Now 10 years old, Kermitt is on the Honor Roll in school, and Bianca’s two younger daughters are currently receiving support and services through Head Start as well – and throughout the pandemic, they’ve enjoyed participating in video lessons and home-based projects.
Bianca’s children are thriving today—and she is too. In fact, Bianca has become an assistant teacher in her community and remains involved with The Foundling as the Secretary of the Head Start Parent Council.
Want to learn more? Read recent updates on our Head Start and Early Head Start programs:
The New York Botanical Garden is a long-time partner with The Foundling, providing inclusive opportunities to participants in our Employment Services program. As volunteers in the garden’s Edible Academy, Foundling participants learn best principles for organic gardening, general maintenance, propagation, and more – learning useful job skills to aid in their long-term career journey.
In celebration of Disability Pride Month, two Foundling participants – Sophia M. and Adeola O. – shared their reflections on their volunteer experience with New York Botanical Garden’s staff. “My experience was one of the best things I have done,” says Adeola.
MST Services’ latest blog post shares the evolution of their therapy and treatment model for young people and families in New York City, and highlights The New York Foundling’s role in implementing the new MST-Prevention model across four boroughs over the past year.
“I am so thankful to be able to collaborate with the therapists on my team and use the MST model in my caseworker role,” shared Laura Valencia, a Family Resources caseworker at The Foundling.
News 12 recently highlighted Foundling foster parents Jason Knight and Liron Prioleau. When looking to start a family, the couple were drawn to becoming foster parents. “It hit home because there are so many. We learned there are so many kids in foster care that just needed a safe space to be,” Prioleau recalls.
They initially “chose to work with The New York Foundling based on…their openness to LGBTQIA parents and their work with LGBTQIA youth,” said Knight. Their family now includes their two sons, who were adopted through The Foundling, and their biological sister, who they are currently fostering.
Haven graduates celebrate with the traditional toss of their caps
Last Thursday, students, families, teachers, and staff from Mott Haven Academy Charter School came together for an in-person graduation ceremony for its middle school graduates. Held on the outside grounds of the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx, students had the opportunity to celebrate together with their classmates and friends.
The ceremony featured an introduction from Head of School Jessica Nauiokas, remarks from Haven Middle Principal Sarah Touma, speeches from the class valedictorian and salutatorian, a Haven Kids Rock performance, and the distribution of awards and diplomas.
As Faith, one of the graduates, shared, “My time at Haven was overall a fun and amazing experience, and they did a good job teaching and educating us. I’m happy to be graduating, to move on…and start something new. I can pursue dreams that I really want to pursue.”
Watch the full graduation here:
Haley Wright has always had a lot of love to share – and when she began volunteering with The Foundling eight years ago, she found that her heart expanded more and more. In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, we’re highlighting her inspiring story.
While Haley had provided support to The Foundling and other social service organizations in the past, including foster care agencies, joining the Junior Board at The Foundling was a transformative experience. She delved into the work and served as Chair for three years. Through fundraising and event planning, Haley had the opportunity to meet participants across our programs and communities, and hear their stories firsthand. “There’s no distance, you get to love them up close,” she notes. And again and again, she was inspired by what she saw.
“The young people I saw at Camp Felix, the students performing in Haven Kids Rock, the way The Foundling helps children succeed and attain success – it made me want to give children in foster care a feeling of belonging and acceptance, and to show them that they have value in the world,” Haley says. Now, she is taking the next step in giving back: becoming a foster parent herself.
The decision to foster a child is not one to take lightly, but Haley is prepared. She’s been considering sharing her home for years, but is now ready to take action. “This January, I decided that this would be the year, and rented a 2-bedroom apartment so I could get started,” she shares. She recently participated in the orientation class, and hopes to be fully licensed by this fall.
“I’m excited to provide a stable space for children to feel safe and loved,” Haley says. “I want to make sure they can decorate their own space – pick out a comforter for the bed, put artwork on the walls. This will be their home, and a reflection of themselves. I want them to know they will be loved for who they are – they won’t have to conform to an ideal, they can be themselves and know that they will be safe.”
“I know that it won’t always be easy, there will be hard parts and so many sensitivities, but I’m ready for it,” says Haley. “It feels like an honor to be part of the process and part of their story. I have so much to learn, and am excited to partner with The Foundling on this next step in my journey.”
Malyk Leonard – one of our Road to Success tutors – spoke at a Fair Futures rally at City Hall on May 19, discussing the need to baseline funds for this important program.
“I help students go to college. I help students find jobs when no one else is willing to help them. I help students advocate for themselves. This is the reason why we need Fair Futures,” he says.
Watch the full video of his speech below:
On OPEN, BronxNet’s regular talk show, Dr. Ruth Gerson and Dr. Jessica Pesantez from our Mental Health Services and Child Welfare teams sat down with host Daren Jaime to discuss child abuse, creating a safe environment for children, keeping young people engaged, and building trust.
Watch the full interview below:
At The Foundling, we appreciate and value the team of nurses who care for children and people with developmental disabilities each and every day – but during this year’s National Nurses Week, we’re recognizing this essential segment of our workforce over the turbulent events of the past 15 months.
|Nurses have always been an integral part of The Foundling—from our early days, when we operated a pediatric hospital and nursing school – to now. And while our services have evolved, this legacy of care continues with our nurses today.|
The reach and scope of what nurses at The Foundling do is far-reaching. In our four medical clinics across New York City, nurses provide routine care for the young people in our foster care programs. In our residential program for adults with developmental disabilities, nurses make regular visits across the City and surrounding counties to direct and monitor the health and medication regiments of the adults living in our 104 residences. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the role and work of our nurses even more important – and they have gone to great lengths in helping our program participants move forward during this unprecedented health crisis.
For our healthcare professionals and frontline staff at The Foundling, the past 15 months have been a true test of dedication. COVID-19 presented many challenges to providing patients with high-quality and compassionate care, but our nurses’ strong Foundling values and commitment to our mission drove them to continue their vital work– even when this required them to take extreme precautions to balance their work and personal lives.
Kendra, a nurse practitioner in the Bronx, continued to treat children at Foundling medical clinics during the pandemic – all while carrying a baby of her own. “I found out I was pregnant a bit before the start of the pandemic,” she says. From exchanging shifts, providing car rides to work, and being available for emotional support, her team rallied around her, providing care and compassion to ensure that she and her growing family was safe.
At the same time, Jolene showed true strength and determination as a nurse supervisor in our group residences for people with developmental disabilities. In the early weeks and months of the COVID outbreak in New York City, PPE and other protective gear was difficult to obtain—yet Jolene worked on the frontlines each and every day, committed to keeping the people in our care safe. Jolene tirelessly supported the residents with their health needs, provided comfort to their loved ones, and showed strength when infections began to show up in the workplace. When the virus hit even closer to home, and Jolene and her son contracted the coronavirus, her caring staff continued to be in contact and helped her pull through the tough times. Now, as the city begins to reopen, Jolene sees light at the end of the tunnel – and is proud and grateful for the resilience of her nursing team and the relationships she’s built along the way.
As many across our community look to thank nurses this week, we celebrate our Foundling nurses—both past and present—for the commitment, compassion, and care they provide to those we serve.