Thanks to Dr. Mel Schneiderman for this contribution to our blog!


Dr. Schneiderman is the Senior Vice President for Mental Health at The Foundling. He attended City College of New York and has a doctorate in Clinical-School Psychology from Hofstra. Dr. Schneiderman has worked for the Foundling since 1977 and co-founded The Foundling’s Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection. Prior to his work here, he was a school psychologist and worked in private practice.  

Foster children are a vulnerable population.  Born into unstable and/or dangerous homes, they are often the victims of multiple forms of neglect and abuse – emotional, sexual and physical.
We estimate that up to 80% of the children served by The New York Foundling have significant mental health problems. From infancy through  age 21, when they ultimately age out of the foster care system, they suffer from a wide range of emotional and psychological problems including feelings of abandonment, separation anxiety, trauma/PTSD, depression, externalizing behavior problems, and in the most serious of instances, psychiatric problems that can require hospitalizations.
The consequences of these problems are far-reaching – foster children are generally two to four years below the normal grade level, and less than 25% of aging out foster care children attend two or four year colleges and most do not graduate from college. Homelessness, drug abuse and criminality are often problems they contend with as adults after they’ve aged out.
It’s unfathomable to imagine the pain, fright, sorrow and trauma that an innocent young child experiences at the hands of an abuser.  Overcoming this abuse seems insurmountable to most of us.
The Foundling provides comprehensive mental health services to all foster children in our care. Our therapists, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists have developed and implemented holistic, evidence-based treatment plans that help entire families and address the special needs of this fragile population.
There are five important components to our therapeutic work with children. The first is to build a “therapeutic alliance” with the child in a safe, non-threatening environment. Only then can a therapist begin to develop trust with our patients.  Creating this trust is crucial because most child abuse victims suffer at the hands of someone they know and trust.
Victims of trauma are generally not able to talk about their abuse without re-experiencing the overwhelming pain associated with it.  A key rule at this second stage of treatment is to avoid first-person discussion of what happened.  Our therapists often use books or third person narratives to help the child talk about abuse in general– helping them to learn to eventually tolerate it from a safe psychological distance.
The third and fourth steps in therapy involve helping children to develop coping skills that will allow them to discuss their abuse experience without re-traumatization. Abused children often believe that they are to blame or develop other maladaptive thoughts. They see themselves as “damaged goods” and may be filled with guilt and shame. Correcting this maladaptive thinking and working through the issues is the fourth component of an effective therapy plan.
The fact is, child abusers victimize vulnerable kids. So, in this last stage of therapy, we try to teach children self-protective skills. Saying, “No!” or “I will tell on you” helps to restore a sense of power and control to the child and is critical to the healing process.
Parallel to the work we do with children, our mental health team also works to stabilize the foster home and help repair the attachment bond with birth parents by providing parents with important coping and parenting skills.
When The Foundling’s beloved Dr. Vincent J. Fontana died, almost eight years ago, I got a call out of the blue from a woman who I had treated decades ago when she was a teen.  She read about Dr. Fontana’s passing and felt compelled to call.
She said, “Dr. Mel, I am now 35 years old and I want you to know that you saved my life…You were the only person who understood me and was nice to me.” Sometimes therapists do not how much they have helped children to overcome their trauma and begin to heal from their abusive experiences.
I have a firm belief in the healing process and statements like the one from this young lady confirm that despite their almost indescribable hurt, children are resilient and with help from competent and trained clinicians, they can recover and become well-functioning members of society.
Judith Herman, a noted expert in trauma wrote, “To study psychological trauma is to come face to face with both human vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human nature.” Parents who abuse and neglect their children are not evil, yet the consequences of their behavior results in human suffering. Mental health services at the Foundling utilizing evidence-based intervention models have made a difference in the lives of children and families and reflects our hope, faith and commitment to the recovery and healing of child victims of abuse and neglect.
This is what has helped me come back to work here at The Foundling, day after day, for 35 years.

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.



As we settle into 2013, The New York Foundling is focusing on our goals for the year to come with an agenda that will help expand the reach, quality and breadth of the care we provide to people and families in need.


First, we have applied for an Article 28 License which, if granted, would allow The Foundling to operate as a community medical center. This is very exciting news for us and the communities we serve.  In addition to providing medical, dental and vision services to the children directly in our care, we would be able to expand and provide services to foster children in the care of other agencies, those who are in our own preventative programs but not in the child welfare system and even to the general population of the community.  We hope to be licensed this year.


Great things lie ahead for our Mott Haven Academy Charter School in the Bronx, as well. Having completed our first five years, we have applied for, and hope to see Haven Academy’s initial charter renewed by NYC’s Department of Education this year. The nation’s first and only charter school that serves students who are in foster care and preventative care, it is located in the poorest Congressional District in the country.  We recognized when the school opened just over five years ago that we would face challenges.  This was uncharted territory.  No one had ever designed a school and curriculum devoted almost exclusively to those in the child welfare system.  We’ve had some successes and hit some bumps along the way. But we’ve also learned from our experiences and the future is bright.  The staff at Haven Academy is dedicated to ensuring that our scholars excel and succeed.


One of our important programmatic goals this year is to fully implement the City’s new foster care model, Child Success NYC. This model establishes clear guidelines and goals that will help foster care agencies reach desired outcomes for children in the system.  The Foundling is committed to reaching these important goals and through supportive aftercare we are reuniting families faster; limiting re-entry into the system; reducing staff caseloads, step-ups and lateral moves by children in the system; and accelerating adoption for children who have been in care for more than two years.


Last, but not least, The Foundling will continue to share our expertise with our sister agencies through the Implementation Support Center. Opened in August 2012, The ISC is a training center where members of The Foundling staff teach other child welfare and juvenile justice programs how to use Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) programs.  With New York City and ACS requiring that its contract agencies use evidence based practices, The Foundling’s expertise is in demand.  We’re proud to play this important role in the system and will work alongside our sister agencies to ensure that we are all meeting the needs of the families and children we serve.


We are excited to face the new year and the challenges and successes it will bring.  http://www.nyfounding.org


**Watch Bill discuss the points covered in this post on camera! Our brand new video blogs will be available here with their corresponding posts, or directly on our youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/NYFoundling **


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

As the new year began, a last minute deal in Washington meant that our nation’s immediate economic fears had been temporarily allayed. Congressional action prevented the country from going over the fiscal cliff. However, even after the House recently approved a three month extension to the debt ceiling – and Senate will likely follow suit – we are still plagued by fiscal uncertainty. How will the outcomes of these decisions affect The New York Foundling, the vulnerable New Yorkers we serve and the generous individuals who support us?


Given the recent devastation in New York from Hurricane Sandy and the inevitable drain this disaster will have on City and State budgets, what happens in Washington in the coming months will be increasingly important. As the nation’s fiscal woes continue there is a risk that The Foundling’s funding from City and State sources will be cut. This means fewer services for children and families in need. Growing tax and other burdens on small businesses could result in significant job loss and unemployment in the vulnerable communities we serve, indirectly increasing the demand for our services.


Also, our generous supporters will inevitably feel the pinch of additional taxes and rising costs.  While so many philanthropists give because they feel it is the right thing to do, if Washington eliminates the charitable tax deduction, the result could be devastating for The Foundling and other non-profit organizations.


The Foundling’s programs cannot be maintained solely on government funding. In order to properly care for the kids, teens, and families who have nowhere else to turn, we need to raise millions of dollars ourselves. The New York Foundling has made a solemn commitment to provide those we serve with the tools they need to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Without the help of government funding and public support, that promise becomes harder to keep.


We understand that your pockets are likely to be a little emptier these days.  But, consider the consequences:  If The Foundling’s coffers are emptied, the safety we provide to thousands of New Yorkers every year disappears.  What happens when we can no longer afford to provide medical services for the children in our care; when we have to turn infants away from our crisis nursery; or when young mothers have nowhere to turn to learn parenting skills?  For the thousands of kids and families we serve, there is no back-up plan – except, that is, for The Foundling.


The bottom line? Overall cuts to government spending, coupled with an unstable economy and uncertainty in Washington all mean that The Foundling has a bigger void to fill.



We need your votes! Just go to bioheatonline.com, then click to nominate The New York Foundling. The more nominations we get, the better chance we have to win this generous grant!


Bioheat is giving grants totaling $30,000 to charities like us who also help “warm” NYC with their programs and services. The Foundling is working to ensure that every child knows the warmth of a secure, loving family.


“Click for our cause” once each day from now through February 17 and pass this on to friends and family to do so also!


Each vote gets us closer to the $15,000. Thanks for helping us spread the warmth!



December is always an exciting time at The Foundling. Our kids and families get to experience the magic of the holidays and build memories that will last a lifetime. This holiday season, our supporters, staff and volunteers have, once again, helped us create events that are especially meaningful to our children, some of whom may be experiencing the joy of the season for the very first time in loving, stable homes.


P.J. Clarke’s, the legendary and historic restaurant/bar in the City, generously hosted a wreath decorating party complete with a breakfast and lunch buffet for thirty kids in our Mott Haven Leadership program. The children and their families transformed the wreaths, donated by Ariston Flowers, into colorful pieces of art. The wreaths are on display in the Sidecar at P.J. Clarke’s midtown location where visitors are enjoying them throughout the holiday season.


Every year, volunteers from Macy’s decorate the lobby of our headquarters at 590 Avenue of the Americas and this year the décor is as grand as ever. Trees, wreaths and garlands adorn the walls bringing the holiday spirit into our Foundling home. The Macy’s team installed a mailbox for letters to Santa so that our kids have a direct line of communication with the big man from the North Pole. And the generosity doesn’t stop there. Macy’s also held a holiday party for our Crisis Nursery families. The party included a full dinner buffet, face painting and carolers.


Our friends at Ballet Ambassadors, Inc., a non-profit organization that gives under-served children and teens a one-of-a-kind opportunity to perform in the great ballets alongside professional dancers, hosted the annual Nutcracker Ballet event at our Haven Academy Charter School in the South Bronx. Professional dancers taught our students dance routines from the world-renown holiday ballet. After an entire morning of rehearsing, our kids performed the ballet in costume in front of an audience filled with school staff, families and peers. The event also garnered widespread media coverage with stories published in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and The Epoch Times.


The Foundling’s Mother Child Program is one of our most important programs because it equips young mothers with the tools they need to become responsible parents. Many of these young women never learned what teenagers typically learn during their formative years and have never had the opportunity to experience the joyfulness of the holidays. This year, The Foundling’s Junior Board members have donated gift cards from stores like The Gap and Old Navy to all 28 mothers involved in the program. This contribution will give our young mothers the valuable sense that they were personally considered in someone’s holiday giving.


All of these contributions are important to our children and families not only for the momentary joy they bring, but because they help create normalcy in their lives during this festive time of year and foster hope for the future. Without these events, many of these kids would never have the opportunity to decorate a wreath, dance like a snowflake, listen to a live Christmas carol or even receive a holiday gift. The generosity of our Foundling community provides our children and families precious bonding time that strengthens their relationships – which is of course a primary goal behind everything we do.


Thank you all for your ongoing support, it truly makes this season a happier one for children and families all over New York.


Happy Holidays! christmas-gifts-at-haven-2012-068



As we all know, Superstorm Sandy cut a wide path of destruction across the five boroughs and beyond. Local charities, including The Foundling, were deeply affected along with individuals and businesses. As I wrote in my last blog, many of our foster families were displaced or without power and bare necessities for more than a week; generators in some of our buildings were destroyed and still need to be repaired or replaced, and our Mother/Child program had to be temporarily moved to another location.


Even as we are recovering from this natural catastrophe, in the months to come the Foundling faces a potential catastrophe of another sort: a significant financial crisis – one that will have an even greater impact on us than Sandy.


This historic storm destroyed roads, homes, businesses, public transportation, schools and even entire communities. The cost to government in unemployment and lost tax revenue will be astronomical – possibly in the billions of dollars. Even with the federal government stepping up to the plate, the impact on our state and city governments will be significant.


The unfortunate reality is that at a time of fiscal crisis, human and social service agencies, like The Foundling, are the first to feel the budget ax. Though The Foundling’s costs are rising and the demand for our services continues to increase, our government funding – the bulk of our budget – will undoubtedly be cut next year. Where does that leave us?


Tomorrow, three more parents will bring their babies to The Foundling’s crisis nursery for temporary respite care. The scholars in our South Bronx charter school will still need food, medical care and social services. Low-income pregnant teenagers and young mothers, who live at our Mother/Child residences, will still need our program to help them become responsible parents. Dozens of juvenile offenders will be released from detention centers and into their own communities under our supervision. We are a part of the community and The Foundling’s services will be needed tomorrow and the day after that, regardless of budget restraints.


The Foundling, like many of our sister agencies, relies heavily on charitable donations from individuals, especially during the holiday season. Almost 80% of the private donations we receive each year are made between Thanksgiving and the New Year. And since the storm hit, many generous New Yorkers have directed their allotted charitable giving to well-known, respectable disaster recovery organizations to help victims rebuild their lives. While this is an understandable and a most laudable action, it can leave organizations like The Foundling short on the vital year end donations we rely on.


As we face a budget crisis in the coming year, The Foundling will be forced to increasingly rely on private philanthropy to provide quality care to our clients, tomorrow and beyond. We hope that those who have not been financially compromised by the storm will support us during this trying time. With the generosity of our friends, we will continue to empower thousands of the neediest among us to live the lives they’ve always dreamed of, and truly deserve.


We send good thoughts to all those impacted by the storm and best wishes for a speedy recovery.



As I discussed in my recent blog post, The Foundling has implemented the first-of-its-kind juvenile justice initiative, Blue Sky. This is an alternative to incarceration programs wherein trained and licensed therapists work with juveniles and their families using methods that, through extensive trials and testing, have proven effective. So far, the initiative has seen tremendous results with low re-arrest rates and major cost savings.Now it’s time to take this initiative one step further.


How do we do this? The Foundling is a strong proponent of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) programs, like Blue Sky, and is taking a lead role in helping other child welfare and juvenile justice programs implement these successful initiatives. We have created a training center where experts from The Foundling teach administrators and clinicians from our sister agencies not only how to implement these programs, but how to sustain them and make them work over time.


The Foundling’s new Implementation Support Center(ISC) opened on August 1, 2012 at The New York Foundling Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection – our agency’s advocacy, public policy, research, program evaluation, professional/ and community education and development arm.. Currently, staff members from seven child welfare organizations are in the midst of training and clinicians from nine juvenile justice programs will begin training shortly.


Training – and buy-in – must begin at the top. During the initial phase of training, a Foundling expert shows agency leadership what it means to achieve and sustain effective evidence based practices within their organizations. Our experts answer questions such as: How do we recruit suitable foster parents? Which New York City regulations create barriers for implementing the evidence based practice programs and how do we overcome those barriers? What’s the difference between the specific evidence based models and how do they each work? Which would work best for our agency and consumers?


At the ISC, The Foundling experts then outline a plan for the clinicians and the interactive training begins. During the clinical training sessions, trainees (social workers, mental health counselors and psychologists) meet every week to learn how to implement the evidence based practices in their daily work with at-risk youth and their families. Role-playing is a key component of the training. Focus is on real life scenarios and how to interact with families facing a myriad of different crises. For example, the training scenario may involve a family whose child consistently skips school. The trainees learn how to approach the parents, craft an intervention, get to the root of the problem and resolve it using therapy.


Once the interactive training is complete, the clinicians implement the evidence based practices within their organizations and the entire agency works to sustain them. The ISC is available during this period to consult with the agency and provide any additional input and advice they may need. The entire process takes three years to complete.


Over the past three years, The Foundling has experienced tremendous success with evidence based practices and Blue Sky. As New York City and ACS continue to require that its contractual agencies use EBP, The Foundling is obligated to share our success with others. We can be a real change agent in the field of child and family welfare – helping to lower costs, increase effectiveness and responsiveness – and most importantly saving lives and keeping families together.



Like so many New Yorkers, the Foundling family has been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. From our foster homes all across the City to our facility on Staten Island, the children and families we serve are feeling the aftereffects of this storm.


Many of our dedicated and loving foster families have experienced extensive damage to their homes and have been displaced. Problems range from power outages to broken windows to flooded homes to spoiled food. Our residential facilities for families and children are located in some of the hardest hit areas on Staten Island and in lower Manhattan. Fortunately, the children and families in these programs are now safe, but many of the buildings are in desperate need of repair.


The Foundling headquarters at 590 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, which is also home to our Mother/Child and teen pregnancy program that serves up to two dozen young mothers and their babies, lost total power when our back-up generator failed. We moved all of the mothers and their children—some as young as two days old—to a residence in the Bronx, but are now faced with costly repair or replacement of the generator.


Our building on Staten Island that houses a program to help at-risk teenagers improve their lives and get back on their feet, also faced a blackout during the storm. To prevent this situation from happening again, we must purchase a generator for this facility as well.


Some of our families need clothes, food, supplies and shelter. To help them as they face these challenges and to help The Foundling offset some of the costs from the damages we’ve suffered, we have launched an emergency relief fund through the fundraising platform, Deposit a Gift. We are asking the community to help us, and those we serve, by making a donation. Deposit a Gift will generously donate an additional 4% of each contribution given.


If you would like to be a part of The Foundling’s relief efforts, please go to http://foundlingsandyrelief.mydagsite.com Thank you so much for your generosity and support during this difficult time.