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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.

 

http://www.nyfoundling.org

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!

 

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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

 

http://www.nyfoundling.org

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.

 

http://www.nyfoundling.org

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.

 

http://www.nyfoundling.org

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.

The start of the new school year is a good time to reflect on one of The Foundling’s most ambitious initiatives, Mott Haven Academy, our charter school in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx which predominantly serves children in foster care and the child welfare system.

 

We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made at Haven Academy and we’ve learned a great deal along the way. Yes, even The Foundling, which has been caring for children and families for more than a century, can always learn something new about serving this at-risk population.

 

Simply put, kids in the child welfare system have some different needs than other kids. Nationwide, research has shown that children in foster care have lower attendance rates than their peers, are less likely to perform at grade level, are more likely to have behavior and discipline problems, are more likely to be assigned to special education classes and are less likely to eventually attend college.

 

When we first opened Haven Academy in 2007, we enrolled 90 students in the kindergarten and first grades in a space we shared with PS 43. In 2010, we excitedly moved the students and staff across the street into their own LEED certified building. In an effort to provide a comprehensive support system for the children and their families, trained social outreach counselors, community clinical programs and a medical clinic run by The Foundling are housed in the same building as Haven.

 

This year, Haven Academy has grown to approximately 265 students in grades K-5 – we’re well on our way to its ultimate capacity of 314 students in grades K-8. Throughout the past 5 years, we have also dedicated a significant amount of time to the development of our school culture and social curriculum as we believe both are important complements our educational program. In partnership with the Harlem YMCA, we also launched a summer school program, Summer Academy, so that the scholars who need additional academic support can continue working with their teachers on subjects such as math, reading and writing. A number of indicators show significant progress and Haven is quickly becoming a model for others venturing into this field.

 

All this success at Haven Academy hasn’t come without some challenge. Due to the nature of our programs and the different needs of the population we’re serving, we spend more per capita at Haven Academy than most other schools. Furthermore, while we have seen excellent attendance and some great improvements in our students’ social and emotional areas, there is still room for improvement on test scores. It is encouraging to note though, that children who started at Haven in kindergarten four and five years ago are doing better in their later years here – clear evidence that the earlier we get them and the more time we have with them, the better the result.

 

Ultimately, academic achievement will be the primary mark of our success and this year, we’re introducing more changes to our curriculum than ever before to help our students get there. These changes will improve our educational program in all grades to ensure each scholar can achieve passing scores on the NY State assessment and successfully master grade level expectations. We will not however, be satisfied with merely passing. We want our children to believe that working hard at academics is worthwhile because the outcome is not only success in elementary school, but a foundation for success in life.

 

We are also boosting our after school programs to include activities that reduce our scholars’ likelihood of interest in gang activity and other risky behaviors. Additionally, to boost school attendance and support high academic expectations of the more independent middle schoolers, we will be adding organized sports into our program. Children will be able to attend sports games and practices only with the understanding that their participation is contingent upon both good attendance and strong progress in their school work and assessments.

 

As you see, Haven Academy is still a work in progress and we at The New York Foundling are keenly aware of both our triumphs and the learning curve we are always on as an organization. We believe it is our obligation, as in any complex long-term project, to continue to improve we go. We are proud to report though, that our scholars are thriving throughout the process. Hundreds of children, who before Haven Academy would have been placed in schools that don’t fully understand or adequately serve their needs, now have the opportunity to be educated in a school that was built just for them. Haven Academy is truly a force working to level the playing field for these scholars in the child welfare system.

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Camp Felix 2012 Talent Night – with campers, counselors, Sheila Jaffe and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels

This past summer marks the seventh year since Camp Felix, the only overnight summer camp in the New York City area operated by a child welfare agency, opened its doors. Located in Putnam Valley, up in the Hudson Highlands, Camp Felix has served more than 650 kids (ages 8-15) to date.

 

Along with The Felix Organization/Adoptees for Children, The New York Foundling originally created the camp specifically to give children in the foster care system and others from low-income families a fun, safe, and memorable summer camp experience at no cost to their caregivers. For most of these kids, hearing crickets chirping at night or smelling an honest-to-goodness campfire are entirely new experiences they may never have had otherwise.

 

In addition to all the familiar camp activities—arts and crafts, all kinds of sports and performing arts—Camp Felix also conducts programs that promote teamwork, build character, and foster leadership skills. Towards the end of their stay, campers perform in a talent show alongside Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, the legendary hip-hop star from the groundbreaking music group, Run-DMC, who—with renowned casting director Sheila Jaffe—co-founded The Felix Organization/Adoptees for Children.

 

Children in the foster care system benefit enormously from consistency and familiarity. The Camp Felix campers are all Foundling kids, and many of them attend our charter school, Haven Academy. A number of the camp’s counselors and staff work at Haven Academy, as well. But even if kids start Camp Felix not knowing anyone else there, many of them walk away from the experience with friendships and bonds that last from summer to summer and grow throughout the year. This year, for the first time, not only did we have two former campers working as Camp Felix employees (one in food services and one as a counselor), but we had 12 current campers serving as counselors-in-training, as well.

 

Without Camp Felix, many of these kids would never have the chance to attend an overnight summer camp, especially one where they’re surrounded by peers who come from similar upbringings and by counselors who have received intensive training on the issues these kids face. Many of our campers return year after year, and it’s more than heartening to see how they’ve matured and grown, serving as role models to their younger peers. I already can’t wait for next summer—and for all the summers after that.

The child welfare field is a challenge. Inevitably, children are lost, and we are all haunted by the question of whether we could have done more to help. As a whole, though, child welfare professionals have addressed these challenges by working to make the system better. In many ways, those efforts have been tremendously successful.

But there’s an area where all of us have failed—where all of us need to do better.

 

In our current system, when young men and women turn 21, they “age out” of the child welfare system and are no longer eligible for services. At first glance, that may sound reasonable. At 21, we normally consider people adults. But imagine you’ve been abused or neglected as a child, bounced from one foster home to another, and had to change schools every few years. At 21-years-old, you’ve never paid rent, bought your own groceries, or managed your own expenses. Would you be able to manage on your own?

 

Even under the best of circumstances, young people mature at different rates. But under the best of circumstances, those who lack the capacity to fend for themselves have a safety net. They have a family and a community around them. For young people aging out of the child welfare system, there is no safety net. We’re throwing them into the deep end of the pool knowing that many of them can’t swim. If they sink, we all pay the price. The next system they fall into they may not get out of and it will be very expensive for taxpayers. All too often, they will end up homeless or turn to drugs and crime—a bad outcome for them, as well as for government budgets and the quality of life in our communities.

 

What’s the solution? We can’t close the door to these kids when they turn 21. We must better prepare them to be 21. If we know a parent’s rights were terminated when a child was 16 years old, we can be pretty certain that that youngster will age out while in our care. Knowing that, we should take those five years to help that young person learn the skills necessary to transition smoothly into adulthood and independence. We must strengthen our efforts to place these kids either on an academic path or into a job training program that will prepare them for the workplace. If we do a better job preparing them for the future, they’ll be on a track toward life as a productive member of our society, rather than as a life-long problem for society.

 

We need to treat them as if they are our own kids. Do you abandon your children when they turn a certain age? We shouldn’t treat these kids any differently.