Precious, a resident in The Foundling’s Supportive Housing Program for youth aging out of foster care, speaks about her experience in foster care, and hopes for the future.


Help more people like Precious become better prepared for successful adulthood by donating to our Annual Appeal!


November is National Adoption Month and as one of that largest facilitators of foster care adoptions in New York, it is a great chance for The Foundling to spread awareness! We were invited to help kick off the month at HuffPost Live yesterday on a segment about special needs adoptions. You can watch the recorded interview here featuring our CEO Bill Baccaglini with Edward, adoptive father, and Johnny, the boy he adopted at age 15 through The Foundling.

Edward and Johnny


Tiffany, a veteran presence at Camp Felix, discusses how Camp Felix has shaped her life and taught her to be a leader. A former camper and current counselor, Tiffany is about to start her second year at SUNY Albany, and is an excellent role model for the campers she works with. In her video blog, she emphasizes how the family that is created each summer at Camp Felix can be a hugely positive influence on a child’s life: “I need these girls to leave here feeling beautiful, feeling intelligent, and that what they have to say is important.”


Click here to learn more about Camp Felix!




Destiny, a Camp Felix camper of 7 years, discusses what the camp experience means to her. She is now assuming a leadership role for the younger campers as a counselor-in-training (C.I.T.) and has plans to come back as a counselor in the future.

Look for more on Destiny after her performance at the Camp Felix Open House August 15th!


Carmen Villafañe is Senior Vice President, Head Start Services for the New York Foundling en Puerto Rico. She has a master’s degree in Education with a specialty in Supervision and Administration of Schools from the University of Puerto Rico. Carmen has worked in Head Start programs since 1973 and began her career as a preschool teacher. She became an Education Manager for The Foundling’s program in 1985 before being promoted to Director of Head Start and Early head Start in 2006.


Click below to watch Carmen’s video blog en Español!


 Carmen Photo


Having opened its doors more than 140 years ago, The New York Foundling is a well-respected New York City institution.  Readers may be surprised, however, to find out that we have had a presence in Puerto Rico, serving low-income families since 1972. The Foundling began its presence in Puerto Rico to address the need to care for a number of our children in foster care whose families were moving back to Puerto Rico. Eleven years after we first became involved there, the government offered to accept proposals to set up a Head Start program in Puerto Rico. Feeling that we were qualified and also had local experience already, we applied and were given a grant.


Head Start is a granted program of the US Department of Health and Human Services that promotes school readiness to low-income children ages 3-5 at no cost.  The program also works to teach parents how to become life-long advocates, educators, and role models for their children.  Our Early Head Start program serves pregnant women, parents, and children ages 0-3, and helps families build a strong parent/child relationship.  Currently, The New York Foundling’s Puerto Rico Head Start and Early Head Start programs together serve 1,090 children in the areas of San Juan, Cataño, Coamo, and Vega Alta, Puerto Rico.   Twenty-two percent of the children we serve have disabilities ranging from learning disorders and speech language disabilities to cognitive disability and emotional disturbances, although we are by law only required to accept 10 % of these children. In order to apply for the program, parents simply need to find at a Head Start Center in their community, complete an application and submit documentation to see if they can be enrolled.


The program helps address issues in communities in Puerto Rico including drug addiction, obesity and poverty and seeks to end the incidence of poverty by generation and the negative health effects associated with it.  Additionally, the program aims to help participants gain and utilize self-confidence and success skills at present and later in life.  The program provides a healthy learning environment, ensures successful child development, and promotes community engagement. 


The program works with outcomes for both the children and parents. The curriculum for the children includes basic learning areas such a math, literacy, and creative art activities as well as functional and emotional activities. Social workers establish goals for every family and teachers record data about the children daily for progress reports. To decipher if expectations are being met, each child is assessed three times per year and child progression is discussed with the parents.  In addition, the program itself is regularly evaluated by administering interviews with staff and parents.  Children who have successfully completed the program, will be excited about learning upon entering kindergarten, will have grown in self-awareness and self-esteem, will read with enjoyment, and will have developed socially, emotionally, and academically. 


Through the program, we guide parents in how to best support their children by inviting them into the classroom to be volunteers, to serve alongside and learn from the classroom teachers, and to create an instructional environment in their homes.  Parents are taught how to maintain a healthy and financially secure environment for their families and the importance of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of their children.  Parents who have successfully completed the program feel responsible for their own children’s development and learning experiences, provide a stable medical home, and understand the need for ongoing learning experiences for the entire family. They know how essential reading aloud and verbal communication is to language development and embrace their role as a lifelong educator for their child.


Our program serves children either in a classroom setting Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. or, in the more rural areas, through home-based visits once a week for an hour and a half at a time coupled with socialization classroom sessions two days per month.  In an effort to accommodate working parents or those attending college, The Foundling offers extended hours in certain locations. Head Start also provides job training, leadership skills and employment assistance to parents, as working with parents is one of our main objectives. In fact, 75 % of our parents voluntarily participate in workshops to help them become better advocates for their children and planners in the community.


The Puerto Rico Head Start and Early Head Start program employs 373 staff members. This includes teachers, assistant teachers, social workers, nurses, mental health professionals, nutritionists, cooks, and special needs specialists.  Of these employees, 98 are former parents.  Parents have the opportunity to participate in the decision making process. There is a policy council and more than half of the members are parents. The other members are community and agency partners who are advocates of the program.


We’re so proud that when our children leave the program they are prepared with the readiness and skills to enter kindergarten. We’re also so proud that some of our teachers have been Head Start children themselves, which demonstrates the success of our program. We look forward to continuing our successful program and making the future brighter for so many deserving families.


Watch Carmen’s blog en Español!


www.nyfoundling.org  www.nyfpr.org



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.


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