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.

NEW YORK, NY – November 14 2018 – The New York Foundling announced today that $100,000 in scholarships will be awarded to a group of students pursuing degrees in social work at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service during the 2018-2019 academic year in an effort to encourage talented students to pursue careers as social workers in the child welfare system.


“Child welfare is a challenging, complicated, and at times, a stressful field, but I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than devoting one’s life to keeping children and families safe and healthy,” said Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO of The Foundling. “We constantly need to attract talented, compassionate and smart individuals to enter this profession, and these scholarships will provide a spark – pointing a few more promising students our way – and toward a career making a difference in children’s lives.”


The rising costs associated with a college education, often coupled with the substantial burden of student loans, can be disincentives to pursuing careers in the social services. These scholarships are intended to reduce some of that financial pressure and enable students with the talent and the desire to work in child welfare to pursue the field to the fullest.


As a participating scholarship institution, NYU Silver will provide four students interested in child welfare the opportunity to make a purposeful impact early in their careers. “NYU Silver is dedicated to equipping future social workers with the skills, training, and experience they need to serve the most vulnerable and marginalized populations,” said Dr. Neil Guterman, NYU Silver’s Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor of Social Work. “We are grateful to The Foundling for its vision and generosity in creating these scholarships, and for their strong partnership and collaboration in providing meaningful service options for the next generation of social work leaders.”


Dr. Debra McPhee, Dean of Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, expressed gratitude to The Foundling for their commitment to professional social work and their support of Fordham MSW students. She said, “The Foundling’s generous support will allow several Fordham MSW students to pursue their studies with the knowledge that their decision to pursue a career protecting the welfare of children is both valued and important. With this scholarship, The Foundling is making a significant commitment to building the professional child welfare workforce of tomorrow and supporting the students who will become leaders in this area. This truly is a visionary project that will have positive impact for years to come. Fordham is very grateful to be a partner with The Founding in this effort.”


In addition, as part of this initiative, The Foundling is also offering hands-on internships, with several students from NYU Silver already placed at The Foundling’s charter school in the Bronx, as well as at its mental health clinic, deaf services division and with its foster care teams in Queens.


“These unique opportunities give social work students direct insight on working with children in their communities and neighborhoods,” Baccaglini continued, “and an understanding of how their challenges at home impact not only their academics, but their mental health, their behavior and the way they engage with their friends and peers.”


About The New York Foundling


The New York Foundling reaches 30,000 children and families each year in all five boroughs of New York City, surrounding counties, and Puerto Rico. Established in 1869, our vision is a community where every person, regardless of background or circumstance, enjoys the safe, stable, and supportive relationships needed to reach his or her full potential. To achieve this, we provide evidence-based programs that focus on keeping families together; preventing abuse and neglect; providing academic support for children; and giving people with developmental disabilities the tools and training they need to lead independent lives. For more information, please visit www.nyfoundling.org.


About NYU Silver School of Social Work


NYU Silver School of Social Work provides a robust and engaging environment for the education of professional social workers, offering undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degree programs. The School serves as a major postgraduate training center for practicing social workers and offers master’s students intensive learning opportunities in family and children’s services, mental health, integrated health, substance misuse and co-occurring disorders, palliative and end-of-life care, restorative justice, and other innovative and emerging areas of social work. MSW students also have the opportunity to pursue global learning with NYU Silver programs in New York, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, and other cities around the world. Founded in 1960 and renowned for a strong tradition of excellence in direct social work practice and dedication to social justice, NYU Silver has provided rigorous training to over 18,000 social work practitioners and leaders in every area of the field. The School’s faculty are on the leading edge of scholarly research and address society’s most intractable problems with a focus on proactive approaches and preventive interventions that transform lives. For more information, please visit socialwork.nyu.edu.


About Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service


For more than a hundred years the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service has been educating social workers to serve as agents of change and champions of human rights and social justice. GSS prepares students for diverse professional practice and leadership through the teaching of culturally responsive, evidence informed practice and engagement in research, public advocacy, and community partnerships. The School offers a baccalaureate (BASW), masters (MSW) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees and, in collaboration with the Fordham Gabelli School of Business, a Master of Science degree in Nonprofit Leadership (MS-NPL). Programs are delivered at three campuses: Lincoln Center, Westchester and through a 20-year partnership with Molloy College, Long Island as well as fully online (MSW since 2011). GSS is leading the way in future-focused competency-based curriculum and innovative in academic programming.


As part of our Developmental Disabilities program, our staff works diligently with individuals to promote independence, teach daily-living skills and self advocacy. Our person-centered approach helps individuals achieve meaningful outcomes so they can become integrated members of their communities and have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.


In February, a very exciting chapter happened not only at the The Foundling but also in the lives of five young men. These gentlemen had dreams of living independently in their own apartments and spent the last several years working very hard in our Developmental Disabilities programs to obtain the necessary skills to do so. Their dreams finally came true when they moved into their own apartment in the Wakefield section of the Bronx.


There was an excitement in the air on the day they moved in. Each one of them excited to see their new bedroom decorated the way they wanted them to be and in their favorite color. Their new apartments were completely renovated and decorated in beautiful vibrant colors. Their excitement continued as the days passed and every day was a new adventure, whether they were cooking for themselves or deciding on what to do with their basement or their recreation area.


It took a lot of coordinated effort from Foundling staff and supporters to ensure their dreams come true. Thank you to all that contributed!

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Well you do now! The New York Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities program celebrated in style. Registered Dietitian, Maddie Rizzuti, visited Staten Island Day-Hab to do some fun, nutrition related activities.


The guys participated in a taste test challenge. First they tried a sample of some of the major types of flavors like sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, and sour. It was no surprise to find out that the majority chose sweet as their favorite flavor, but quite a few of them really enjoyed sipping the bitter tonic water!


After they learned to identify different flavors, the group entered a blindfold taste test challenge. The guys were daring and adventurous as they trusted the dietitian to place a random food item in their hand to try. They tried things like sweet potato, pita chips, kiwi, and mozzarella cheese! Everyone did a great job of recognizing the foods using only their sense of taste, smell, and touch!


For a fun activity to try at home, read the instructions below!


Did you know that our sense of smell (the “olfactory system”) actually accounts for the majority of our ability to taste things? Think about having bad nasal congestion when you’re sick- you can’t really taste what you’re chewing! In order to test this theory out, purchase some Jellybeans.


  • Select a jellybean without looking up what flavor it is
  • Hold your nose! Make sure you have a perfect seal so that you cannot smell anything!
  • Start to chew the candy with your nostrils closed tight. You will find that the flavor is bland and unidentifiable
  • Release your nostrils and a burst of flavor should hit your taste buds!


In honor of National Nutrition Month, we should all go home today and set an intention of leading healthy lifestyles (that include fun, food related games)!


One of the many community job and placement opportunities our Developmental Disabilities Division offers is our Community Provocation program that is designed to help an individual gain volunteer experience in a variety of different fields prior to finding a job. During this volunteer experience they receive support from a job coach who is there to assist and prompt as they learn the functions of the job. In Community Prevocation, an individual splits their time between the volunteer experience and Day Habilitation that is designed to engage them in meaningful activities that develop new skills and independence.


Meet Nancy Roman, a young woman living in one of our Bronx Individualized Residential Alternatives (IRAs). Nancy Roman is an inspiring young woman currently enrolled in the Community Prevocation program in The Bronx. Nancy has Cerebral Palsy. Nancy embraces each day with purpose and is known for her great sense of humor. Nancy wants to get a job as part of her goal to become more independent. She wants to do something fulfilling and meaningful with her days and wants to make her own money.


Nancy is participating in Community Prevocation so that she can gain experience in a variety of areas to determine what her skills are. So far she has volunteered at Burlington Coat Factory with their inventory and processing team, she has been a volunteer assistant to children with disabilities riding horses as a form of therapy, and she is currently volunteering at a rehab center providing assistance to elderly individuals. Nancy loves to be busy and she is a hard worker. She definitely puts forth her best effort and has expressed that she is motivated to work hard.


Nancy’s dream is to work in an office as a secretarial assistant. She has some experience in this role and she enjoys doing things like filing documents, creating memos, and answering phone calls. With her attitude combined with her work ethic, Nancy is on the road to achieving her dream. When asked what she likes about the program Nancy said “ I like getting out of the house and being busy and being productive. This is helping me reach my goal of gaining independence.” Nancy has especially enjoyed working at Split Rock Rehab center and she always brings a smile to those she is working with there.


Learn more information about the NY Foundling Development Disabilities Division: https://www.nyfoundling.org/program/individuals-with-developmental-disabilities/

March is Developmental Disabilities Month and the NY Foundling is helping to spread awareness about people with disabilities by featuring stories throughout the month of the individuals who are living in our supportive environments and receiving community based supports.


Our person-directed approach to supporting individuals empowers them to choose where they live, be connected to their communities, have relationships with family and friends and maintain good health, enabling them to live rewarding fulfilling lives.We encourage you to share their stories on our Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other social media platforms.


Learn more information about the NY Foundling Development Disabilities Division: https://www.nyfoundling.org/program/individuals-with-developmental-disabilities/

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Madeline Rizzuti, RDN


Ask yourself: is it realistic to lose 60 pounds by May? Is running a marathon something I can achieve? Is “eat healthier” a measurable goal? Setting unrealistic New Year’s resolutions only leads to inevitably giving them up. All too often people shoot for the stars and set impossible expectations for themselves. Hey, we’re only human!


Now that the New Year has made an appearance, maybe it’s time to kick that resolution into high gear. They key is making SMART goals. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and with a Time frame.


An example of a SMART goal is something like:


“I will prepare meals on Sundays to have leftovers for lunch at work, instead of ordering fast food.”


“I will exercise more by joining a gym and doing 2 spin classes per week.”


“I will drink more water by replacing daily sodas with water flavored with Crystal Lite at least 5 days per week.”


These are measurable, specific, time framed and realistic goals.


Some simple and basic improvements to your diet can be:


  • DRINK MORE WATER! Cut out sodas, juices, and all other sweetened beverages that add tons of excess calories daily.
  • ADD VEGGIES! Vegetables are a vital source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and (SURPRISE!) are super low in calories. Vegetables at each meal are a must!
  • GO LEAN! Choose leaner protein sources like skinless chicken or turkey breast, egg whites, fish, non-fat dairy, nuts, tofu, and > 90% ground beef.
  • CONTROL YOUR SNACKING! Plan your daily snacks. Packing snacks in advance and rationing throughout the day can help you avoid coming home after a long day at work and ravenously scouring the kitchen for a fix!
  • PLAN! Use food tracker apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It to help organize your diet and keep track of your intake.


You haven’t set any nutrition goals for 2016 yet? Make small, attainable goals. Once you’ve successfully changed your habits, add more! Take one of these tips and run with it. Make it specific to your lifestyle, make it realistic, and give yourself a time frame for achieving that goal. Good Luck! 


Madeline Rizzuti is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Education Counselor working for the Developmental Disabilities Program of the New York Foundling. She is a New York native who loves to cook and travel the world tasting new flavors.


*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The New York Foundling, its funders, regulators, donors and/or employees.


The information contained within this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only.


In Part II of our series we’ll highlight even more ways different Foundling programs are getting into the holiday spirit!


Haven Academy: Holiday celebrations continued at The Foundling when friends, family and students gathered to watch the annual presentation of Mott Haven Academy‘s ballet rendition of The Nutcracker! With guidance from Ballet Ambassadors, a nonprofit which teaches children the joy of performing, every student had a special role in the show.


Bridge & Tunnel Association (BTA): The holiday spirit spread from the Bronx to Manhattan when volunteers from BTA visited The Foundling’s headquarters in Chelsea on December 17 and donated 1,000 toys to toddlers, kids and teens. BTA has been providing gifts to Foundling families for over 20 years and each year they deliver on their promise to ensure that our children receive presents to open on Christmas morning. Best of all, “Santa Bob” made a special guest appearance to take pictures and drink hot cocoa with our kids.


Special thanks to the employees of the TBTA Emerald Society, SOBA, BTOBA, FOP Lodge #77, Local 1931, Local 1655, BTPORA, and the Managerial Staff for their help, support and contributions to the Annual Boyle/Hyland Memorial Employee Toy Drive which fulfilled The Foundling’s gift collection for 2015.


WeWork Festive Holiday Party: 75 children and families of The Foundling were the lucky recipients of WeWork’s generosity this year at their employee holiday party. The focus of the day was giving back, and the roughly 300 employees in attendance did just that by volunteering, serving food, spending time with the children, wrapping gifts and making the room look extra festive. Foundling families built gingerbread houses, decorated stockings with pom-poms and sparkles, and left the party with beautifully wrapped gifts. Best of all, parents received gift cards to help them purchase last minute gifts and stocking stuffers! To top it off, there was food and foosball, an acapella performance by The Maccabeats, and a dance party!


WeWork Holiday Party

WeWork Festive Holiday Party


Developmental Disabilities Program: The Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities Division delighted in the warmth of the holidays at The Palisades Center for their annual holiday party. More than 275 residents, family members and friends from the varying Developmental Disabilities programs enjoyed dinner and a night of singing and dancing.


Foundling Holiday Party: Over 250 staff members of The New York Foundling celebrated at Suite 36 for the Employee Holiday Party. The atmosphere was filled to the brim with merriment and fun as staff brought their best dance moves to the dance floor. Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO of The Foundling and Sister Carol reminded employees that their dedication, compassion and hard work keep the agency strong.


With 2016 around the corner, we have a new opportunity to extend the happiness, love and generosity the holidays brings out in all of us. Although the holidays are coming to an end, there’s still plenty of time and ways you can contribute to the families of The New York Foundling for a happy and healthy 2016!

The Foundling offers dynamic, progressive and evidence-based services and programs to 30,000 children and families each year. What makes our programs so unique and successful are our dedicated and committed employees and staff. Get to know the people inside our organization by reading our blog each week as we highlight a new person.  We’ll ask questions about their role at The Foundling, what their passions and hobbies are outside of the office, and recognize their achievements and accomplishments.



How does The Foundling’s Foster Care Program help the people?

The Road to Success program greatly improves the academic performances of many of the students that we work with. We have helped students move from failing to passing and have helped them with graduating high school and successfully applying to college.



What are your major responsibilities at The Foundling?

As a tutor for the Road to Success Program, I work with students ages 12 and up, helping with homework and test preparation, and providing academic advising. I work with 19 students per week, for sixty to ninety minutes per student. I really enjoy the strong relationships that I have developed with my students and their families. Furthermore, tutoring leads to some successes that are possible only with individualized attention; it allows me to focus on the fundamental academic needs of my students over a long period of time. The consistent meetings allow me to push my students.



What inspires you most about working at The Foundling?

I am constantly inspired by the dedication of my colleagues. Despite dealing with intense situations and difficult cases, they manage to stay positive and continue fighting for their students.



Tell us about a student that has been successful!

I tutor a student in The Bronx and for much of the first year that we worked together, he had significant problems with mathematics. He was failing and really struggling to grasp the material from his math class. After a year of intense focus on fundamentals, he had a breakthrough. Since then, he has aced summer school and is now successfully passing his math classes.



What has driven you to be where you are today?

I have worked with children for most of my life, as a music instructor, tutor, and camp counselor. I am interested in pursuing a career in education however; I wanted to explore options outside of traditional school classroom. The Foundling provided me an opportunity to pursue my education goals while also getting involved with high needs students in a one-on-one setting.



Who is your role model and what do you admire about them?

One person I admire is my older brother. I find his insatiable thirst for knowledge inspiring. He’s always accumulating knowledge from a wide range of sources and becoming engrossed with something new. Watching him tear into dozens of books at a time makes me want to learn more about everything.



If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have never been to Europe and I have always wanted to go visit Italy in particular. The food is supposed to be amazing and seeing actual Roman ruins would be like a dream.



Tell us about the latest book you’re reading, or recently read?

I recently completed “American Pastoral” by Phillip Roth. It’s a really pessimistic novel about a family that is torn apart by a daughter’s decision to commit a terrorist act. It deals with the collapse of the American Dream and is astoundingly well written.



What is your spirit animal and why?

I like to think I’m a dog of some sort, maybe a Labrador: friendly, happiest around people and always ready for some goofing around.



Want to learn about other Foundling staff? You can meet some of our other employees on TheMuse.com.


Jake is a tutor with The Foundling’s Road to Success program, which was created in response to the growing need for tutors to help children in foster care stay engaged in school despite challenges at home.


Thanks to committed donors like you, Road to Success tutors have provided over 2,900 hours of private tutoring throughout New York City at no cost to foster parents.


Your contribution to our 2015 annual appeal gives children in foster care what they need the most: stability.


In the video below, Jake explains how Road to Success works and the admiration he feels watching his students show up with enthusiasm each week, even when the going gets tough.



Please add a donation to The Foundling to the list of gifts you’ll be giving this holiday season. We owe our success to you, and need your support now more than ever.