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/

 

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!

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.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

 

The generosity of our friends & donors allow us to continue to fulfill our 146-year-old mission of empowering children & families throughout New York & Puerto Rico. Thank you for investing in these efforts with a gift to our annual appeal. Together, we can empower New Yorkers to build their own successful & happy futures. Click the link to make a donation: /donate/

 

 

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 staff member.  We’ll ask them 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 your program help the people and communities we serve?

Our goal in foster care is to achieve permanency by having children return to the care of their parents. When that is not possible, kinship guardianship and adoption are the next best possible options. It’s important to put supports in place for the family and children, so hopefully, the children do not return to foster care. We encourage and nurture adolescents in Independent Living by helping them with school, work and housing

 

What are your major responsibilities?

As the Assistant Vice President, I oversee six Clinical Supervisors at two sites (Bronx and North Manhattan) where I provide clinical oversight for the cases of the children and families in our foster care program. I work with teams to assess safety, risks and to facilitate permanency for the children and families in our care. I also work to foster staff development.

 

What I enjoy most about working at The Foundling is the opportunity to be a part of a team that is committed to providing the support and hope that our children and families need during their most vulnerable times. It’s extremely important to keep my staff motivated and to ensure that they have the tools they need to successfully fulfill their roles.

 

How did you become an Assistant Vice President at The Foundling?

I started at the Foundling as an intern with Blue Sky, a Juvenile Justice Initiative program. I worked with youth as a Skills Coach and then an Individual Therapist as part of the TFCO treatment team (TFCO is Treatment Foster Care Oregon; it is an evidence based model of foster care). I also worked as Resource Specialist, identifying and developing relationships with community providers to support our families in receiving needed supports and remaining connected to their communities.  

 

I was then a supervisor with The Foundling’s PINS Division (Persons In Need of Supervision) at its inception and worked directly with youth and their families participating in treatment foster care. I moved into a role with the Implementation Support Center that allowed me to provide support to programs internally and with other New York City agencies implementing evidenced based practices, including the implementation of Youth Development Skills Coaching with our Family Foster Care teams.

 

Given the opportunity to work with the foster care teams directly led me to want to move closer to the direct practice and I was motivated by the hard work and commitment of the teams. I started as a Program Director and moved into the role of Assistant Vice President in 2014.

 

What inspires you most about working at The Foundling?

I am grateful to the New York Foundling as it has built me up professionally, as well as personally. The Foundling has provided me with the opportunity to take on different roles and learn about various programs; I have had the opportunity to learn and grow from strong leaders, and to develop my clinical and leadership skills. The Foundling embraces a strength based approach that supports the children and families we work with, and helps them reach success.

 

Tell us about a case or family that was successful.

A mother and her son were separated when the mother was unable to care for the child because she was mentally ill. The mother worked extremely hard and used Foundling resources to make safety plans and reestablish relationships with family members. It was not an easy road but she committed herself to getting her son back. Recently, the son had his final discharge from Foster Care and is now back with his mother!

 

What makes this case a success is the fact that the mother took small steps toward her goal and did not give up. It’s our job to ensure the safety of the child while recognizing the effort the family makes, meeting them in the middle, and helping them figure it all out to really show them it can all work out. Many of the families are not used to receiving help—they are used to disappointment and roadblocks. But being able to not give up on them is really important. With this type of progress we are able to send a number of children back to their homes and that is a success.

 

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

I would go back to Florence, Italy. I studied there for a summer during college and loved it! Florence has great food and wine and a very rich culture.

 

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

I recently read “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who left Newark for the Ivy League” by Jeff Hobbs, who was Robert Peace’s college roommate. It is about a young man, who had a rough childhood with many bad influences, but he and his mother fought to get him into catholic schooling, and eventually he ended up at Yale. But he had trouble balancing the world he came from and the world he came into.

 

What is your spirit animal?

My spirit animal is a butterfly because I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my roles at Foundling and I continue to develop my skills and grow in my position.

 

 

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

Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Stephanie Kearns, Vice President of Business Operations

 

In recognition of National Special Needs Month I’ll be sharing a series of blog postings about special needs and severe allergies with the help of peer parents who live with these fears or challenges every day.

 

Most people don’t know I had an older sister, Audrey, with special needs. She suffered with Cornelia de Lange syndrome at birth and fought to live until she succumbed to cancer and other serious complications at 8 years old. I was only 7. I loved my sister deeply but her presence and challenges were extremely tough for a little kid learning how to fit in and I often didn’t know how to approach people to let them know “it’s OK, she is just a little different!”

 

During her time on earth and after she died, I found myself fighting against stereotypes, going out of my way to talk to friends and strangers who had special needs, and advocating to eradicate the misused word “retarded” from my generation’s vocabulary. Different is intimidating and uncomfortable to most people and everyone has a different response to the idea of different, which can often times be perceived as dismissive and hurtful.

 

I have always found that the best way to respond to this is kindness, empathy, and warmth. In recognition of National Special Needs and National Down Syndrome Awareness Month this blog posting is written with the hope that at least one person will better understand special needs and find a way to connect their child with another child as a friend and equal peer who has special needs.

 

For this next posting, I conducted an interview with Megan Mennes a parent and English teacher and writer. I virtually met Megan after coming across a viral news story and immediately followed her Instagram and blog series, Define Crazy. I love and admire Megan’s open and honest writing, and the way she makes special needs familiar to all walks of life. I also recommend parents connect with Kids Included Together to learn about local opportunities to connect kids with and without special needs for activities in your community.

 

When was your child diagnosed with Down syndrome and how did you discover the diagnosis?

We learned Quinn would be born with Down syndrome when I was 24 weeks pregnant. We took one of the new noninvasive prenatal tests that measures fetal DNA in the mother’s bloodstream. While the test is not technically diagnostic, it detects Down syndrome pregnancies with 99.8% accuracy. Because the test was so new, part of us felt like it was incorrect; nevertheless, we prepared to have a child with Down syndrome, and we did.

 

What lifestyle changes have you made to adapt to living and raising a child with special needs?

My first instinct was to say that our lifestyle hasn’t changed since having Quinn, but that’s not entirely true. We are lucky enough to live in Houston, Texas, home to the world-renowned Rise School, a preschool for children with developmental disabilities. When Quinn was born, though, we lived on the opposite end of town (in a neighborhood we didn’t like all that much, to be honest). So we moved closer to downtown and, by extension, The Rise School. We love our trendy new neighborhood with its bungalows, coffee shops, and boutiques. We likely wouldn’t have moved here if Quinn didn’t have Down syndrome, so in a way, we actually have that extra chromosome to thank for our current living situation!

 

What are your biggest fears related to this and how do you cope?

My biggest fears for Quinn exist not in his academic success and opportunities. I know the law thanks to my years as a public school teacher and my Master’s degree in Education, and I will wield that knowledge like a sword to ensure that Quinn gets what he needs and deserves academically. But will he have friends? Will the other kids tease him? Will he be the only kid with Down syndrome in his kindergarten class? Will he have dates to the school dances? Be invited to slumber parties? And if he does, will it be out of pity or true friendship? These questions haunt me and keep me up at night.

 

How do you communicate your child’s special needs to your friends, family, other parents and caregivers?

So much of Quinn’s life is spent in the presence of other kids with Down syndrome that this hasn’t really come up yet. When it does, I’ll stress the fact that, when interacting with Quinn, we should presume competence. He is bright, curious, social, and able to do most things that other kids his age can do. It might take him a little longer, but he’ll get it. And if he doesn’t, don’t dismiss him. Work with him until he gets it right.

 

What could you not do that other parents whose children don’t have special needs can do? Nothing! Our life hasn’t changed much since Quinn was born. I still work, he still goes to school, his siblings still get all the attention they deserve, and our lives are so much more “normal” than I ever thought it would be when we received his diagnosis.

 

What kind of support is helpful to you? Do you rely on friends and family for any particular kind of support?

The support of other moms who are raising kids with Down syndrome is invaluable. Not only can they help me understand developmental delays, mysterious medical questions, and Medicaid waivers, but they are also there as a system of support. I’ve met some of my closest friends since having Quinn; the special needs community is like a family and we’re all here to support one another.

 

Tell me an experience you have had, if any, with a difficult friend or family member who didn’t understand how to engage with your child or offer the support you need? How did you help redirect them?

I’ve been immensely fortunate in that our family and friends have been nothing but supportive and have always properly engaged my child. We have had to share the importance of “people-first language,” meaning that we prefer to refer to Quinn as a child with Down syndrome, rather than a “Down syndrome child.” The latter implies that Quinn is defined by his disability. While it is a part of who he is, he is also so much more. But these are lessons I had to teach myself when I began this journey, so I aim to educate and avoid taking offense when someone with good intentions misspeaks.

 

What are the common misconceptions or misunderstandings about children with special needs? Include any inaccurate vocabulary or derogatory words.

My biggest fear with Quinn is that people will see him and automatically judge his abilities before even getting to know him. Just like typically-developing children, individuals with Down syndrome are complex and talented in many different ways. Assuming that he is a “retard,” that he can’t learn, that he won’t understand the feeling of being judged or left out is both ignorant and hurtful.

 

What are the top three ways other parents can embrace differences and shed discomfort with the unfamiliar?

1. Educate yourself. Meet other families raising children with disabilities. If you have questions, ask!

2. Educate others. Be open with your children when they encounter someone who looks, speaks, or acts differently. To avoid this discussion suggests you are ashamed of that person’s differences.

3. Take time to get to know us. Sure, we’re a family raising a child with special needs, but that doesn’t make us alien. Invite us to the birthday party or the play date.

 

*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 New York Foundling has been selected as a finalist for the 2015 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards.  The announcement was made by the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York (NPCC), which created and manages the nine-year-old Excellence Awards program.

 

A selection committee of 34 nonprofit management experts chose The Foundling as one of six finalists from a list of 10 semifinalists following an intensive application and vetting process that identifies excellent and replicable management practices among nonprofits in New York City, Long Island and Westchester. A total of 56 organizations applied for the 2015 Awards. Three winning organizations will be announced and honored at ceremony in November.

 

“We are honored to be among the six finalists for the Excellence Awards,” said Bethany Lampland, Chief Operating Officer at The Foundling.  “Our commitment to effective and efficient management practices enables us to provide essential services and programs to 30,000 children and families each year.”

 

“The New York Community Trust is proud to honor nonprofit groups with outstanding management practices,” said Lorie Slutsky, President of The New York Community Trust, one of the region’s leading funders of nonprofits. “These six finalists offer examples of management excellence for the more than 40,000 nonprofits in New York City and its suburbs.”

 

The Excellence Awards program has attracted more than 685 applicants from across the city and its suburbs in its first nine years.

 

Click here to learn more