National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week (September 13-19, 2015) is a reminder for everyone to give praise and support to the direct support workforce and the tremendous difference they make each day in the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities. Below are members of The Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities Program we’d like to highlight this week:


Gavin V. began his career at The Foundling in 2014 as a Disabilities Specialist in The Bronx. From the very beginning, Gavin built strong relationships and connections with staff and program participants and was adored by everyone at the program because of his good nature and quiet manner.  In November 2014, Gavin saved the life of a person that The Foundling supports with his swift and attentive oversight. He noticed that the person was in distress and not breathing.  Gavin immediately called 911 before starting CPR, until EMS arrived. The person was taken to the ER and eventually recovered. Everyone at The Foundling is grateful for Gavin’s calm and deliberate nature, as well as his support and dedication to the people we serve. 


Luz P. supports the individuals in her care wholeheartedly and goes above and beyond to make sure that their needs are met every day. Luz cares for them with a motherly love, listens to them and ensures that they live an enriched life.


Georgia C.has worked at the Ardsley residence since March 2013.  In that time she has shown The Foundling that she is kind, caring and compassionate. She is a strong advocate for the individuals we serve and expects the best for them. Georgia ensures that the people she is responsible for live their lives to the absolute fullest. Georgia is known for over extending herself when help is needed, for example, she always comes prepared to stay during inclement weather and never questions when she will be going home.  She truly values the men and women she helps each day, and can always be found talking to them about what they would like to do, and how they, together, can accomplish those things. 


For National Direct Support Professional week New York Foundling’s Day Habilitation Without Walls Program would like to acknowledge the entire staff at the Bronx location. As a new program, we started with only one staff member and one person to support. Over the past nine months, this team, made up of Direct Support Professional’s that are brand new to the field, and others that have transferred from our residences, have done phenomenal work, ensuring that the people we support are safe and happy at all times.


Together they have created an environment where people can thrive, grow and learn. Foundling staff are always willing to lend an extra hand when needed, smile regardless of how challenging their day may have been, and put forth 110% effort in everything they do. With over 10 years of experience combined this team exemplifies the meaning of “team work.” 

From the 56 applications that were submitted, The New York Foundling was one of only ten organizations selected to move on to the second phase of the 2015 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards.


“Congratulations to the ten semifinalists. They represent the best in nonprofit management and other organizations stand to learn much from them, which is exactly the point of this awards program,” said Lorie Slutsky, president of The New York Community Trust.


The Awards program has attracted more than 685 applicants from across the city and its suburbs over its first nine years. The Awards recognize outstanding management practices in eight key performance areas identified by thousands of nonprofit leaders across the country.


The eight areas of excellence are: management focus on results; strong governance; excellent financial management; diverse and culturally competent organizational practices; enlightened human resources; model IT practices; effective communications; and, exemplary fundraising and resource development.


Click here to read a press release issued by The New York Community Trust.

On August 19, The Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities Division hosted its 2nd Annual Friends and Family BBQ at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle. The event was attended by nearly 500 guests, including residents from our Intermediate Care Facility, our Independent Residential Alternative program, our Transition to Adulthood program, as well as Foundling staff, family members and friends. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and kabobs were on the grill throughout the day and an action packed game of volley ball took place in the afternoon.


“We could not have asked for a better day! It’s not often that we can all get together and celebrate and enjoy the community we have created,” said Liz Sunners, Vice President, Developmental Disabilities Division at The Foundling.

By Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO,

The New York Foundling


One of the most pressing education policy challenges our country currently faces is the persistently huge disparity in academic achievement between children growing up in poor, underserved communities and children in communities with the resources to meet their educational and recreational needs. That education gap is even wider for children who are also members of our most fragile student population: those in the child welfare system.


The New York Foundling is one of New York’s oldest and largest child welfare organizations and several years ago, we began an effort to develop an educational model that provided these children with the array of services they need and that incorporated our knowledge of child welfare into their school day.  Seven years ago, we launched Mott Haven Academy, a K-5 charter school in one of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities. Two-thirds of our students are in the child welfare system, with the remaining third from the surrounding community.


State test results just in show strong evidence that our approach is working. 


  • Overall, in both English and Math, the percentage of students with passing scores at Haven Academy was triple the percentage in the surrounding community school district.


  • Our students’ performance also exceeded the averages for New York City, New York State and other charter schools.



Most telling, even child welfare children at Haven Academy outperformed students in the community school district – students who may or may not have encountered the child welfare system.


  • In English, the percentage of child welfare students at Haven who passed the exam was double the percentage in the school district as a whole.


  • In Math, the percentage passing was two and a half times that in the school district and exceeded the overall City and State averages.


What are we doing to achieve these results?


We’ve found that children do better when educators and child welfare professionals work together, providing critical and comprehensive care to students. This collaboration enables us to develop and implement intervention plans in a timely manner.


For example, when a student is absent, the teacher notifies the school social worker who, based on the student’s history, determines if a child’s caseworker should be notified. This follow-up often includes home visits by school personnel and case workers. And since we offer health and dental services on the premises, if a child needs these services, we can integrate the visits into the school day, so the student doesn’t need to miss a day of school every time there’s an appointment. 


We also utilize a trauma-sensitive model, giving students access to advanced counseling services and a school culture designed to educate them academically and to teach them how to perform socially and cope with whatever trauma they may experience. 


This requires that teachers and staff receive intensive training on how to interact with children. For example, they recognize that when students are sensitive to physical touch, it may be because of a history of abuse – and that they need to engage students without physical contact. Teachers and staff are also very intentional about the language, habits, routines and interactions they exhibit.


By emphasizing the rewarding of positive behaviors, leveraging student strengths to curb unproductive behaviors and creating a consistent adult climate, we can encourage children to make responsible decisions based on outcomes they can predict. Traditional public education models are built to educate the majority of students.  They aren’t equipped, and understandably so, to address the special needs and circumstances of students in the child welfare system – many of whom have experienced trauma, been physically or sexually abused or seriously neglected.  Creating a model that reaches these children is crucial – without it, they are far more likely to struggle with unplanned pregnancies, drug abuse, incarceration and long-term dependence on government-funded services for food, healthcare and housing in the future.


We believe that in bridging the gap between educators and child welfare professionals to create trauma-sensitive schools, we can also bridge the education gap between at-risk youth and students of the general population nationwide. Our experience at Haven Academy is showing that it can work.


Please visit The Foundling’s Mott Haven Academy by Clicking Here

On Friday June 19, Goldman Sachs’ Community Team Works (CTW) volunteers hosted a job readiness workshop at The Foundling for adults with developmental disabilities. Goldman Sachs’ volunteers coached workshop participants through interactive group discussions and set up “speed interviews” to give everyone a chance to practice their new skills.  During these mock interviews, our adults gained valuable experience and coaching from some of New York City’s top business leaders.   During the event, Goldman Sachs’ volunteers addressed questions from attendees about interviewing and entering the workforce. At the end of the event, each attendee received a certificate of participation and enjoyed lunch in Washington Square Park with the volunteers.


The Foundling provides residential care to approximately 200 adults with mild to severe developmental disabilities.  Our goal is for each person to live as independently as possible in a home environment. We operate under the conviction that all of the people we serve become fully-integrated members of their communities and hold meaningful roles in the workforce.


Thank you to the wonderful Goldman Sachs CTW volunteers for helping our individuals with developmental disabilities build their self-confidence and gain important job skills!


To learn more about our work with adults with developmental disabilities click here.



For those of us who have been at the forefront of the adoption of evidence-based practices (EBPs) for treating at-risk youth and families, the debate among professionals in this field has taken an interesting turn. With EBPs yielding excellent results in a variety of environments and across cultural settings, it now seems as if the composition of the model itself has become the focal point of debate.


Why not treat EBPs as a base, some argue, and adapt it to account for community, cultural or other population differences? “We know our population,” the argument seems to go, “and shouldn’t view EBPs as a one-size-fits-all solution.” While that argument sounds reasonable, it actually presents a number of issues and has the potential to undermine the credibility of the EBP movement through subjectivity, opacity and inconsistency.


Even though EPBs are still at an early stage in their adoption nationally, there is already some compelling data. In programs certified by the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development at the University of Colorado Boulder, outcomes include:


  • 25-70% reductions in rates of re-arrest
  • 47-64% reductions in out-of-home placements
  • Youth 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • Youth 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • Youth 33% less likely to hit someone.


At The New York Foundling, one of New York’s oldest and largest child welfare agencies, our BlueSky Program has seen similar outcomes. For a one-year period, compared to the New York City Office of Children and Family Services’ traditional programs, we saw:


  • 33% fewer arrests
  • 41% fewer felony arrests
  • Diversion of 223 youth from placement with an average cost of $210,000 each.


Obviously, findings to date are based on short periods of time since most EBP programs have been implemented only recently. But the dramatic results are impossible to ignore. With government budgets increasingly tight, the rationale behind these interventions is compelling: The BlueSky program alone has produced not only a remarkable improvement in outcomes, but a cost saving to New York’s taxpayers of more than $35 million.


With these strong initial findings and increasing buy-in from professionals in the field, many policymakers and providers are considering the application of EBPs to their local needs. In doing so, they are exploring whether modifications are necessary and, if so, how far those modifications should go.


Is there anything wrong with that? Isn’t innovation a good thing?


Unfortunately, allowing widespread tinkering with EBPs would be tantamount to allowing a physician to take an FDA-approved drug therapy and “adapt” it — taking components out, putting different components in, changing the dosage and then reporting only the positive outcomes without peer review. Some would claim such practices as innovations. But for the most part, a physician who did that would be widely discredited among serious professionals.


At The New York Foundling, we’ve had to deal with these issues ourselves. We’ve worked closely with EBP developers and have seen significant initial success with a modified program that applies the Functional Family Therapy (FFT) model to the child welfare system. We’ve learned a number of important lessons through this process.


First of all, while ideas for modifications are welcome and encouraged, they should only be done in collaboration with the EBP’s developers. When any program is ready to implement, there must be an evaluation process in place that includes a time frame for reporting results. The evaluation must include every aspect of the process, so we can recognize if one part works and another doesn’t. It must focus on outcomes and everything must be reported — the good with the bad. Evaluations should be equally rigorous whether the program is a modification of an established EBP or a newly developed local initiative.


Government agencies that fund these programs should require these transparent evaluations and in-depth reporting of data, so that they and other professionals can review them, comment on them and learn from them. If government agencies require it and information is transparent and available to all, it will eventually lead to greater uniformity in standards that everyone in this field can measure their programs against.


Critics may argue that one size doesn’t fit all — that they need to be able to adjust the protocols to meet their localized needs. The Foundling’s experience in a very diverse marketplace belies that argument. We see proven EBP protocols working effectively across a wide variety of demographic and cultural contexts.


Others say that EBPs are no substitute for clinical relationships. They are correct — they are not a substitute. In fact, these interventions are among the tools to be used within that clinical relationship. Most EBPs recognize the family as the client and provide the clinician the skills to help youth and their families by repairing family bonds, changing family interactions and improving relationships.


But the bottom line, if one is arguing for modifications in a particular EBP program, is this: Rigorous, transparent evaluation is the key. Even if modifications are developed in partnership with the original developers, they must be subjected to careful and detailed scrutiny. Without that, we may find ourselves with a multitude of programs — and new ones hitting the marketplace constantly — all calling themselves EBPs and using anecdotal, unscientific evidence to market themselves as new “cures.”


The last thing we want to do is hinder innovation. We should all be in favor of it — in youth and family therapies, just as we are in medical and drug therapies. We need to allow for it both within the EBP context and independent of it, as we conceive of new improvements to our current treatment methods. No one should stand in the way of locally developed program models designed to meet existing unmet needs.


However, these programs must specify for whom they work and under what conditions as well as including an evaluation plan with specified timeframes. Only when innovation is evaluated under generally accepted standards can it be built upon and broadly embraced.


Bill Baccaglini is president and CEO of The New York Foundling and Sylvia Rowlands is senior vice president for evidence based programs of The New York Foundling.


Source: http://jjie.org/op-ed-evaluation-must-join-innovation-when-using-evidence-based-practices/