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.


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.

By Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO, The New York Foundling 


When actress Sandra Bullock revealed in People Magazine that she adopted her second child from foster care, it was not only a demonstration of her love and support for that child, but a reminder to the rest of us about the more than 100,000 children in the United States who are hoping someday to be adopted. Our society has made great strides toward moving children from congregate care settings into foster homes and ultimately into adopted homes, but there is much more that needs to be done.


To begin with, there is a tremendous need for more families to open their homes to foster children. These children need loving foster parents to care for them either for a transitional period or longer-term. In some cases, these children have been through a lot. Many have experienced some form of trauma at a very young age. Especially now, at holiday time, we should remember that for some youngsters, a safe and stable home to live in may be the most precious gift they can hope for.


As with most gifts, those who give also receive. Foster parents continually tell us what a blessing these children are and how spiritually rewarding it is to be able to bring them into their homes. In fact, through the New York Foundling’s foster care program, we’ve seen many foster parents taking in multiple children over time as they recognize the joy that flows through their homes with each new addition.

Even with the help of these wonderful foster families – and we certainly need more of them – we still need to do more. Some children are in foster care temporarily and are eventually able to return to their biological parents. But there are many for whom that is not an option. For some, they move from foster home to foster home, from school to school, from neighborhood to neighborhood – never sure how long they’re going to be in one place.


That’s why Sandra Bullock’s spotlight on this issue is so important, and coverage like the TODAY Show will help us continue the discussion. No matter how caring and devoted foster parents may be, adoption provides a unique type of gift. When a foster parent adopts a child, they are letting that child know they are part of a permanent family – for the rest of their lives.


Toniann Gelardo and her daughter, seven-year-old Shay Anabelle Gelardo, a Staten Island family featured in the TODAY Show’s coverage, made their family official after two years of fostering. “It is the most amazing feeling in the world,” says Ms. Gelardo. “The greatest accomplishment in my lifetime.”


Foster families will say that making their loving family permanent through adoption provides them as many rewards as it provides to their child. Giving a child stability and love – reading bedtime stories, tucking them into bed, cheering them on at sporting events or praising good grades – showing love in ways large and small – means everything. Adoption makes those moments permanent, can drive away fear, conquer uncertainty and help children recover from the trauma of their young lives. It lets them know they have a home.

Flamingo New York visited 3rd and 4th grade students at Mott Haven Academy in The Bronx last month and took them on an exciting field trip to THE POINT, a community development corporation dedicated to children. 


Haven ‘scholars’ had access to all the essential Arts & Crafts supplies any kid could ask for, and spent the afternoon drawing, painting and crafting with volunteers and staff from Flamingo New York.


Haven Academy Scholars.

Haven Academy Scholars.


Flamingo’s social purpose is cultural enrichment which is why they wanted to immerse Haven scholars into the thriving community culture THE POINT offers. THE POINT is dedicated to youth development, and cultural and economic revitalization of The Bronx, encouraging the celebration of life and art in the community, specifically in areas traditionally troubled by poverty and crime.


Established in 2008, Haven Academy serves 290 scholars in grades K-5 and 36 pre-kindergarten students. The school empowers children in an educational environment that addresses and reduces the barriers to academic success through the integration of family support services with a rigorous academic program. Graduates will be resilient, resourceful, independent scholars who have the skills necessary to reach their full potential and to build a better future.

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 questions about their role at The Foundling, what their passions and hobbies are outside of the office, and recognize their achievements and accomplishments.



What are your major responsibilities at The Foundling?

My two major responsibilities at The Foundling are ensuring that all of our compliance requirements are met while on-boarding employees and overseeing employee relations for the Human Resources department. It is the area of my work where I can create solutions that can have a positive impact.



What inspires you most about working at The Foundling?

The team that I work with is my biggest source of inspiration. I strive to impart all the knowledge that I have and really enjoy us improving as a department.



What has driven you to be where you are today?

I have a commitment to excel at everything that I do and I get satisfaction from doing my best. Continually having a sense of accomplishment in all tasks—no matter the size is extremely important to me.



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

I don’t have a particular role model but there are a lot of people that I admire. The common quality that these people have would be compassion.



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

Morocco would be my destination of choice because of the film Casablanca.



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

I am currently reading “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins.



What is your spirit animal and why?

According to my roomie, Laurie, I am a tiger because I am “no holds barred.”



State a fun fact about yourself.

I am a proud member of Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.



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

My first few weeks at Spelman College were action packed and truly amazing. I was terrified of being 900 miles from home, yet it all worked out in my favor. The first ten days of my Spelman experience consisted of orientation activities: we weren’t apart of the Spelman family just yet—we had to learn the chants, the history, and what it actually means to be a Spelman woman.  At the end of those ten long days, we were inducted in to the 134th class of Spelman College!


This opportunity could not have been possible without the New York Foundling. They provided me with an amazing tutor through the Road to Success tutoring program who ensured I received the grades necessary to attend Spelman. Rachel (my tutor) helped read and reread, as well as edit and reedit my personal statement when I was applying to college. I couldn’t have done this without her support and encouragement.


The Foundling helped me achieve my goal of attending my dream school. Although it’s only the first semester of my freshmen year, I absolutely love it here. It feels like home, I’ve made wonderful friends and I genuinely enjoy my classes.