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Our Work Continues: Perseverance and Compassion in our Homes for Adults with Developmental Disabilities (Part 1)


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 shares how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.

While some adults with developmental disabilities are able to live independently or in the care of a close family member, others require more intensive round-the-clock services tailored to their level of independence. For these people, many of whom have complex medical needs, The Foundling provides supportive and nurturing housing that is fully integrated into the surrounding community. The Foundling provides residential services for people with developmental disabilities in all five boroughs of New York City and in Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties.

We support the people in our residential programs as they work to engage with their community, gain more autonomy, and participate in gainful activities – from day programs to volunteer work and employment.

On any given day, hundreds of staff from The Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities Division are reporting to work at 104 separate supportive residences across the New York metropolitan area. Each home houses several individuals, and is staffed by direct care workers and nurses. With so many in people in every home, the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak among our staff and the people we serve has been a critical focus of The Foundling since the onset of the pandemic, especially as many of these residents live with complex pre-existing conditions or are otherwise immunocompromised.

The dedicated nurses who work with our residents have fought tirelessly since March to keep their community healthy. They rely on the incredible perseverance and commitment of the direct care staff in every home to ensure that the residents – many of whom have suffered trauma from isolation and abuse – are comfortable and happy at home, despite these challenging times. Our Developmental Disabilities division staff members have faced incredible challenges and heartbreaks over the last two months, but they, have and continue to go above and beyond to bring joy and hope to the residents in their care.

There are hundreds of stories of perseverance and compassion from our many residences for people with development disabilities.

When our residents could no longer visit the barbershop or salon for a haircut, staff from The Bronx to Staten Island stepped in – including Ricardo Wright, Jeremiah Harris, and Okechukwu “Stanley” Nwanyanwu – and established makeshift barbershops, cutting residents hair for both hygiene and fun.

Elsewhere, staff members went above the call of duty in efforts to fill in for staff who were sick, taking care of a loved one, or unable to come to work. Their colleagues took on additional shifts and worked non-stop with no questions asked, knowing that their clients needed them. Nichole Guions took on extra shifts and stayed late even while caring for her fiancé, who was ill with the virus at home. Randy Brown, meanwhile, even slept at the residence where he was assigned, to be sure he would be there if any of the residents needed him.

Wood Street Staff

With the return of warm weather, our residential staff have sought to comfort residents by planning barbecues and cookouts.

There are countless stories like these to share, but Renee Pili, Assistant Vice President of Residential Services, summarized the sentiment best:

“In times like these, it is very easy to succumb to frustration, anxiety, and fear. The easy way out would be to run, hide, and leave the worrying to other people. But that has not been the case for our residential managers and staff.”

Renee elaborated that despite incredible personal challenges, staff have risen above the call of duty, “Many have endured illnesses and passings, have embraced new roles as teachers for their children, or are living separately from their families, because they work with sick residents and do not want to risk bringing the virus home.

“They have faced crisis after crisis, and yet our people remain united and strong. They keep persevering—not only adapting to challenging new work routines but offering support to the individuals in our residences in new and creative ways. They are valuable team members, and I cannot express my gratitude enough.”

We are humbled daily by the care that our team gives to make others’ lives better. Thank you to all of our residential staff. Stay tuned next week for more updates from our Developmental Disabilities Division.

To learn more about how The New York Foundling is 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.

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