March is Women’s History Month, and here at The Foundling we would like to take this opportunity to honor respected women that are dear to our organization. These women receive a spotlight and tribute this month because of their ongoing dedication towards children and families in need. Their contribution to our community is endless, and at The Foundling, we appreciate all that they have accomplished on behalf of our mission.
Zaida Milagros Fernández, the beloved founder of our Puerto Rico program, has devoted decades to advocating for the well-being of children, families and communities in the United States and Puerto Rico.
Born in the small town of Coamo in Puerto Rico, she came to the US to pursue her studies, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Social work from Fordham University.
Aware of the overwhelming needs of Puerto Rico’s disadvantaged communities, Zaida was drawn back to her home country a few years later. She quickly set to work offering her services and expertise, founding the Office of Social Services in the Archdiocese of San Juan and pioneering a program that offered aid to Cuban immigrants in exile.
In 1972, she established an office of The Foundling in Puerto Rico, responding to the needs of hundreds of children from foster homes of Puerto Rican families in New York who returned to the island. An adoption program was also established and helped countless local families make their dream of becoming parents a reality.
In 1984, the federal government granted funds to The Foundling to establish a Head Start Program. With Zaida’s guidance, centers were added in Barrio Obrera, Coamo, Hato Rey, and Cantera. Today, The Foundling provides Head Start and Early Head Start services to 1,190 children and their families in 29 centers.
Thanks to the lasting improvements she made in the lives of so many, we recognize Zaida Fernandez as a Foundling Women’s History Month honoree.