Our Children and Families

Veronica’s Story

Growing up, things were tough. My parents are immigrants from Ecuador and worked where and when they could. For a lot of my childhood, my mom worked in a factory and my dad did construction. They’d come home at 7 or 8 o’clock, leaving my older sister and me alone. Sometimes I spent days in the library.

My older brother had stayed behind in Ecuador, and it was so tough on them to be apart from him like that, but then the unthinkable happened — he died. The family members in Ecuador who were taking care of him were very closed-mouthed about it, but they said he drowned. My parents never got over it, and it was the main event that impacted their whole lives. My dad had always been a drinker, but after my brother’s death, he became an alcoholic.

With my parents heartbroken and hardly around, my sister and I basically had to raise ourselves. No one was there to help me with my homework, or make sure I did it. They never attended my school plays or parent-teacher conferences. They did attend one conference, but because they don’t understand English well, I had to translate, and it just seemed like a waste of time.

Time was a weird factor in my childhood, with my parents having not enough of it and my sister and me spending too much of it alone. We became rebels. We started hanging out with what people call gang members, going out dancing with much older guys. I was 12.

My sister ended up pregnant at 13, and I wasn’t far behind.

While we were out dancing, I met my boyfriend, who was about 5 years older. We did everything together. After my sister had my niece, my mother stayed home to help take care of the baby, and she suddenly started taking notice of what I was doing. But it was too late. She set a curfew, which I ignored. She’d say, “Don’t you be like your sister,” and it annoyed me so much. I’d be like, “I’m not like her,” and just slam the door. I was working as a tutor, earning 50 dollars a week, which gave me a lot of freedom. I had a phone that I paid for myself and felt like I didn’t need anyone—anyone except my boyfriend, that is.

We broke up about a month after we started dating, and I was heartbroken. I couldn’t imagine life without him anymore. Being a girl who doesn’t have her mother’s or father’s care, I was trying to find love elsewhere. We got back together, and two months later, I was the one who was pregnant.

I cried day and night. I didn’t tell my parents until I was in my fifth or sixth month. When I finally told them, it was a whole big issue. The hospital called the Administration for Children’s Services and got an order of protection against my boyfriend. I was so used to seeing him every day, and now I couldn’t see him at all. I felt like I didn’t want my baby, because he was the one who’d taken my boyfriend away — if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I’d still be able to see my boyfriend. That’s what I was thinking.

I was so depressed and wasn’t doing well, relationship-wise, with others. It was a dark time, but thankfully, I had The Child Center of NY to help me through it. My sister had been referred to the home visiting program when she started abusing alcohol after the birth of my niece. Her home visitor saw what was going on with me and thought I could benefit from the program, too. She was right.

My caseworker referred me to therapy with a Child Center therapist, Gisela, which helped a lot. I could finally communicate with someone who would hear me out without judging me. Being pregnant, and then a mom, so young, people look at you with this face, like, “Oh my God, she had a baby.” You feel so judged all the time. But therapy was a place where that wasn’t true. Therapy also helped me in every single relationship, because Gisela helped me learn how to talk things out and express myself.

The home visiting program also showed me that there was a whole world out there. My first home visitor, Ms. Cindy, took me and other kids in the program on trips. We really enjoyed ourselves. I’d never been to a theater or a multiplex, and when she took us, I was like, Wow. She took us to the boardwalk, to see the Manhattan skyline, Governor’s Island…. It was amazing.

Teen Time was another way I got to meet people the same age, interact with them, and have fun without being judged.

But one of the most important things The Child Center helped me learn was how to be a good mom to my son. I had my baby boy five days before my 15th birthday. He was born at 34 weeks and had a lot of medical issues. Eventually, it turned out he was having developmental delays, and in 2014, he was diagnosed with autism. I was heartbroken. I thought it was my fault and wanted to give up; I felt like I’d already failed as a parent. But my mental health worker, Ms. Brenda, explained that sometimes these things happen, and I was going to have to be mature enough and strong enough to deal with it for my son’s sake. She showed me how to research, fill out paperwork, and ask questions. I wasn’t the type of person to ask questions; I was the kind of person who wanted to pretend nothing was wrong. But Ms. Brenda helped me deal with my son’s diagnosis, and now I know how to advocate for him.

Even with all this going on, it was still important to me that I finish high school, and Ms. Brenda helped me transfer to a high school that had child care. It wasn’t easy being a mom, working, and going to high school, especially with all my son’s doctor appointments and his being sick a lot. But I did it: I graduated high school, and today I’m a student at Queensborough Community College.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I feel like it’s going to be big. I want to become an ultrasound technician, and I’m working toward my associate’s degree and training. I’m on track to graduate next year.

There were times I was going to give up on college, but Ms. Brenda pointed out to me, “Look how strong you are. Look what you’ve been through already — you were tough enough to get through that.” That’s stayed with me. I know I am that strong.

I like that I’m a good role model for my niece and nephews and my little brother. I can set an example for them and tell them to stand up for themselves. With my brother, I’m able to help him communicate with my parents, the way I learned how through the home visiting program. I had so much anger toward my parents; Ms. Brenda helped me see that I couldn’t change them, but I could learn to communicate with them, and ignore certain things when I needed to.

My son is five now. It’s tough to arrange everything, but I try to be consistent, stay involved in his therapy and education and go to all the parent-teacher conferences. I’m not afraid to ask questions.

Sometimes I get sad and wonder, “Why is my son like this?” This isn’t the way I wanted him to be. But then I remember to go forward. It may not be the way I wanted it to be, but I have so many more years to love my son. There were times I wanted to give up, but I’d think of my son, and I persevered for him. Someday I want to tell him that I achieved everything for him, and I want to give him a diploma one day. I see big things for him, too.

Issaih’s Story

issaihEditor’s Note:  In 2015, The Child Center of NY joined with Major League Baseball and community members to form Far Rockaway RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), bringing little league baseball—and the values of teamwork, sportsmanship, fitness, and perseverance that go with it—back to the peninsula, where it had been missing for years. A mere year later, Far Rockaway RBI was invited to participate in MLB’s All-Star Youth Classic.

I was picked to go to San Diego, California, and was a part of the All-Star Youth Classic. I was so excited, first to go to a different state, and also to play baseball with other people.  The farthest I’d been before that was Upstate New York for three days.

Then I realized that I had to take a plane. This was one of my fears.  I do not know why, just the thought of the plane crashing.

When we arrived at John F. Kennedy airport, I was slightly frightened of the plane ride because I had never been on a plane. At 9:00 we were on the plane. It wasn’t so bad.  It was a smooth and comfortable flight.

When we landed in California, I thought, this is beautiful. It was so hot and sunny. Soon we arrived at the San Diego University and we sat down for the opening ceremony and then off to the dorms. I was kind of nervous to meet so many new people. And then I realized that a lot of them were talking about us, Far Rockaway RBI.  They seemed surprised we were there. I think maybe we weren’t  supposed to go. Other kids were saying, “They don’t know how to play baseball, they never played before.” But I knew that we would have a great time if we listened and stuck to the plan.

The next day we took on the Chicago Cubs. We lost. But actually, we felt like we won because we worked our hardest and we learned from the experience. We did better than we thought we would.

Throughout the weekend, we kept getting better and better. The second day we versed the Cardinals. We lost that game, too, but we really enjoyed playing them.  They were nice and were always chanting, supporting their team.  We started chanting on our teammates, too, helping each other step up, and we played better than the day before.

The next game was against the Slaterettes. We almost beat them, but we lost.

Then we went up against the Padres. That’s when I made a home run.  But that wasn’t even the most exciting part. That happened later, in the last inning. The score was really close. The ball came straight to me and I thought, this could be my moment. I caught the ball. The runners on first and second base ran from their bases but once the ball was caught they were supposed to return to their bases, which they did not. I then tagged second base and threw to first base. That meant three outs and the crowd went wild.  I had made a triple play, and we tied the game.  That was my favorite memory of the trip.

This whole thing helped me grow not just as a baseball player or as an athlete, but as a person. Sometimes things don’t come so easy, but you have to work hard to reach your goal. Then it might come easier next time.  I learned that it takes one thing to be a baseball player, but it’s another thing to actually show that you’re a hard worker and you have courage, and you’re not in it for the fame or the hype. My coaches, Renee, Skeeter, Coach Ghosh, and Coach Sean are amazing;. they all couldn’t come to San Diego, but they all helped me learn these lessons and are greatly appreciated.

Even though we lost a lot of games, we showed we played together as a team. It doesn’t matter who wins the game. It’s about who works the hardest to achieve a goal, and the goal was to have fun and have a good experience.  I felt like when I struck out, it got me closer to the home run, and in the last game I actually made a home run.  I set a goal, I persevered, and I accomplished it.

Sean’s Story

Sean with Ms. Brenda at his high school graduation

Sean with Ms. Brenda at his high school graduation

I was a naïve kid. I never really paid much mind to what was going on around me. I was bullied because I like to be weird and a little out there—it makes the friends I have now laugh—but in first through eighth or ninth grade, I didn’t have any friends who were like me. People just saw me as a weird kid nobody likes.

That sounds really sad, but I just drowned it out. I’d come home from school and make my little fort out of pillows and play with my action figures.

I knew I was unhappy, but I tried not to pay attention to it. I was a little kid, so I was easily distracted. I never really thought about it until I was at school and realized I had no friends to talk to during recess.

But then I got older and it became too much. I had always pushed my feelings down because I didn’t want to seem weak or be a burden. But I couldn’t deal with myself—I started developing voices, seeing things, losing it. I didn’t know what to do. I was too afraid to die but too depressed to live. Sometimes I would hold a knife to my throat so that I’d realize how much I wanted to live.

That’s when I had a breakdown. I was 16, my girlfriend had just left me, and my grandma and aunt had passed away. I just snapped. I was at school and started screaming and crying that I couldn’t handle it anymore. The school called my mom, who came right away and took me to Bellevue Hospital. I was there for a week and a half, and then they referred me to The Child Center of NY’s home visiting program.

That’s when I met Ms. Miriam. At first it was awkward having some new person coming into my home. But over time, I warmed up to her and got used to her being around. I gradually began to realize how bad my anger was, and how I needed to treat the people in my life better—and that they needed to treat me better, too. Ms. Miriam worked with my mom and me on that, and on communicating with each other.

I’d gotten back together with my girlfriend, and the things Ms. Miriam taught me helped the two of us communicate better, too, and deal with our anger. Normally when I was angry, I’d punch things or break stuff, or hold it in. Or I’d start crying because I didn’t have any other outlet. Ms. Miriam helped me find ways to reduce the buildup when I started getting angry and gave me other alternatives to the crying and breaking things. She helped me learn to think through the consequences and decide if I should walk away or talk about it. Before I started seeing Miriam, if my girlfriend and I disagreed, I’d yell my opinion, she’d shout hers, and one of us would walk out crying. Now, we’re able to say, “Okay, this is what I don’t like….” And we talk about it. Now I know what it takes to have a real relationship, and that helps me not just with my girlfriend, but with my other relationships, too.

Ms. Miriam also introduced me to Teen Time [a group that brings together teens from The Child Center’s various home visiting programs], which I like because I have a lot of fun with the other teens there. I can be myself around them—or at least, myself toned down a little. A lot of times, other people would tell me, “It’s not that bad,” and I’d think to myself, “You don’t understand this pain.” But the people at Teen Time, they understand that it was that bad—even though they’d never say it.

After four months with Ms. Miriam, I got transferred to a less intense program and started seeing Ms. Brenda. In June, I graduated from the program.

Now that I’ve been through it, I can say that getting help isn’t that bad. Nobody ever wants to do it, but it’s definitely worth it. I’m in a much better place now and looking forward to attending Vaughn College in the fall. I’m hoping to become a computer programmer or robotics engineer and either work for a gaming company or go to Silicon Valley and work on robots in the NASA branch.

I feel ready because The Child Center showed me that when you have a problem, there are things you can do. You can work through things, and a lot of things can be fixed; If they can’t, you can move on. Ms. Brenda and Ms. Miriam showed me that I wasn’t beyond help, and things can get better.

La Historia de Luciano

DSC_0137

Luciano Rosendo, his three sons, and Andrea Piskunov, their case manager

Por fin puedo  decir que me siento listo para enfrentar el futuro; ha sido un camino largo y difícil hasta llegar a donde he llegado.

Cerca de dos años atrás, mi esposa salió a hacer algunas vueltas y nunca regreso. Desde entonces he estado tratando de ser fuerte y levantar a nuestros hijos de la mejor manera posible. En mi cultura la madre es la que usualmente se encarga de la educación de los hijos así que no ha sido fácil para mí solo, encargarme de esta labor.

Para Guillermo, Cecilio y Luciano tampoco fue fácil enfrentar este cambio. Pedí ayuda al programa de Head Start al cual acudía mi hijo Cecilio en Woodside, Mercedes Jimenez, la trabajadora para la familia me ayudo a aplicar para los cupones de comida y con consejería para mis hijos. Debido a los horarios de trabajo, me vi forzado a irme a vivir en el área de Corona con un familiar quien me ofreció ayuda con el cuidado de mis hijos.

Al principio fue difícil hasta adaptarnos a la forma de cuidado de mi familiar. Mercedes nos refirió al Head Start/ Early learn program en Corona y también al Elmhurst Family Center General Prevention donde conocimos a nuestra actual coordinadora de servicios Andrea Piskunov quien es y sigue siendo una pieza importante en el mejoramiento de nuestra situación.

Estoy muy agradecido a The Child Center of NY y muy especialmente a Andrea quien nos visita con frecuencia y nos ha ayudado a desarrollar rutinas diarias- como supervisión de  las tareas escolares- con mis hijos quienes tienen ahora, 7,5 y 4 años de edad.

Yo pienso que mis hijos son ahora más felices y están más seguros. Trato de hablar con ellos y hacerles entender la situación por la que están pasando y les dejo saber que yo estoy para ellos. También estoy aprendiendo a leer y a escribir para poder ayudarles a ellos un poco más. Estoy listo para poder sacar adelante a mis hijos y poder decir que tenemos de nuevo una familia.

Luciano’s Story

Finally, I feel ready for the future. It has been a long and difficult road to get here.

A couple of years ago, my wife went out for an errand and never came back.  Since then, I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces and raise our three young sons right.  In my culture it is usually the mother that handles childcare, so taking on this new role has not been easy for me.

Guillermo, Cecilio, and Luciano didn’t handle the changes well, either. I asked Cecilio’s Head Start program in Woodside for help, where Mercedes Jiminez got us SNAP (food stamp) benefits and counseling for my sons. Then we moved so that someone in my family could take us in to help with the children, because I work such long hours.  But that was also a problem at first, because our caregiving styles are so different. Mercedes sent us to the closer Corona Head Start/Early Learn program, where a social worker helps the children, and to the Elmhurst Family Center General Prevention Program, where I met our case manager, Andrea Piskunov, who has done so much to make our situation better.

I am thankful to The Child Center of NY and especially to Andrea, who visits us often and has helped me develop routines – like doing homework and getting ready for school – with my boys, who are now 7, 5, and 4 years old.

I think my kids feel happier now, and safer.  I try to talk to them and understand what they’re going through, and I’m there for them as much as possible.  I am learning how to read and write so that I can help them even more. I am ready for us to be on our own as a family again.

 

Jahdiel’s Story

DSC_0107My name is Jahdiel, and I’m 18 years old.  I came to The Child Center of NY on an ACS referral, because I was finding it difficult to speak to people. Having started public school after being home schooled was too overwhelming for me, and I shut down.  You go from being one-on-one to one on 30 or 35.  It is very hard to engage with everyone.  It’s too much to take in.

In 2011, I took a year off from school.  When I came back, things were much better.  Since I’d had a year to work on my issues, I was able to deal with classrooms and large crowds a lot better.

I have gone to sessions with Rebecca Gannon in the South Jamaica clinic for four years, and she and The Child Center made me into a functioning person.  I was like a closed-up turtle before. I lived vicariously through TV.  My social skills were nonexistent, but I have slowly been able to progress from intimate conversations to group situations.  I’m in 10th grade now, but people don’t seem to notice or care about the age difference.

I still don’t really enjoy big family gatherings, but I’m in a Restorative Justice group at school, and working on outside projects — like planting trees in Battery Park — has enabled me to acclimate myself to social situations and also to be a model for others with similar experience or behaviors.  I hadn’t been leaving the house much before, but now, as a peer counselor, I’m counted on — I have to show up.  It’s really The Child Center that helped me to help myself and also to be of help to other young people.DSC_0072

A few months ago, when Rebecca moved to South Jamaica from the other Jamaica location, it added at least 30 minutes to my commute time, but I didn’t want to lose this support system.  It’s easy to be lazy but not to give up.

She told me she’s proud of me and that the differences in me are “night and day.”  I say “night and year.”  I’m a new person, but the good thing is I’m also still me. The Child Center is about becoming who you are — embracing yourself, even if you are naturally a sheltered person – and being able to handle your faults.

David’s Story

David-and-Anderson-at-the-Media-Event

David Song and Dr. Sung Min Yoon

My name is David Song, and I am 10 years old. I came to see Dr. Yoon because I was shy and did not talk to teachers and friends. I was fearful of talking to others outside of my parents and older sister at home. I was so scared that I could not say any single word when I was asked to make a presentation in front of class. I felt embarrassed. I just looked down the floor and wanted to cry. My self-esteem diminished, and I was upset every day. When my mother asked me to go to The Child Center of NY, I didn’t want to because I was uncomfortable. But my mother did not give up on me, and eventually I agreed to give it a try.
Continue reading

Davier’s Story

Davier2My father used to walk by 162nd Street on a regular basis, seeing the logo for The Child Center of NY and not giving it a passing thought. Earlier this year, I was having some personal problems, and I told my dad I needed help. I was pretty sure I needed to talk to someone about troubles with peer interactions and relationships, and how it was affecting me on multiple levels. My dad remembered The Child Center.

I’m 17 years old, and I go to Queens Vocational in Sunnyside. I’m on an afterschool robotics team. We build robots and compete every year at the Javits Center. I try to keep my grades in the 90s range, so I’m fairly confident that I’ll get into NYU to study electrical and computer engineering. I visited the school, and it’s my first choice.

Continue reading

Tiffany’s Story

tiffany-headshot

When I was 15 years old, I was tired of dealing with reality. I wanted to forget everything I ever felt. I was raped at age 11 by an older boy in a gang. That was the start of the journey where I would begin to isolate myself. The way I would escape from the world would be to drink and smoke until I was no longer myself.

“I was trapped in a world full of darkness. I am just so happy that The Child Center was there to shed light. If I had never gotten the help I needed I would probably have either ended up dead or in jail. I would have definitely dropped out of high school. My relationship with other people would still be horrible. My parents would be disappointed in me. I would still have friends who were toxic to me.”

Continue reading

Nasrin’s Story

nasrin2

When Nasrin first came to the United States from Bangladesh, she struggled to adjust to the unfamiliar language and customs. Life at home was stressful, too. She felt that her husband dominated her, and she was unsure how to address her son’s aggressive behavior or her daughter’s shyness. In her neighborhood in Woodside, Queens, Nasrin had often passed by The Child Center’s Head Start program, and she decided to enroll her son, Haseen.

At the family orientation for the program, Nasrin heard about services to help families facing domestic violence and emotional abuse. She took advantage of every opportunity. With the help of a case worker and counselor from The Child Center, she improved her parenting skills and gained confidence.

Continue reading

Translate »