Author Archives: Renee Riebling

La Historia de Lorena

Lorena and her family. The three children have all been students at Escalera Head Start.

De izquierda a derecha: Cándido (padre); Jennifer, de 7 años; Ximena, de 9 años; Lorena; Alexis, de 4 años. Lorena sostiene el certificado de premio de Alexis por juegos de rompecabezas.

English Version

“Tengo tres hijos que han sido estudiantes en Escalera Early Childhood. Mis hijas estuvieron en el programa hace un par de años. Mi hijo comenzó en Early Head Start de Escalera cuando tenía dos años y ahora está en la clase UPK. Comenzará el jardín de infantes en el otoño.

Todos mis hijos no son tan tímidos como antes. Mejoraron en el aprendizaje de la escritura, en el aprendizaje del abecedario y en la participación en todos los libros que leyeron.  

Yo también mejoré como padre. Escalera me ayudó a hablar con mi hijo cuando estaba llorando, y pronto dejó de llorar. Me ayudaron a ayudar a mi hijo a compartir cosas, recoger el desorden, comer, vestirse, ir al baño y cruzar la calle cuando van al parque a divertirse, el equipo de Escalera me ayudó con todas estas cosas, me ayudó a ver cuánto podía ayudar a mis hijos a hacer.  

Escalera ofrece muchas maneras de apoyarnos con la crianza de los hijos, y yo aproveché muchas de ellas. Estoy en el Comité de Padres, lo cual decidí hacer para poder retribuir al programa, organizar eventos y tener experiencia en un comité como este. Participé en las excursiones de la clase Health Bucks al mercado de agricultores, donde podía elegir frutas y verduras saludables para mi familia, y en las actividades del aula. Disfruté participando en las actividades de la clase ayudando a hacer las piñatas para cada una de las clases.  

Una cosa que estoy muy contenta de haber hecho, fue asistir a ParentCorps, que Escalera ofrece en el centro. ParentCorps me ayudó a ser más paciente con mis hijos, a ayudarlos a controlar sus rabietas y su ira. Aprendes muchas maneras de criar a tu hijo de una manera diferente a cuando creciste. 

¡Mis hijas están en 2º y 3º grado ahora y les va muy bien! El programa los preparó para el jardín de infantes, y ahora sé que mi hijo estará preparado y listo para hacerlo bien. Los maestros ayudan hablando mucho con los niños, haciéndoles saber que son adultos y que van a cambiar de escuela y de maestro. Ayudan a los niños a escribir su nombre, a saber los números y el abecedario, y a compartir cosas.  

Escalera es una muy buena escuela, con buenos profesores que ayudan mucho a los niños. Son muy pacientes y no tienes que preocuparte de que te juzguen. Simplemente te ayudan a ser el mejor padre que puedes ser para tus hijos.”

Lorena’s Story

From left to right: Candido (dad); 7-year-old Jennifer; 9-year-old Ximena; Lorena; 4-year-old Alexis. Lorena is holding Alexis’ certificate of award for puzzle games.

“I have three children who have been students at Escalera Early Childhood. My daughters were in the program a couple of years ago. My son started in Escalera Early Head Start when he was two years old and now he is in the UPK [universal pre-kindergarten] class. He will be starting kindergarten in the fall.  

All my children are not as shy as they were. They improved in learning to write, learning their ABCs, and participating in every book they read.  

I improved as a parent too. Escalera helped me talk to my son when he was crying, and he soon stopped crying. They helped me to help my son share things, pick up clutter, eat, get dressed, go to the bathroom, and cross the street when they go to the park to enjoy themselves. The Escalera team helped me with all these things, helped me see how much I could help my children do.  

Escalera offers many ways to support us with parenting, and I took advantage of many of them. I am on the Parent Committee, which I decided to do so I could give back to the program, organize events, and have experience being on a committee like this. I participated in Health Bucks class field trips to the farmer’s market, where I could choose healthy fruits and vegetables for my family, and in the classroom activities. I enjoyed participating in the class activities of helping to make the piñatas for each of the classes.  

One thing I am really glad I did was attend ParentCorps, which Escalera offers at the center. ParentCorps helped me to be more patient with my children, to help them control their tantrums and their anger. You learn many ways to raise your child in a different way than when you grew up. 

My daughters are in second and third grade now and doing so well! The program prepared them for kindergarten, and now I know my son will be prepared and ready to do well. The teachers help by talking to the children a lot, letting them know that they are grown up, and that they are going to change schools and teachers. They help the children write their name, know the numbers and ABCs, and share things.  

Escalera is a very good school, with good teachers who help the children a lot. They are very patient and you don’t have to worry they will judge you. They just help you be the best parent you can be for your children.”  

Jismerlyn’s Story

Jismerlyn, a participant in The Child Cente'rs Literacy Leaders sight words program, is at her desk completing a worksheet.Jismerlyn is a first grader in The Child Center of NY’s COMPASS program at P.S. 56, in Richmond Hill, Queens. When Jismerlyn was in kindergarten, she was unable to read at grade level. She participated in our Literacy Leaders program. Now a first grader, Jismerlyn is reading above grade level and knows all 190 sight words. This is important because sight words provide the foundation for reading on grade level and keeps students on track toward reading proficiently by the end of third grade, which is an important predictor of academic success, high school graduation, and other long-term benefits. For more information, please read our “Literacy Leaders” blog post. We asked Jismerlyn about her experience in the sight word program. Here’s what she told us.  

The Child Center of NY: What do you like about the sight word program? 

Jismerlyn: What I like about sight words are all the new words that I am learning! It’s good for me, and if I read a lot of books, it helps me be better at reading.  

What is your favorite sight word game?  

I like to play the word match game. It’s so fun, and I like it! It’s fun when you get a match.  

What do you think you might want to be when you grow up? 

A doctor because if somebody is sick, they can be better. 

Do you have a favorite book? 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

Literacy Leaders

Jismerlyn and Emma, participants in Literacy Leaders, sit at their desks and complete worksheets.

Spotlight on our sight word program, and a 6-year-old who shows its importance

Jismerlyn and Emma, participants in Literacy Leaders, sit at their desks and complete worksheets.

Six-year-old Jismerlyn (center) and fellow student Emma are participants in Literacy Leaders.

Did you know that 60 percent of all the words in print come down to the same 220 words? Those magical 220 words are known as sight words. They are common words that can be difficult to “sound out” (think “could” and “does”); but if children recognize them by the end of first grade, they are well on their way to fluency and being on grade level for literacy. 

That’s why The Child Center of NY piloted a sight word program for kindergartners and first graders at seven of our afterschool programs for elementary schoolers. Reaching 280 kindergarten and first grade students, the program helped 76 percent of participants improve their sight word skills, and 60 percent of participants were reading at grade level by the end of the program. This means they are on track to outperform the citywide average of 49 percent in third grade (the first year that standardized testing is administered).  

“These results are especially impressive considering our afterschool programs often serve children with the greatest learning barriers in the school,” says Senior Program Director Frances Keogan. “Barriers such as poverty or a family who lacks familiarity with the public school system frequently translate into children starting out their education already behind—and then it can snowball, making the child feel like it’s impossible to catch up. At Child Center afterschool programs, we counteract this by offering targeted academic and emotional support, measuring our results, and scaling up what works.”  

Keogan is thrilled that the sight word program is having such a positive effect on children just beginning their academic journeys. “Not only will this help them stay on track,” says Keogan, “but it will also give them a good feeling about school, and their own ability to succeed.”  

One first grader who is well on her way is six-year-old Jismerlyn, a student at P.S. 56 in Richmond Hill, Queens, and a participant in the sight words program at The Child Center’s COMPASS afterschool program there.  

“Jismerlyn was having a difficult time,” says Assistant Program Director Cesar Guzman. “She struggled with sight words in her first year in the program. She had a hard time advancing to the next level. It’s tough for students like Jismerlyn who may only speak Spanish in the home. But after working with her teacher, Ms. Stephanie, and Ms. Jamelia, our literacy specialist, Jismerlyn began to improve. Ms. Stephanie and Ms. Jamelia make learning fun with different games and by reading books with sight words in them with the students. Over the past few months, Jismerlyn has improved greatly! She knows all 190 sight words and has surpassed grade-level expectations for her sight word knowledge as a first grader. She is well on her way to being able to read at or above grade level by third grade, which is an important predictor of school success and high school graduation.”    

The sight word program is the first part of a suite of literacy initiatives The Child Center offers through our afterschool programs. Once sight word recognition has been achieved, our literacy initiative continues with Ready Readers for second and third graders. Ready Readers focuses on highly engaging grade-level texts and read-alouds that get students excited about reading. 

“We are so proud of our Literacy Leaders and Ready Readers teams, and all they are doing to help children begin their literacy journeys on the right foot,” says Nicholas Ferreira, Senior Vice President of Youth Development at The Child Center. “These programs and children like Jismerlyn stand as testament to the fact that with the right support, children of any background can achieve academic success and thrive.” 

Read this Q&A with Jismerlyn to see what she likes about the Literacy Leaders program and learning to read. 

Photo of the Month: Our Client Speaker at The Child Center of NY’s inaugural immersive play at Lincoln Center, “Outside In”

Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) client Jonah with Talia Banks, RTF creative arts coordinator, at Outside In at Lincoln Center
Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) client Jonah with Talia Banks, RTF creative arts coordinator, at Outside In at Lincoln Center

Photo credit: Anthony Artis

Meet Jonah, our brave, smart, funny, and insightful client who shared their story with more than 200 Child Center of NY friends and supporters on May 7—National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day—at “Outside In.”

Instead of celebrating with a traditional gala this year, The Child Center of NY joined forces with the Emmy award-winning minds at Giant Step and the Emmy-nominated team behind Disney’s “Growing Up” at SoulHouse to create “Outside In,” a unique immersive play at Lincoln Center that explored mental wellness with an engaging interactive performance. “Outside In” highlighted The Child Center’s progressive approach to mental well-being by inviting audience members to be an integral part of the experience.

There were three shows during the night, and each was filled to capacity. Each one was a dynamic adventure where guests influenced the narrative, making each performance a unique reflection of its audience. The night offered an intimate look at the challenges facing our youth, in no small part because of clients like Jonah, who chose to tell their story.

Jonah is a client at The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF), a place where youth who have had multiple psychiatric hospital stays, as well as juvenile justice-involved youth with psychiatric disorders, can get the support and fresh start they need to address their mental health challenges and begin to build the lives they see for themselves. At “Outside In,” Jonah spoke candidly and movingly about their mental health journey. They ended with wisdom beyond their years by saying to the audience, “There’s a lot I would like you to know, but because of time I can give you this one thing: Be kind, be sensitive, and try to listen.

Link to the RTF creative arts video

See the RTF creative arts program in action in this powerful video.

This Photo of the Month features Jonah with Child Center team member Talia Banks, the RTF’s creative and therapeutic arts coordinator. As Jonah confided in the audience, Jonah finds their glimmer in being able to express themselves through art, writing, and drawing. Jonah has even merged these passions into a comic book they are creating. You can see in this photo the rapport that Talia has developed with Jonah, who is building confidence in their own abilities every day with the help of Talia and the rest of the team at the RTF.

Also featured in this photo is the night’s vocal talent, FCBC Worship Ensemble Choir of Hope Center Harlem, led by Tamish Bates, and Nina Grae, musical director and composer for “Outside In.”

Jonah is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do here at The Child Center: provide more than 58,000 New Yorkers each year with the support they need to build the healthy, fulfilling lives they are capable of.

“There are many things ‘Outside In’ meant to me,” Jonah said. “One thing it meant to me was that it was insightful and it was uplifting. I hope that the audience took from the experience that whatever demons you’re facing inside are not stronger than the light outside.”

While “Outside In” was a one-night-only experience, there is still ample opportunity for people to join us in making mental health history. The Child Center began in 1953 as a children’s counseling center, and a commitment to mental health remains at the heart of everything we do. In our post-COVID reality, this commitment has never been more important, and the need for innovative solutions has never been more urgent. That is why The Child Center is launching the groundbreaking Innovation Collaborative, which will convene the brightest minds in mental health, technology, art, community work, and science and serve as an incubator for a new paradigm in mental well-being solutions—one that is dynamic, inclusive, and revolutionary.

Learn more in our press release, and see all the fabulous photos from the event in our Facebook album.

Photo of the Month: Supporting Young Children and Their Families

CEO Traci Donnelly with a client of our Perintal Intensive Outpatient Program for families with postpartum depression and other challenges

Child Center of NY CEO Traci Donnelly with a client of the Macari Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program for families with postpartum depression and other challengesWe can’t get enough of the engagement, connection, and plain old cuteness in this photo! Pictured here are Child Center Chief Executive Officer Traci Donnelly with 19-month-old Lula.

Lula and her mom are clients of The Child Center of NY’s Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program, which supports parents who are pregnant or have recently given birth and may be experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, more commonly known as Postpartum Depression.

“Nearly 80 percent of people who have recently given birth experience what we commonly call the ‘baby blues.’ This is a temporary condition that can cause the new parent to feel sad, exhausted, and stressed, even as they are filled with love for their baby,” explains Beverly Gould, director of the perinatal program. “In some cases, time and the support of family and friends can help a new mom through this transitional period. But sometimes what a mom is experiencing is actually a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. This is more intense, serious, long-lasting, and can cause the parent to feel hopeless and disconnected from their baby. In these cases, more help is needed.”

Our perinatal and early childhood mental health teams know that the love these parents have for their babies is deep and enduring, and that with the right skills and support, parents with postpartum depression and other challenges can become the confident, healthy, and loving parents they want to be for their babies.

In honor of the Week of the Young Child earlier this month, The Child Center is proud to support young children like Lula and their families with programs like the perinatal program, as well as in our early childhood education programs, and throughout the organization.

For more information on any of our programs that support young children and their families, give us a call! We tailor our services to each family’s needs and help children and parents learn, grow, and support each other together.

Media of the Month: Destination: Princeton University for WIOA Participants

By Michelle London
Program Director, WIOA Learn & Earn

On March 1, participants of The Child Center’s WIOA Learn & Earn Program had a wonderful opportunity to visit Princeton University, thanks to the generosity of Child Center supporter Ken Jones. The WIOA program works with youth from low-income families to strengthen their academic skills, as well as their readiness for higher education and the workforce.

In advance of the Princeton trip, we tasked each young person to maintain passing grades in their classes and 90% attendance in school and workshops all the way to February. We were impressed that 41 out of 68 WIOA participants met the requirements, signed up, and went on the trip.

Students were given a folder containing a pre-survey to complete before the trip and examples of questions to ask during the tour. The folder also included information about Princeton University and the different majors the school offers. The survey included questions such as “What are you hoping to learn from this tour?” and “What are your top priorities when choosing a college?”

By the time we arrived, the students were eager to learn about the school’s culture, history, academic programs, and campus life. They split into two groups to ensure all students could ask questions and get the full Princeton experience. The tour guides were warm and generous in their answers. They showed the students many aspects of the campus, including the libraries, dorms, classrooms, and athletic facilities. They also shared exciting stories about the school’s history, student life, sports, superstitions, and majors, which helped the students understand what college life would be like at Princeton. They also talked about the tuition fees and financial aid available.

In addition to a traditional tour, the students participated in a scavenger hunt, which gave them an exciting, fun, and hands-on way to learn more about university life. They took pictures in front of various buildings and completed challenges to learn more about the school. They also participated in an “interview 101” with current students. They had a great time and were excited to share their experiences with their peers!

After the tour, we stopped for lunch and talked about what they learned. It was heartening and inspiring to hear the excitement in their voices. Everything my team does at WIOA is to prepare our scholars for the next chapter. We want them to know that college is not just something other people do—it is something they can do. This visit to Princeton drove that message home for them, and I could see the sense of hope in their faces and hear it in their words. I hope that you see it, too, in this collage that has the honor of being this month’s Media of the Month!

A post-tour survey allowed scholars to reflect on their experiences and share their thoughts on the visit. They put a lot of thought into it and clearly left feeling inspired and motivated to pursue their academic goals.

On behalf of all of us at WIOA, I extend my deepest thanks to Ken Jones for sponsoring this trip and opening up a whole new world for our WIOA youth! Child Center supporters play an invaluable role in ensuring our students have access to the experience and opportunities all young people deserve.

National Social Work Month: Q&A with Gerda Gonzalez, LMSW, School-Based Clinical Coordinator

Gerda Gonzalez, a social worker at the school-based mental health center at Pam American International High School, presents at a CIOB event on self-harm.
Gerda Gonzalez, a social worker at the school-based mental health center at Pam American International High School, presents at a CIOB event on self-harm.

Gerda presenting at the Consortium, Internationals, and NYC Outward Bound (CIOB) Schools counseling meeting last month.

The road Gerda Gonzalez, LMSW, took professionally to become a social worker was not a straight path, but today, she’s confident it led her to the right destination.

Gerda serves as school-based clinical coordinator at Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Queens. She manages the school’s mental health wellness center and also sees clients in therapy.

The Child Center of NY provides school-based mental health (SBMH) services at 11 NYC public schools. In-school counseling programs overcome common barriers to mental health treatment by offering services to young people in the convenient space of their schools. The Child Center’s SBMH programs operate on three levels: mental health educational services to the entire school community, selective services with children who might be at risk, and targeted services in the form of therapy.

Pan American International High School is home to students who have immigrated to the United States within the past four years. As a first-generation American who lived outside the U.S. for part of her childhood, Gerda understands the challenges and traumas young people face when they arrive in a new country with an unfamiliar culture and language. In honor of Social Work Month, we asked Gerda about the role social work plays in easing the transition for these young immigrants so they can develop positive coping strategies and flourish.

The Child Center of NY: You told us you never intended to become a social worker. How did that happen?

 Gerda Gonzalez, LMSW: Both of my parents are immigrants. My mother is from Bolivia, and my father is from Spain. Spanish was the only language spoken in my home growing up. I started first grade here in the U.S., but I grew up for some years in Spain and returned to the U.S. when I was in 10th grade. When it was time to choose a career path, I knew I wanted to help kids that age, so I became an English teacher. I taught ninth and 10th grade English for two years. I realized I didn’t like the teaching aspect as much as I liked interacting with students and supporting them with their emotional needs. A lot of them would come to me and tell me what they were going through, and I didn’t have the skills to support them. That’s when I realized what I wanted to do: become a social worker.

What led you to The Child Center?

I got an internship with Yessenia Rodriguez at The Child Center’s old Elmhurst Clinic. This was in March 2020—right at the beginning of the [COVID-19] pandemic! But mental health services are considered essential, so the work of the clinic never stopped. I worked with families with children ages 0-5. We did a lot of work around providing guidance to parents so they could develop their parenting skills and best support their kids. When I completed the internship, Yessenia was like, I don’t want The Child Center to lose you! She was transitioning to the perinatal program. Since it was new, there weren’t any positions available, but Yessenia alerted me to openings elsewhere at The Child Center. Due to my background as a teacher and first-generation American, I applied for a school-based mental health position at Pan American. That was in January 2021, and I’ve been here ever since!

What kind of mental health issues are you seeing at your school?

The population I work with is mostly students who have been in the U.S. for less than 4 years. I can kind of put myself in their position. Coming to a new country in the middle of high school is a big transition. There is definitely immigration trauma. Students often come from really difficult circumstances, left family behind who they really loved, and are in a completely new environment. All of those pieces create a cluster of trauma. Here, there is an individualistic approach that is unfamiliar to people from Central and South America, where the culture is more about the group, everyone working together, supporting each other. Here it’s more about doing things on your own and what you can accomplish individually. For example, in the countries they come from, you get eggs from your aunt, milk from a neighbor … everyone helps each other out. When families come here, they have to get used to everything being more separate.

Of course, there is also the language issue. All students at Pan American speak Spanish and learn English as they go through high school. I provide therapy in both languages. In therapy, you want to be comfortable, you don’t want language to be a barrier, so usually sessions are in Spanish. But by 12th grade, some students choose to have sessions in English.

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of self-harm. During the pandemic, and now from the effects of the pandemic, there has been a lot of depression and risk of suicide. With time, I’m seeing more anxiety and self-harm. Students often don’t know how to manage their emotions. Self-harm is their coping strategy. It’s easier to think about negative coping strategies than positive ones. It’s quicker, you immediately feel relief, and so you end up resorting to that instead of trying positive methods, which they may not be aware of since they are not as popular in the media and other aspects of their life.

What are some positive coping strategies you help students develop?

Deep breathing exercises, art as a medium, going for a walk, exercising, creating positive self-talk … even writing on a sticker, “You’ve got this today!” can help shape your day and manage your emotions. Journaling is another great strategy. When students feel overwhelmed, I help them create a list—seeing it in writing makes it easier for them to understand how to shape their day—and understand time management.

You recently presented on self-harm at the Consortium, Internationals, and Outward Bound (CIOB) Schools counseling support meeting. Please tell us about it!

The meeting was for social workers and counselors to discuss building a culture of prevention and how to support students who are self-harming. I do presentations here at Pan American—it’s part of the work I do here as lead clinical coordinator. So when Tania Romero, supervisor of social workers at CIOB schools, needed speakers for the event, my colleague Karla Pina, a social worker on the school guidance team, said, “I thought of you immediately!” I said yes because I see so much of it [self-harm].

I think it went well. I was able to present to school social workers and guidance team members from more than 15 different schools in the NYC area, so that was very exciting. It was a great opportunity to talk about self-harm; there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around it. For example, there is a myth that students who self-harm are suicidal, but that’s not always the case. Many don’t want to die; they are self-harming so as not to get to that point. They are more at risk to consider suicide, but they still have hope, which is important to highlight, and to work from.

Can you talk about a particularly memorable or rewarding experience as a social worker?

Of course, there’s Breinny! There is also a student I started working with when he was in 10th grade. He was from Colombia, from a town full of gang violence. When he came here, he had a survival mentality because of what he faced in his home country. His anxiety was very bad; he struggled to sit still and experienced panic attacks. He didn’t care about his classes or studying; he wanted to leave school and start working so he could help his grandma, still in Colombia, financially.

We worked together until he graduated last year. He learned to manage his anxiety very well—I say “manage” because anxiety never goes away, you just learn how to manage it—so that it no longer affected his day-to-day activities. He also started realizing goals he had for himself. He realized he loved photography. I encouraged him to think about what it would look like if he studied, the possibilities that could give him for the future. That helped him with the motivation piece. He was very bright, but he didn’t know how to use his intelligence in a way that benefited him. I connected him to resources at school—one of the wonderful things about Pan American is all the resources to support students!—to help him with his classes. He put in the effort and got his grades up. I encouraged him to apply to college. One of the schools he was interested in was FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology], for fashion photography. It seemed like a great fit. He got in, and he’s at FIT right now!

That is wonderful! It really speaks to the rewards of social work. As we all know, there are also challenges. What are some of the challenges you have experienced as a social worker?

For me, one of the biggest challenges is wanting to be able to do more and just not being able to, due to time constraints and limited availability. We have a waitlist for students, and it weighs on me. I would love to be able to service them all, but I know that I cannot take on more clients with my current caseload. As a whole, I believe that some of the struggles of being a social worker, in general, center around wanting more resources for your clients than what is available.

Are you glad you became a social worker?

Yes, I’m very glad! Through the work I am doing—even if it is on a micro level—I am making a difference for my clients and their families. As the daughter of immigrants, being able to work with adolescents who recently arrived in the country fills me with purpose and hope that we all are continuing to work toward creating a healthier environment for everyone in New York City. Aside from this, the time I have spent being a social worker also has helped me to reflect on myself and my own identity in a way that I might not have been able to do otherwise—especially as a first generation American.

Creative Arts at The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility

Link to the RTF creative arts video

The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility is a place for youth who have had multiple psychiatric hospital stays and youth with both psychiatric disorders and juvenile justice involvement. It is also a place where young people who have had a rough start find their way to a bright path. Residents at the RTF learn positive coping strategies through which they realize a strength they never knew they were capable of, discover talents they didn’t know they had, and begin to envision and plan for a future based on both those things. For many residents, the RTF’s creative and therapeutic arts programming plays a vital role in their journey. Watch this video, produced by the RTF’s creative arts team—including the young people—to learn more and see the breathtaking, extraordinary art that has come out of this program.

Photo of the Month: Happy National Women Physicians Day!

Dr. Brown of Strong Children Wellness with a client at The Child Center's Jamaica Family Wellness Center, on National Women Physicians Day

Dr. Suzette Brown and a client at The Child Center of NY’s Jamaica Family Wellness Center

February 3 was National Women Physicians Day, which provides the perfect opportunity to spotlight Drs. Omolara Uwemedimo, Nicole Brown, and Suzette Brown, whose primary care practice Strong Children Wellness supports healthy families in our communities!

National Women Physicians Day honors the pioneering achievements and ongoing contributions of female physicians in the field of health care. It is symbolically held each year on the birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in America to receive a medical degree. That was in 1849. Today, 175 years later, we know that representation in medicine matters. Studies show that having a diverse workforce in health care improves outcomes and makes patients feel respected, comfortable, and valued. It is an avenue through which patients can feel reassured that they are receiving the very best care.

The physicians at Strong Children Wellness (SCW) epitomize the noble tradition begun by Elizabeth Blackwell and the gift that is diversity in health care.

Comprised of three women doctors, SCW partners with trusted community-based organizations (CBOs) to integrate primary care services into their wide array of existing support services and programs. Through this unique approach, families have access to a personalized, multidisciplinary care team that addresses physical, developmental, emotional, and social needs—right in a client’s own community or through virtual visits.

The Child Center of NY is proud to be one of Strong Children Wellness’ partner CBOs. SCW has provided care to more than 300 Child Center clients since our partnership began in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when health care for our clients was hard to come by. The partnership has helped an increasing number of our clients receive regular care ever since. The doctors see patients in our Jamaica Family Wellness Center and in our Macari Family Wellness Center in Flushing. We are planning to open a third site for SCW visits at our Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside this year.

“As pediatricians, we are often the first to care for children and families with medical and mental health issues, and identify social needs such as food insecurity and homelessness,” Dr. Nicole Brown, SCW’s chief health officer and pediatrician, explains. “Many families face the challenge of navigating complex medical, mental health, and social systems with little support, and receive care that is fragmented and poorly coordinated. SCW’s partnership with The Child Center has transformed the way we practice medicine. We are able to collaborate closely with staff across The Child Center’s many programs to deliver comprehensive care that addresses medical, behavioral, developmental, and social needs. Our partnership has created a ‘village’ of support for families as their children grow. Care is delivered in one setting, creating a ‘one-stop shop’ of services. This has significantly improved access to care for the families we mutually serve.”

Visit the Strong Children Wellness website to schedule an appointment or to learn more!

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