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Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

clients at residential treatment facility in brooklyn

Clients at The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility, one of many Child Center programs that serve adolescents with mental health needs

The changing face of challenge in American adolescence—and how to meet it

By Jennifer Blitzer, LCSW-R
Program Director, Woodside Youth Intensive Outpatient Program

American adolescence is changing. Three decades ago, the biggest public health threats to teenagers came from binge drinking, drunk driving, teenage pregnancy, and smoking. All have fallen sharply in the United States. In their place are soaring rates of mental illness. Continue reading

The Magic of JobNet

The JobNet team
The JobNet team

Members of the JobNet team, from left to right: Youth Advocate Jessica Rivera; GED Instructor Keianna Noble; Transitional Facilitator Samantha Gabriel; and Program Director Paulette Diggs-Beji

Meet JobNet clients Beethoven and Lidianny, who stand as testament that a mental health condition is no barrier to achieving dreams

Continue reading

Supporter Spotlight: Soles4Souls

“New shoes!” was the rallying cry

Girl tries on Converse shoes at Soles4Souls event at Head Start CoronaIt was an 80-degree summer day, but Tanya Krien was researching organizations that provide winter coats to children.

“Winter coats are always a huge need with our families,” Tanya, a vice president of early childhood education at The Child Center of NY, explains.

That’s when she came across Soles4Souls—a nonprofit organization that provides not winter coats, but footwear, which is another ever-present need for families with children in a Child Center early childhood education program, such as Head Start and Early Head Start. Continue reading

National Intern Day: Q&A with Sandra Ka, MSW

National Intern Day is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the instrumental role interns play in keeping our society running and progressing. Here at The Child Center of NY, interns are crucial to advancing our mission to strengthen families.   

 Anderson Sungmin Yoon, Vice President, Integrated and Value-Based Care, oversees our internship program.Our internship program now resides within the Training Institute in our newest division, Research, Development, Innovation, and Training. We are proud to have created relationships and affiliations with more than 30 universities and graduate schools, including Columbia University, NYU, Nyack College, Hunter College, York College, Stony Brook University, Hofstra University, and others. The program places nearly 40 interns annually, matching them with positions that align with their goals and training them to learn and grow as the future generation of professionals.  Continue reading

Expanding Perinatal Mental Health

Terry Gomez, Ph.D. at the Women's Pavilion at Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst
Terry Gomez, Ph.D. at the Women's Pavilion at Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst

Perinatal Infant Mental Health Consultant Terry Gomez, Ph.D., delivering her presentation at Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s “baby shower”

Congresswomen Meng and Ocasio-Cortez support new services at Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, a Child Center partner.

Terry Gomez, Ph.D., has attended her fair share of baby showers, but the one she attended last month was a first: One of the gifts was a check for 3.8 million dollars.

The gift givers were U.S. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng, and the recipients are the many pregnant and new moms receiving care at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s Women’s Pavilion.

Continue reading

Keim’s Story

Keim and his dance team at basie beacon m.s. 72

Keim and his fellow B2 Dancerettes performed in the M.S. 72 Basie Beacon program’s Black History Showcase. Back row from left to right: Crystal, Jaylah, Jalayah, Brianna, Leah, and Savannah. Front row: Keim and Nevaeh

My name is Keim, and I’m 14 years old. I started M.S. 72 in September 2019 when I was in sixth grade. I joined The Child Center of NY Beacon afterschool program as well.

I can admit that I was not the best student in school or afterschool, and I can admit that I made a lot of bad decisions. I used to feel that fighting people was cool because it made me fit in, and people accepted me. I would bully people, instigate, and provoke others. I maintained failing grades, but I didn’t care.

Then in 2021, I developed a love for dance with The Child Center of NY afterschool dance program. All the things I didn’t care about suddenly meant the world to me. It was during this time that I realized that I was now in the eighth grade and I needed to care more about myself and my future. Several people helped me reach this decision. All of a sudden, I realized how so many people in my life who were giving me guidance were so right about everything. My sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Cannon, would always tell me how I was worth more than fighting someone every day. My dance instructor in afterschool, Daquan Harris, really opened my eyes more than anyone.

I still struggle with my school work and attendance; my grades were still failing from the beginning of this school year. My dance instructor learned about this problem and worked with me to resolve the issues. For the first time in the history of my middle school experience, I passed all of my classes on my last report card. Funny but true, if I didn’t pass, my dance instructor told me that I would not be able to be on the dance team. Not being on the team was not an option because I love to dance. It’s the only way I feel that I can express myself.

Silvia’s Story

Silvia and daughter, ParentChild+

I grew up in Queens with very strict parents. They are immigrants from Ecuador and are very “old school.” They had high expectations for me and my two sisters. When I got pregnant at 19, they were devastated. It was very hard for me because I was only in my second year in college, and on top of that, I had my family judging me.

It was the middle of my spring semester, and I ended up on academic probation with a 1.5 GPA. I had been studying to become a social worker, but my low GPA rendered me ineligible for my program. It wasn’t long before I just dropped out.

When my daughter was born, I loved her so much, but I didn’t have the motivation to do much—with her or with myself. I didn’t read to her. I didn’t really play with her. And I didn’t develop a bond with her. For myself, now that I was out of college and had lost eligibility for my program, I didn’t know what direction to take.

My wake-up call came when my daughter was close to two years old. The doctor evaluated her at a well visit and told me what I already knew in my heart: My daughter had a speech delay. She was not saying any words—she was just pointing—and she wasn’t hearing when I called her name. My heart sank as I wondered: What am I doing as a mother for her development?

At that moment, I knew I had to do everything for her that I possibly could. I regretted not doing that sooner, but all I could do was move forward. I enrolled her in Early Intervention services for her speech. I started reading to her. I tried to engage more. But I reached a point I knew I had to do more. I just didn’t know how.

I looked for help on the Internet and came across The Child Center of NY. I contacted the Woodside Early Head Start program to see if I could enroll my daughter. They were full, but they gave me the number for The Child Center’s Early Head Start program in Astoria, which had spots available. I enrolled her there and found out we also were eligible for the ParentChild+ program, which includes free books and toys and guidance on using them. My daughter was receiving speech therapy at the time, too, and with all this help, I saw her progress right before my eyes.

ParentChild+ has this whole curriculum that makes you confident you’re doing everything possible for your child. We enrolled in March 2020, right when COVID hit, so our visits with our home visitor were virtual. At first I thought, “No baby wants to be just there on a screen,” but it was very helpful. The program includes a parent handbook to check off milestones for every age. I could see that some I could check off and some were not fully checked and I could work on those.

The guidance I got about using the toys and books helped me a lot, especially as a first-time mom and pretty young. I didn’t know any better how to raise a child. It was very difficult. But our home visitor guided me through using the toys and books, explaining the significance of each one. One toy was magnetic blocks with different colors, and another was a shape sorter. I learned to talk to my daughter in ways that would support her development while she was playing, identifying the colors and shapes. She loved the books, too, especially Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, which exposed her to numbers and counting, and Are You My Mother? She loved learning about the different animals. She still likes those books a lot!

In the beginning, it was hard. My daughter wouldn’t respond; she’d make sounds, but no words. I would speak to her in both languages, English and Spanish, and I grew very concerned that she would have to be in special ed and continue to have problems.

Silvia and daughter at a partyIt took a whole year of services, but eventually, one day to another, she just started speaking, saying a couple words and clearly grasping lots of different things.

She’s 3 now. Her last day of speech therapy was just before her third birthday. She’s speaking well in both languages. She’s in a 3K class in preschool and gets along with the other kids and is doing well in all developmental areas. She won’t need special education.

If I hadn’t received these services, I don’t know where I would be. The Child Center helped me with the how.

Now I get to help other families in the same way.

Throughout my college journey, I was always interest in social services or education. When the position of family worker opened up at Early Head Start, Astoria—the program that my daughter and I were enrolled in—I decided to apply. I’d gotten along with everyone here as a parent—everyone is so sweet and friendly!—that I knew I would enjoy being part of the team. Besides my interest in the field of early childhood education, I felt that because I was in the program and struggled so much throughout my motherhood journey with these new things in my life, I could help others. I’m not the only one to go through these struggles. There are a lot of other first-time mothers having even more difficulty than me. That motivated me to where I’m working at now.

As a family worker, I help families who are having needs and connect them with resources, whether that’s cash assistance, physicals, dentals … anything a family might be struggling with. This is important to me, as I got help from the program in this way, too. My family worker helped me with food bags, diapers, wipes … a lot of different things when I needed them most.

I also work with families on goal setting and determining what steps they need to take to achieve their goals. And I work on recruiting, which isn’t hard since I can speak from experience!

As for my personal goals, I’m now back in college. I went from a 1.5 GPA to a 3.2. I pushed myself, did all assignments, studied for midterms and finals, and told myself I have to get at least 3.0—and I did it, thanks to a lot of support that I received.

I’m pursuing a degree in psychology and my goal is to earn my MSW.

In addition to my college classes, I’m taking the Family Development Credential (FDC) program to gain a deeper understanding of my new role.

Working hard with my daughter, I saw the progress at the end. Things didn’t start out the way I would have wanted them to—much like I didn’t intend for my college years to include a 1.5 GPA—but, with hard work and a lot of support, I learned that a rough path still can lead to the goal you were pursuing all along.

A Night with the NY Mets during Black History Month

Mets reps from the Black Professionals and LatinX Employee Resource Groups connect with Queens youth at our Basie Beacon program at M.S. 72

Introducing youth to new possibilities is a key way The Child Center of NY works to increase high school graduation rates — one of The Child Center’s central goals — and get young people excited about preparing for their future.

On February 5, The Child Center of NY collaborated with the NY Mets and the Queens District Attorney’s Office to host a career panel at our Basie Beacon Program at Catherine and Count Basie Middle School 72 in Jamaica. Continue reading


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