Helping One Mother Raise Healthy Baby Girls

“When I had my triplets, I was so excited and thankful for the three layette packages I received!”
-Dania Chica, Uniondale food pantry client

When Dania Chica first came to The New LIFE Center—Long Island food pantry, she had two young children and was pregnant with triplets. In July 2016, she delivered three healthy baby girls. Throughout her pregnancy, she and her family relied on the food and clothing provided by the food pantry, and when the triplets were born, she received three layette sets filled with diapers, formula and infant clothing to help get the little ones off to a healthy start. “I was so excited and thankful for the layette packages,” said Dania. She says that when times get tough, she has been able to remain positive and is thankful for the generosity The New LIFE Center has shown her family.

A Dream Come True

 

“LSSNY’s housing is a dream come true!” – Jaime C., Resident of St. John’s House II

Homelessness is no longer a part of Jaime C.’s life thanks to housing provided by LSSNY. St. John’s House II, one of five housing facilities operated by LSSNY, is the home Jaime dreamed of when he was homeless. You see, when he arrived in NYC in 1994, from Puerto Rico, he did not have a safe place to live. Jaime struggled for nearly a decade, living on the dangerous streets of the City.  However, his life improved tremendously when he came to LSSNY in 2008. He is proud to have moved into our St. John’s House II as the very first tenant and tells us it has been “a dream come true.”

Since the 1990s, as New York neighborhoods developed and changed, LSSNY has maintained housing facilities to serve the needs of formerly homeless individuals and families. We also offer supportive care to our residents, such as counseling and job training.

Today, Jamie lives a happier, healthier and more independent life. LSSNY combines stable housing with critical support services, such as integrated health programs, case management services, nutritional meals, access to mental health services and opportunities to become part of social networks in the greater community through participation in tenant councils and recreational groups and clubs.

Care for the Whole Family

From the very beginning, the teachers made our family feel welcome…From the people at the front desk to the lunch lady, everything felt homey and right.” – Liza G*., parent, on her family’s transition to the Early LIFE preschool program

When Liza G. needed child care for her daughter Isabela, she interviewed many home-based providers before deciding on a provider named Jeanette from LSSNY’s Family Child Care Network. From the very start, Liza said she knew Isabela was in the right home. “I loved Jeanette. In addition to taking care of Isabela, she was kind to my whole family, including my older daughter,” Liza said. When Isabela was three years old, Liza heard that a spot was open at their neighborhood Early LIFE childcare center at 888 Westchester Avenue, and she moved Isabela from the home-based provider to the Center. “Jeanette was so caring and attentive with all the children she cared for,” but Liza felt that Isabela was ready to transition into preschool, and that a center-based program would be best. “Isabela’s dad and I were nervous at first, but all of that was alleviated when we got to the Center. From the front desk to the lunch lady, everything felt homey and right. Isabela picked up on our happiness…The teachers were just as concerned about the parents as they were about the kids. It’s care for the whole family.”

The next year, Isabela moved into the Head Start program, and her mother started volunteering in the classrooms. She attended Delegate Agency Policy Committee (a parent representative body) meetings and got involved in the governance of the Head Start program, serving as a liaison between parents and the Center’s Director. “I was encouraged to be a part of my daughter’s educational journey. I’m the parent spokesperson for my site—I bring up parent concerns or questions and talk about new policies and the curriculum,” Liza said.

Her work on the DAPC has sparked a new interest in policy and fueled her desire to go back to school and earn a Bachelor’s degree. “It’s opened my eyes to what I see myself doing next in my career,” Liza said. “I want to reinforce the framework of these programs that are dedicated to the educational wellbeing of our kids.”

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

LSSNY Foster Kids and Parents Have a Special Meet n’ Greet with Brooklyn Nets Center Brook Lopez

Brooklyn Nets Center Brook Lopez (center of photo in blue hat) thanks kids for their “love and support”.

Through our partnership with the Barclays Center, LSSNY foster care parents and kids have been receiving free tickets to hockey and basketball games. Last month, they saw a hockey game and two basketball games. After one of the games, some 25 parents and kids had a meet n’ greet with Brooklyn Nets Center, Brook Lopez. Lopez, the highest scoring player on the team that night, met with kids to answer questions and sign t-shirts. What did kids want to know about Brook Lopez? They asked him what he ate for breakfast, how he got started playing basketball and how tall he was. Lopez graciously answered questions and thanked the kids for their “love and support.” Margaret Johnson, Director of Support Services, said the group was thrilled to meet Lopez. “Many of our foster kids and parents have never been to a basketball or hockey game before, so this was an amazing experience for them and a way in which they can be involved with professional sports,” she said.

Myosha Pays it Forward by Helping Young Mothers

Myosha had little stability as a child. Her mother was unable to care for her because of drug addiction so Myosha grew up in foster homes. Thanks to her caring foster parents, she earned her degree in sociology this past December, graduating from Brooklyn College. Now age 25, Myosha has begun working for Lutheran Social Services of New York as a case worker for one of our most impactful programs: Our Sisters’ Place.

Our Sisters’ Place is a loving, maternity/mother-child blended group residence for young mothers in foster care. Pregnant teens, mothers and their children live together in a supportive environment that teaches teens how to develop healthy living and parenting skills, become more self-sufficient, and access community resources, such as housing and education, and vocational opportunities to build a better future for themselves and their children.

“My caseworkers saw something in me—I hope this is something I can do with the young adults and mothers I work with at Our Sisters’ Place.”  – Myosha S.

Myosha is helping others in the community who look to Lutheran Social Services of New York for hope for a new beginning and a bright future.

“Meaningful employment is fundamental to a bright future. The generous support of our donors and partners helps open doors of opportunity and strengthens families,” said Damyn Kelly, President and CEO of LSSNY.

Early LIFE Celebrates Earth Week

This past Earth Week, children in our Early LIFE education centers celebrated the occasion by learning all about why they should Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Activities included special art projects, planting, kite making and more! After reading the books Why Should We Recycle? and Earth Day Every Day, students at LSSNY’s Early LIFE Center on West 147th Street created pictures of flowers using plastic bottles to brighten up their classroom and remind them that they are the future stewards of our planet.

 

The 12th Annual LSSNY Awards Reception 

A big thank you to all those who made the 12th Annual LSSNY Awards Reception: “A Celebration of Joy” such a success. Guests enjoyed a beautiful venue and a wonderful presentation by LSSNY’s President & CEO, Damyn Kelly, and the Center for Urban Education Ministries’ Executive Director, Marlene Lund, as we celebrated our generous community of supporters. The event honored Village Lutheran Church and The Chapel School of Bronxville, NY, and Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church of New York, NY, with both Bishop Robert Rimbo of the ELCA’s Metro New York Synod and Bishop Derek Lecakes of the Atlantic District—LCMS in attendance.

Click here to see photos from the event.

 

Keeping the Spirit of Giving Alive

“The wonderful staff and volunteers here are a pleasure to work with—they keep the spirit of giving alive at the pantry.”
-Alison Hahn, food pantry volunteer

When Alison Hahn retired as a nursery school teacher at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniondale, Long Island, she decided to use some of her free time to volunteer to serve families in Nassau County at The New LIFE Center food pantry located on the grounds of the church. “The work is very fulfilling, especially when I see how many people are grateful for all they receive each month,” said Alison. “I help people ‘shop’ in our little ‘store’.” When clients come into the Client Choice food pantry, they can pick foods from the shelves to build their meals. Alison makes healthy dietary suggestions, rotates the stock and checks items for expiration dates—anything she can do to create an environment in which everyone feels welcome. “I have become dear friends with some of the volunteers here and it makes volunteering that much more rewarding,” said Alison.

 

Getting Good Vibes

Nancy Rodriguez came to work for LSSNY more than two years ago, as part of an AARP partnership that places seniors in jobs that are matched to their skills and experience. Nancy says she “got good vibes” from being a part of the administration here at LSSNY. She was such an asset to the Advancement and Communications team that she was asked to come on as a paid, part-time employee, and she agreed. Nancy said, “I feel comfortable and happy here. Everyone in the office cares about what they do as they help one another get the job done.”

Foster Care Best Practices: A Partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation

 

Through our partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we exchanged ideas, connected with industry leaders and worked on concrete strategies to improve child welfare.
– Isabel Masch, LSSNY VP for Research & Quality Improvement

Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY) is among 10 Lutheran organizations across the nation selected to participate in the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) Results-Based Leadership Institute (RBLI), an opportunity made possible through Lutheran Services in America (LSA). RBLI is a leadership development program that is aimed at guiding LSA Child Youth and Families (CYF) network service providers to ensure that all children in the United States are nurtured and on a pathway to successful adulthood. The program puts particular emphasis on identifying and addressing disparities in the target populations.

Together, the organizations have committed to ensuring that “all children in the U.S. are nurtured and on a pathway to successful adulthood” by December 2017. LSSNY’s contribution to this outcome is to continue toward improving permanency outcomes for children in the family foster care program by promoting family engagement. Participants representing LSSNY are Isabel Masch, who heads the LSSNY Research and Quality Improvement (RQI) department, and Lisa-Marie Vargas, Director of Social Services in LSSNY Children’s Services Foster Care program.

During the Foster Care Executive Directors meeting in March 2017, the NYC Administration for Children’s Services commended LSSNY’s Foster Care program for ranking 3rd out of 21 agencies serving children in family foster care for achieving the highest number of permanent foster care exits, and the number of children achieving reunification with their biological parents in FY 2016. “We facilitate movement of a child to a more stable environment that aligns with their needs. We also ensure that the family has the support they need to provide a safe environment for the child,” said Lisa-Marie.

RQI attributes the success in increasing LSSNY’s permanency rates to the dedicated commitment of Children’s Services leadership and staff. The goal is to use information identified through program data to improve approaches and methods in our organizational processes. According to Isabel, “our Children’s Services Foster Care team works relentlessly to improve the future growth of children in foster care. The data only tells a piece of the story. The RBLI model helps the administration and program to work collaboratively to develop a target performance outcome and discuss the measurable difference.” The progress is monitored using data related to specific performance measures and indicators that have been identified. In addition, there is an overarching aim of improving our collaborations with key stakeholders. Through the partnership with LSA and AECF, LSSNY is strengthening its approach to improving foster care permanency outcomes through concrete methodology grounded in the Results-Based Leadership Institute framework.