Gala 2011 – 175th Anniversary GALA
Agency Program Overview
Our Mission and Programs
As a not-for-profit child welfare agency, the mission of Harlem Dowling-West Side Center for Children and Family Services is to serve and assist children and their families in crisis and distress.
Our services include foster care, adoption, preventive services and related assistance to children and their families to enable them to live in a stable, nurturing environment.
We recognize that children are the future of our society, and that a healthy, stable, and caring home environment is essential to their present and future welfare.
This year, we proudly celebrate the history and legacy of an institution that has survived countless wars and conflicts, a depression, numerous recessions and assaults on our community, but still we stand. Today, we stand strong and proud as Harlem Dowling, the surviving entity to the Colored Orphan Asylum, founded in 1836 to care for children of color. How many institutions can say that they have been serving children and families for 175 years? How many institutions can say that they build new hope, new families and new possibilities for children and families? We believe in the inherent strength of families. We give them the tools, support and strength to reunite and when that is not possible, we work to create new families for children.
As we reflect back on 175 years as we embark upon this year long celebration, we realize that our work is never done. Our children are not true orphans anymore, but they are orphans of poverty, they are orphans of crowded and inadequate schools, they are orphans of communities racked by drugs and violence, they are orphans of families struggling to survive, often at the expense of being neglectful of their children. It is because of our deep and abiding respect for children and families that Harlem Dowling continues to be innovative in its programs and approaches to working with children and families. The work that we do would not be possible without our friends and partners in government, foundations, corporations, educational institutions, community organizations, our alumni and individuals for contributions and support on behalf of the 2500 children and families served annually through all of our programs and services.
During the most prolonged economic downturn that many of us have never experienced these last 3 years, as an organization we are more committed than ever to meeting the ever changing needs of our children, our families and our community. At Harlem Dowling, we have increased the capacity to feed more families in our Emergency Food Pantry. In 2010, we provided emergency food assistance to 5,000 individuals. This is one of the quiet successes of Harlem Dowling. In 2010, we had 13 youth from our foster care program attending college. These are youth that have experienced so many challenges and obstacles in their young lives. Seven out of ten children who attended a therapeutic program for children who have experienced early childhood trauma were successfully reunited with their families. We brought together foster parents and birth parents to help our children heal from their trauma. Dedicated staff and clinicians worked hard to bring the divide between families to make our children whole. These are just some of the examples of what we do at Harlem Dowling even as there is an assault on our funding and very survival. Government funding has continued to decrease exponentially these last three years, threatening the very survival of some of our most successful programs like After School, but it is because of our many friends and supporter that Harlem Dowling is able to withstand these turbulent times.
The funds raised at our Annual Gala, our largest fundraising event of the year, goes to support our programs as highlighted. The funds raised supports the children in our out-of-home placement program, placed with our foster and adoptive parents who are the unsung, quiet heroes and heroines of Harlem Dowling. They continue to answer the call in the middle of the night; they open their doors, their heart and homes to children who have experienced severe trauma. Our Foster Care and Adoption Services would not be possible with you. Our foster families are deeply committed to the children entrusted to them and they continue to answer the call to make a lifelong commitment to giving children permanent loving homes through adoption when reunification with their birth family is not possible. Last year, 23 children found loving new families through adoption. We are so proud and grateful to the families who embrace and care for our teenagers. Thank you to the families who last year adopted 5 teenagers and this year we had a 19 year old adopted!
Therapeutic Foster Care is provided for children and youth who require specialized care from foster parents who have extensive training to meet the needs of children with severe emotional and behavioral challenges and disabilities. It is this program that has stabilized our youth and connected them with loving and permanent families through adoption.
Our Preventive Services Program (also known as Family Preservation) connects parents and children with a safety net of services to address the nature of crises that cause stress and threaten a family’s ability to remain intact. Some of the services provided are individual and/or family therapy and assistance with housing and employment. All of these services are intended to reduce the stress on the parent and reduce the risk of out of home placement for children. Our onsite mental health services for our families in Central Harlem, Jamaica and Far Rockaway are helping us to stabilize and keep our children and families safe and together as a unit.
Since its inception in 2005, the High Risk Teen Initiative in Far Rockaway Queens has achieved a success rate of 98% in keeping high risk teens safely at home in the community. The High Risk Teen Initiative provides on site psychiatric services, substance abuse and educational services. Services are designed according to the needs of the individual youth and family.
Harlem Dowling’s Specialized Services Program provides outreach, education and prevention to the community about HIV/AIDS. The program includes the P.L.A.Y. (Positive Learning Advancing Youth), a youth outreach education program to reduce HIV/AIDS infection among adolescents. This year, we also hosted a youth conference on adolescent health and participated in the annual HIV AIDS testing day. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch this epidemic spread through our community unchecked. We all must be a “part of the solution” in eradicating HIV/AIDS.
In addition to HIV/AIDS education and awareness, we also hosted our second annual Family Nutrition Day. In collaboration with Global Scope, Harlem Dowling conducts workshops with families about healthy eating and nutrition. Armed with information and knowledge, our families are prepared to make healthy food choices. The sad news is that more and more families are seeking the services of Harlem Dowling’s Emergency Food Pantry. We are filling a gap and making a difference to families who run out of food at the end of each month, but more is needed. There is real hunger in our community and hunger among our older citizens, many of whom access the emergency food assistance program. Many of our elderly are caring for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, thus added additional stresses on families already under duress and stress.
The Family Support Program works with families of severely developmentally delayed children through the provision of case management, advocacy, referral services, parenting skills and support groups to avert out of home care. Many of these families are undocumented immigrants and thus are not eligible for many entitlement programs. Harlem Dowling fills a major gap in our social service system for children and families who fall through the “cracks in the system”. A disabled child should know no bureaucracy when it comes to meeting their needs and giving them the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.
Harlem Dowling’s 20 year plus track record of providing After School programming, long before government and private entities funded after school services. Harlem Dowling’s After School program provides an array of educational and creative art therapies for children in grades Kindergarten through grades 6 in a safe and structured environment. Children in after school are encouraged to explore and nurture their talents through creative arts, music, dance, poetry, sports, fitness, technology and journalism. All activities are literacy based and strongly correlate to the regular school day curriculum. After school supports and enhances the school day experience. Children in the program also participate in community service, including an Intergenerational Program at a local Senior Citizen’s Residence. The After School’s Violence Prevention and Conflict Resolution Programs have been recognized as innovative models in juvenile delinquency prevention in the critical transition of youth from elementary school to junior high school, an important milestone in the lives of children. Two new initiatives were started this year in our after school program, Harlem Ivy, encouraging more students to pursue careers in the math and science and Building Healthy Communities, focusing on health and nutrition with children to fight obesity and other health disparities among inner city children.
Since its inception in 1836 as the Colored Orphan Asylum, Harlem Dowling has been at the forefront of providing innovative and culturally relevant and competent services to children and families. At a time when no one would take in children of color, the orphanage was there. During the height of the heroin epidemic in 1969, Harlem Dowling answered the call to provide homes for drug exposed babies. The same call was answered again in 1989 during the crack epidemic, again in 1992 with the response to providing HIV/AIDS services to women, one of the first institutions to do so. Today, we have many plans for continuing to answer the call to serve children and families in crisis and distress. Future initiatives includes supportive and transitional housing for youth aging out of foster care to prevent homelessness, more programming for youth that focuses on jobs and employment readiness skills, financial literacy, expansion of our Mentoring Program and other programs and services to promote self-sufficiency and independence. These initiatives and others are possible only through the generous support of foundations, friends and supporters like you.
It is through friends, donors and supporters that Harlem Dowling can continue to be innovative in responding to the ever changing needs of our diverse community and city in meeting the needs of children and families. We know that we can continue to count on you to be “part of the solution” as you have for 175 years.