The weight families feel when they are unable to afford basic necessities can be unjustly exacerbated by accusations of parental neglect. In New York City, data shows that families in neighborhoods with the highest rates of child poverty face child protective investigations four times more often than those who live in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods. When there is a concern about child abuse, investigations are warranted. However, only 16% of New York State allegations are related to abuse, and the rest of the time, investigations are related to neglect, which are often focused on poverty-related concerns, such as inadequate clothing and insufficient food.
The impact of investigations such as these on families is compounded by structural racism. Nearly half of all Black and Latinx children in New York City experience a child protective investigation by age 18 and within the New York City foster care system, 56% of the children are Black – nearly 2.5 times the child population.
Enduring a child welfare investigation is traumatic, and changing the experience of families takes a multi-pronged approach, including advocacy to reverse the effects of historic disinvestment in some neighborhoods and to transform racist practices. It also involves developing networks of support to ensure families have what they need to thrive. It is imperative to support the work of social service organizations that are tackling the root causes of family separation and improving the wellbeing of New York’s children and their families. One such organization is our grantee Graham Windham – a New York City-based grantee organization that has supported underserved children since 1806.
Graham Windham provides a full range of offerings so that children and their families are empowered to succeed. They provide mental and behavioral health services, educational supports, after-school activities, day camps, youth coaching, a range of parenting supports, foster care, and adoption to thousands of children and families each year. Many of the children in foster care that Graham Windham serves are dealing with trauma related to maltreatment, abuse or other adverse experiences in their home life. Graham Windham connects these children with teams of case planners, coaches, clinicians, education specialists and medical providers to help aid their development. The organization also has a large network of loving, qualified foster parents, who house and support underserved children.
Even after these early interventions, the organization guides children into their adolescence and young adulthood by providing mental health treatment, college admissions guidance and career development. The Graham SLAM Education and Career Program provides ongoing individual support and career planning to youth from 9th grade through to age 26, connects young adults with professional youth coaches who help keep them on a positive track, and utilizes support groups to keep youth engaged and motivated. These supports materially change life outcomes.
In late January, the Foundation had the opportunity to attend the opening of Graham Windham’s new community center at 195 Montague St. in Downtown Brooklyn. The new 15,000 square foot space is warm and welcoming so that the organization can provide necessary supports in a place of rest, respite, and recreation for children and families in Brooklyn. We congratulate its President & CEO Kimberly Watson and its staff for this remarkable achievement, and we are honored to help sustain Graham Windham’s long-lasting, impactful work.
To learn more about Graham Windham’s efforts, visit their website at https://www.graham-windham.org/.