- By Bonnie Loughner, LCSW, Assistant Vice President – The New York Foundling’s School & Community Impact Program
The New York Foundling is one of New York City’s oldest and largest social service organizations. With an internationally-recognized and interrelated set of research-backed services, we work in partnership with children, adults, and families who are working to create transformational change in their own lives.
The Foundling provides evidence-based and evidence-informed programs that focus on keeping families together, preventing abuse and neglect, providing academic support for youth, and giving people with developmental disabilities the tools and training they need to lead independent lives. We understand and know that inter-disciplinary evidence-based preventive interventions are crucial to increasing protective factors for children and families and lead to better outcomes in the long-term. This is notably true in an educational context with children spending between 943 to 1,016 hours a year in a school setting with learning continuing in their home (Pew Research Center, 2014).
In 2016, The Foundling partnered with Incredible Years® as a way to support children and families with social emotional development and parenting skills. We knew that the schools we served needed access to tested and effective preventive programs because we saw the amount of crises that were happening on a daily basis. We looked to Incredible Years, as well as other evidence-based programs, as a way to help shift schools to a more proactive mindset.
Mental health challenges can affect school-age children in many different ways. Parents and teachers are often unaware of the signs of mental health issues and how best to respond to them. This can prevent children and adolescents from getting the help that they need. In many schools, a lack of relevant resources and training on these issues means that mental health concerns among students frequently go unnoticed or unaddressed until they rise to the level of a crisis. These crises can pose serious risks to the student population, but could be easily prevented if teachers and administrators are informed about what to look for, how to respond, and what services are available in the community that support mental health.
In response to this need, The Foundling began strategizing with local schools in 2014, and in 2015 launched the following programs:
- School Response Team
- School Support Team
- On-site Article 31 Mental Health Satellite Clinics.
Currently, we have 10 Satellite Clinics in Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Queens; 1 School Support Team in Manhattan; and 2 School Response Teams in Queens and Staten Island.
In total, we directly serve 22 schools and partner with many others organizations and communities throughout New York City. Last year, we served over 1,500 students throughout New York City schools.
We are committed to building and maintaining sustainable partnerships with schools and the community to ensure that schools are equipped with the tools they need to become champions of optimal well-being for all students. Working together, we accomplish this by helping schools build their capacity to meet the social and emotional needs of their students. By empowering schools to think and operate proactively and relationally, they can be more proactive than reactive. As on-site mental health providers, The Foundling’s team can increase accessibility of evidence-based mental health services, including programs like Incredible Years.
Our program primarily utilizes Incredible Years at our elementary and middle school sites. Currently, we offer School Aged Basic Parent Groups in English and Spanish, as well as Small Group Dina Groups. Our team of trained professionals is diverse and committed to Incredible Years certification. In addition to our School Based program staff, each year we offer the IY training to all Social Work and Mental Health interns at The Foundling. Following the training, interns get the opportunity to co-lead groups with Master’s level clinicians. Over the past few years, we have also opened up our trainings to additional agencies across the United States. Each year we host one to two trainings for new staff, interns, and local and national partners.
As we reflect on how far we have come over since working with Incredible Years, it’s important to highlight our program’s progress at increasing the number of evidence-based programs facilitated in schools, as well as the reduction in crises at the schools we serve. Over the last three years, the number of crises in the schools we serve has gone down by approximately 40%.
We cannot look at these numbers without acknowledging the amazing partnership with Incredible Years, as well as the increased engagement with school leadership. The more we have gained buy-in from parents and school administrators, the more successful we have been at facilitating groups. We look forward to continuing to offer this high quality, evidence-based program to children and families throughout New York City schools.