The mission ‘r kids Family Center (‘r kids) is to provide highly specialized, high quality services to children and families in transition. Our objective is to promote permanency, safety and stability for children by providing nurturing services to biological, kinship, foster and adoptive families.
The ‘r kids’ tag line embodies its mission; With each child, the world begins anew (Midrash).
‘r kids Vision:
‘r kids understands that children are society’s most vulnerable and most valuable assets. We want the seeds of stability and increased self-esteem for at risk children not simply to take root and flourish for a season, but to enable these children to pay it forward productively as nurturing parents.
Frustrated by the difficult choices between recovery and parenting that mothers with substance abuse problems too often had to make, Randi Rubin and Sergio Rodriguez gathered 36 concerned citizens at their home on a cold evening in 1996 to explore the gap in services to sustain family integrity for families impacted by substance abuse and violence. That initial meeting inspired a wave of volunteerism that formed the cornerstone of ‘r kids.
As foster and adoptive parents, Randi and Sergio live the mission of 'r kids. Under their stewardship, ‘r kids turned a $3,500 Community Foundation for Greater New Haven seed grant in just over one year into $700,000 in programming and $1 million in funding to build its 4300 square foot Family Center on land remediated with an EPA grant. http://www.epa.gov/region1/brownfields/success/newhaven_rkids.html. Calling ‘r kids a “blessing,” one neighbor noted: “Your development of two drug-infested, abandoned lots spurred others in the triangle to upgrade and develop their properties.”
In June 2013, ‘r kids celebrated its “Decade of Families” with a block party, closing Lower Dixwell for the first time in 20 years. To engage the whole community, from babies to seniors, ‘r kids lined up 37exhibitors, enticing more than 400 people and 86 volunteers. ‘r kids families, past and present, thanked the “lady in the suit” (DCF Commissioner Katz)for the blessing in disguise of their involvement in the child welfare system. hhtp://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/r kids family center marks 10/ One ‘r kids dad movingly thanked DCF at the closing; an historic first, his words stood out.
Measurable Results: ‘r kids family reunification rate is now 78 %, a meaningful increase from our 2012 rate of 63.7 %, thus earning DCF’s respect and gratitude. Notably, ‘r kids continues significantly to outpace national (51%) and state (52%) reunification rates that include court mandated returns after brief removals. In contrast, children referred to ‘r kids are already out-of-home for a 6 month minimum, with many malingering more than 1 year, providing even greater potency to our strong reunification results.
Valuing Fathers: Fathers play a crucial role in child development, yet little energy has been invested to train child protective workers to engage with dads. ‘r kids is uniquely situated positively to impact DCF through its Fathers Support Group, which is being considered as a statewide model for involving dads in the care and well-being of their children. Indeed, DCF found ‘r kids’ dads so compelling, that it made them vendors to pay for their valuable input in caseworker training sessions.
Diversification of funding base: ‘r kids receives the bulk of its funding through DCF contracts, thus making it vulnerable to changing priorities. This vulnerability became acute in mid 2013 when DCF announced a 35% budget cut to its Reunifying Families program, for which ‘r kids is the only greater New Haven provider. ‘r kids is thus intensifying its efforts to diversify its funding base. That diversification is taking many forms.
Implementing a Mental Health License: There are not enough local therapists to secure mental health treatment in a timely manner for children in foster care. ‘r kids has noticed; it is implementing the steps necessary to secure licensing to provide individual and group therapy to alleviate these unacceptable delays. An added benefit is third party payment from insurers will generate discretionary income not subject to state or federal budget cuts.
Nonprofit collaborations: ‘r kids understands the value of leveraging its own expertise by exploring collaborations with other local nonprofits, generating more revenue with fee for service activities and seeking to capitalize on the new emphasis in foundation philanthropy for collaborative endeavors.
Sustainable Grantseeking: With DCF funding constraints and federal sequestration, a consistent driving focus to secure foundation support is essential. Board members volunteering and overextended staff are no longer sufficient.
As a pediatrician in New Haven for more than 30 years, I have interacted with many families struggling to overcome life hardships and continue to raise their children. I am also aware that family members react to stress in numerous ways and at times place their children in harm’s way. A civil society may step in to rescue the child and also work to repair the broken bond between parent and child. I joined the board of ‘r kids because of its mission to work with these families by giving them a safe place to reunite under the supervision of professional and caring individuals who work to reunify if possible and if not to find permanent placement through adoption.
Many of the organization’s successes lie in the way our families overcome their adversities and reunite into a stronger family unit. ‘r kids has sought out funding to provide fathers’ groups to strengthen the role of men in their family and financial management courses to introduce the concept of budgeting and savings and in school curriculum to help teachers acknowledge the challenges children in foster care face while helping these children learn how to tell their story to peers and adults.
As Board Chair, overseeing a tightly run, fiscally responsible organization in a well maintained facility has been, and remains, a joy. I was proud as our Board walked Dixwell during our “Decades of Families” block party successfully securing signatures on a petition supporting the value of ‘r kids to the community. ‘r kids vision was renewed in 2013 by the influx of new Board members united by a contagious enthusiasm. I am convinced that our new Strategic Planning initiative, albeit in its infancy, will foster greater maturity and direction to ‘r kids mission while facilitating a much needed diversification of our funding base through a mindful expansion of services. As a pediatrician whose patients include children in foster care, I am grateful for ‘r kids prescience in actively securing implementation of a mental health license just as the federal DCF monitor publically decried the unacceptable delays experienced by children in foster care in the timely delivery of mental health services. As a long time believer in ‘r kids, I have been humbled by the wealth of in kind donations for “Raising the Roof” (blueprints, water color rendering, cost estimates); an opportunity we must seize.
This cutback comes without a reduction in the case load for programs serving children and families. In order to meet this cutback and an increased request for services, ‘r kids must be successful in its efforts to secure private funding from individuals, foundations and grant applications.
‘r kids is working to secure funding to improve its infrastructure, add support staff who will free up clinical workers to devote more time to their clients, and through the addition of new programs provide an additional revenue stream for the organization.
This effort is underway on a number of fronts, and ‘r kids is encouraged by preliminary interest shown by funding sources.
Attracting additional Board and committee members and volunteers will also provide us with enhanced capacity to address the limited resources. We are committed to including members of all of our community and we are actively searching local residents as well as members of our most noted university affiliations.
Working with The Department of Children and Families refers families they have assessed appropriate for assessment and reunification transition to ongoing intensive case management where services are implemented for BOTH parents and children’s needs (i.e., food stamp enrollment, preschool enrollment, parent/child therapy, etc.). The goal is to provide intensive support services to allow for permanency either within the birth home, the relative care, or adoptive home. Staff initially provides center-based, supervised visitation and individualized parent coaching. The provision of in-home visits and then unsupervised visits occurs for those families whose children are being reunified. When reunification is determined not to be the goal, staff prepares the families and children for a permanent out-of-home placement. Our services remain on-going and multi-faceted, singularly geared toward each child growing up in a permanent, safe, and nurturing family.
Families and their children provide ongoing input to their services and frequently it is not uncommon to hear the kids say how much they love their social worker at ‘r kids or can’t wait for the next visit with their Mom or Dad.
‘r kids Family Center works with foster homes licensed through the Department of Children and Families and other agencies that are providing care to children who have been removed from their biological or relative caregivers. These children are in the custody of DCF and their families have been referred to ‘r kids’ programs. We provide support services to the foster families throughout ‘r kids’ case. Staff does an intake and assessment with each foster family upon the initial referral from DCF. During the in-home in-take we gather information about the daily routines of the child and the family. When we pick up and/or drop off children from their parents, we maintain ongoing contact with the foster family. These interactions provide us with information addressing the trials of transitioning and afford foster parents the opportunity to share any concerns that may be developing.
Too many times foster families are kept out of the loop of what is happening with the children in their care, who are the people involved with ‘their ‘ children and where are they going.
‘r kids completes orientations and intakes with every foster family caring for the children who are visiting. We encourage them to maintain contact with us and give us feedback after /before visits and look to assist in developing a ‘partnership’ with them on behalf of the children in their care.
Foster families provide the likes and dislikes, behaviors and schedules for both the parents and our staff to coordinate successful times and places for visitation.
RE: CAFAP trainng: To provide a neighborhood site for licensed foster and adoptive parents to come and continue receiving ongoing educational credits to maintain their knowledge base and credentialing as a foster parent.
To facilitate a healthy bond between the birth parents and the foster family whenever possible on behalf of successfully transitioning the child/ren back into the permanent home.
CAFAP: Successfully retain licensed foster and adoptive parents in the DCF system
Self reporting by both foster and biological parents. Children have successful visits and are emotionally prepared for the transition.
DCF PSDCRS tracks foster parent participation throughout the child’s plan.
CAFAP continues to request to use our site for hosting trainings throughout the year. Parents who attend self report how much they like coming here and how comfortable an environment it is for them.
After 1 ½ years of attempting to reunify a boy with his parents, it was discovered the ‘father’ was in fact not the biological family. The Mother was cognitively limited, but had never missed a visit with her son and clearly loved him. At that time the foster family wanted to adopt him but refused a relationship with the birth mother. The Judge recognized the significance of loss this young boy had just experienced and refused to terminate the biological mother’s rights.
After three year of working with this ‘permanent foster family, whose age is 74 and the child is now 11’, both the bio mom and the ‘grandma’ have developed a warm and mutually caring relationship for the young man. They can attend activities and trips together with ‘their’ child and bio mom and child continue to enjoy each other and build their family history in bi-weekly activities coordinated with their interests and under the supervision of ‘r kids staff. This will continue through his 18th birthday.
’r Kids Family Center is licensed by the State of Connecticut’s, Department of Children and Families and offers a full range of adoption services, including home study and license approval for both domestic and international adoptions; pre-adoption training that promotes plan-full decision-making; birth mother counseling and support; coordination and assistance in locating available children; and post-placement supervision and completion of the legal process to finalize adoptions.
· responsive, adoption-specific mental health counseling, referrals and clinical recommendations;
· support groups and educational programs for parents and children;
· C.A.S.E certified W.I.S.E. UP curriculum trainers for both foster and adopted children 5-17 years old;
· special referrals through the Adoption Assistance Program of UCONN;
· reading circles for adoptive parents at local libraries;
· new groups developed in response to families’ needs and interests
We have produced 2 international home studies over the past year, one for Nigeria and one for Ghana. We recognized National Adoption Month by holding an Adoption Book Read at the Yale Book store on a Saturday in November 2010. We were asked to present the W.I.S.E Up curriculum at a two day Asian Culture camp in Massachusetts in the fall of 20010. We are an educational site for regular on- going trainings by the Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents. (CAFAP)
We will be placing a child born in March 2011 in New Haven with a CT Adoptive home on May 25 2011. We will remain involved through annual pictures and letters to be sent to the Birth Mother through ‘rkids. We also maintain all the files of children placed in adoption. We will be involved with a follow up training conference for professionals and Board of Education staff on Post Adoption issues in the fall of 2011.
Our case records and implementation is based on the credentialing/licensing process overseen by locally by DCF and through the standards of the Bureau of Home Land Security and the US Government internationally.
Three children this year have transitioned into permanent, loving homes with families. Two are no longer living in war-torn, impoverished environments as orphans and the third could not be more loved!
'r kids provides training opportunities to providers in a variety of settings. The primary focus of the training is permanency planning for children and their families. We have provided trainings to foster families, adoptive families, school personnel, municipal personnel and various other providers including the Department of Children and Families. We also provide the opportunity for staff to receive on-going training and professional development from a variety of sources on a multitude of topics related to our work. Most recently the staff has become certified in the Circle of Security Model, the W.I.S.E. Up and Family Development Credentialing, Ages and Stages, etc. ‘r kids provided a 2 series/2 year training for Educators and Mental Health Providers on the mental health and educational issues among adopted children and teens.
As mentioned in the Adoption Program we have provided training on Post Adoption issues to both Mental Health Practitioners and New Haven Board of Education staff. We will be having a follow up training in 2011. We provided training on the W.I.S.E. Up curriculum to children and their families at an Asian Culture Camp in 2010.
Our Staff has been involved in a variety of trainings over the past year, most prominently two staff members are enrolled in Master’s of Social Work degree programs. We have become certified in the Circle of Security Training, the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood and Family Development Credentialing. We are currently enrolled in the CT Association for Infant Mental Health Series on Knowledgeable and Skillful Practice to Support your work with Infants/toddlers and their Families. It is expected that we will become endorsed as practitioners by the CTAIMH. We have maintained on ongoing internship program with the New Haven Academy and Southern CT State University MSW program.
Most training is endorsed for continuing education from the national Association of Social Workers, Charter Oak College or other governing body.
Parenting education and support groups for both fathers and mothers occur on separate days and with separate staff facilitators. The groups require an assessment interview and participation for 12 weeks to be successful. Topics covered include domestic violence and substance abuse and how they affect children, discipline alternatives, child developmental expectations, and life skills including budgeting, working positively with DCF and how to make the most of every visit with your child.
The 12 week foster youth group entitled Project You was a school site-based program focusing on being a ‘foster’ kid, communication skills, and social skills aimed at developing self-esteem (ages 8–11). We have provided after school homework club groups (ages 11–14) to both foster and adoptive children on site at ‘r kids and primarily focused on social, emotional, and skill development. We are currently in discussion with the State Dept. of Education, and the New HAven Board of Ed to provide a three tier educational collaboratinve program with Higher Heights, where 'r kids FAmily Center would provide all the wrap-around services for the youth in foster care and the foster families to assist them understand the college bound opportunities and processes and to assist their teens transition into adulthood. No funding is available for this initiative yet.
This new DCF program is designed to work with families who were referred to DCF and determined through assessment to need additional supports but not DCF involvement. The families receive services on a purely voluntary basis and the goals are determined specifically by each individual family. Staff provides the necessary wrap-around referrals, supports and assistance, including, in some cases, financial assistance for specific goal oriented needs. The families can choose to remain involved with their workers for up to 6 months, although we are seeing an extended request for our involvement. Areas of primary assistance have included coordination of mental health services for parents and their children, registering for state benefits, securing City ID cards, assistance with daycare/school registrations and in one case assistance with funeral arrangements and supports for the children and adults after the accidental death of the child. This is a prevention model to reduce the incidence of youth in out-of-home care (foster care). (24 family capacity)
‘r kids Family Center was selected by The National Zero to Three (ZTT) organization to participate in the program. The New Haven Safe Babies Initiative is focused on improving how the courts, child welfare agencies and local community partner organizations work together, share information and expedite services for young children. Any child up to 36 months of age and has been removed by DCF from their parent or guardian may be eligible to participate. It is a voluntary program. Referrals to the ‘r kids Family Center come directly from the ZTT Community Coordinator. Services include an initial Parent/Care Giver/Child assessment, increased visitation, parenting intervention, visit coaching, case management, and ongoing support services. These intensive services are to promote attachment and permanency in a timelier manner for these young children. The most prevalent permanency outcomes are reunification, transfer of guardianships, and adoption. Funding is provided through DCF. To date we have worked with 19 ZTT cases with a total of 20 babies and their families.
Randi Rubin Rodriguez, founder and CEO of ‘r kids, Inc. stewarded a $3,500 seed grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in just over one year into $700,000 in programming funds and $1 million dollars to build its Family Center on land remediated with an EPA grant. http://www.epa.gov/region1/brownfields/success/newhaven_rkids.html. Steeped in her spiritual belief, the quote “With each child, the world begins anew” Midrash, encompasses the vision that Randi has implanted within the minds and hearts of each of the ‘r kids staff to guide their work with our families.
With more than 30 years experience in the fields of substance abuse, Maternal and Child Health and Child Welfare, a Master’s degree in Human Development from Farleigh Dickinson University, a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Art Education from the University of Bridgeport, and a Post certification in Clinical Adoption Issues from UCONN/SCSU, Randi has continued to advance her understanding of the complex issues facing children committed to state care and their biologic, foster, adoptive and relative care families through many hours in diverse training workshops.
‘r kids Board took great pleasure and pride in promoting Enna Garcia to be Director of Programs in January 2014. With a twelve year history at ‘r kids, and twenty years in the field of child welfare, Enna simply stands out -- for the depth and breadth of her knowledge, particularly in the areas of attachment and trauma; the compassionate integrity of her respectful approach to parents challenged by their missteps; the strength of her managerial skills; and, most importantly, the passion she brings to ‘r kids every day to protect and promote children’s welfare.
Raised in Puerto Rico, Enna graduated from Assumption College in Massachusetts in 1991 with a Bachelor in Liberal Arts, having majored in Psychology, with minors in Social Rehabilitation and Spanish Literature. While at college, an internship at a Youth Shelter ignited Enna’s love and passion for children’s welfare. During her one year at the Graduate School at The Caribbean Center for Advanced Studies in Puerto Rico, Enna honed the interviewing and assessment techniques that she has meaningfully applied throughout her career. While a case manager in a Federal Program in Puerto Rico working with families, from remote and very dangerous communities, that received food stamps and cash assistance and were expected to work or go to school within 21 months from the start date of the benefits, Enna developed the necessary motivational skills that continue to enhance her work with low income families and the concrete challenges they face.
After relocating to Connecticut, Enna’s work at Youth Continuum, Inc. exposed her to the Juvenile Criminal Justice System that advanced her assessment and planning techniques including crisis intervention. From 1996 to 2000, Enna worked at the Department of Children and Families with children and their biological and foster families and cemented her understanding of the importance of permanency in children’s lives.
Enna’s passion to ensure permanency for children led her to ‘r kids, where she has flourished professionally and personally. Certified in Mother Read and Circle of Security Parenting Education, Enna’s initial duties to supervise visitation expanded to include pre and post adoption work with international and domestic adoptions and as a senior caseworker for Reconnecting Families and the Zero to Three program. In her new role as Director of Programs, Enna brings an enthusiasm and professionalism that thankfully enhances the staff as well as the children and families served.
‘r kids makes a 3%contribution to each employee’s 401 (k) account. This savings plan is critical to the future well-being of all our employees and ‘r kids needs to continue to find the ability to make this contribution. There is no retirement plan or pension and if we are to continue to employ older members of our community, this becomes an increasing concern.
‘r kids Board of Directors has been supportive of these initiatives realizing ‘r kids cannot meet its mission without caring, dedicated, well-trained and credentialed staff. Because of this, the staff retention rate has been extremely high.
Other management challenges include finding the resources to support continuing education for staff including formal college learning as well as certification curriculum and seminars. ‘r kids is also impacted by increasing costs for utilities, gasoline (as the staff drive both their own and company cars in their work), insurance, licenses and general building maintenance.
We are working to fund these additional operational costs through an aggressive financial development program and a plan to improve the infrastructure by adding support staff, allowing out clinical staff the time to provide more direct services to children and their families and more fee for service programs. These fee for service programs (PPSP Adoption-related services) will assist in increasing the overall discretionary revenue of the organization as well as providing an addition to the operating margin.
This recruitment effort continues with a goal of adding three new members with expertise in some of the following areas: education, finance (CPA), building facility management, communications and public relations and more.
‘r kids has been the beneficiary of strong support from its Board of Directors from the first day of its existence. The current Board has been supportive of efforts to add to current services, to attract the best staff possible and to look at new ideas of best practices in the field and how ‘r kids can implement those practices. Many of our Board members are adoptive parents or have been foster parents which gives them a highly personal commitment to the goals of ‘r kids’ mission and their daily work.
Some of the challenges facing ‘r kids in Board and volunteer recruitment include devoting time to cultivating relationships with people so they will feel a sense of investment in our work. Without this sense of involvement, people will not be willing to make ‘r kids a priority in their busy schedules.
Another challenge is identifying volunteers who are willing to take on leadership roles. Many people are willing to help, but less and less of those people are willing to be the point person on a Board committee or a special event. Reaching out and identifying and recruiting these future leaders is a priority for ‘r kids.
Another challenge is one of time for me as Executive Director. ‘r kids is an agency run by a very small, talented and dedicated staff. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to budget time to recruit volunteers, meet with donors, participate in community events and functions, manage the internal governance, the fiscal responsibilities and support the very challenging work being done on a daily basis by each team member.
(Not to mention call a plumber or answer the phones when our volunteer receptionist is not here!) Expanding our donor base, enhancing our technology, and gaining general operating support tied to our mission and not directly to incorporating one more program is the primary goal of ‘r kids. Securing dedicated additional Board members and volunteer leaders will help to address this challenge as ‘r kids moves forward.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Partners including Agency on Aging, Marrakesh, and the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services continue to provide us with income supported talent and help fill some of the gaps in our ancillary needs; i.e. data input, housekeeping, maintenance, etc. We have also secured new funders through our donor development program and both private individual and corporate donors have increased this past year. This was our very first attempt at electronic, web-based donor solicitation. Given these economic times are reported to be the most severe for non-profits, we are hopeful that our donor development will continue to expand through the implementation of our 3 year donor development strategic plan. Personal donations by the Board of Directors have also increased and our recruitment of new Board members this year will hopefully impact our annual fundraising efforts.
Our utilization of volunteers has increased from 25 to 40! This has had a significant impact on ancillary items, services and beautification needs of our organization and our families.
Lastly, we have been fortunate to have all bookkeeping and accounting services provided by a CPA who has been with us for 6 years and is an amazing asset to our organizational fiscal stability!
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
When families, schools and communities take the view that children and youth are valued and respected assets to society, they necessarily support environments that nurture youth development. Children raised to embrace positive social values, to seek self-understanding, and to value their self-worth grow to become community-minded young adults with a sense of belonging and a belief in their resiliency. See how you can help our community's children grow into tomorrow's leaders.
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