'r kids Family Center enjoys a unique niche in the New Haven nonprofit community: permanency for children.
The ‘r kids’ tag line embodies our mission; With each child, the world begins anew (Midrash).
'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 on a cold evening in 1996 to explore the gap in services to sustain family integrity when 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 CFGNH seed grant in just over a year into $700,000 in programming and $1 million in funding to build our 4300 square foot Family Center on land remediated with an EPA grant. Calling ‘r kids a “blessing,” a neighbor noted: “Your development of 2 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: Our family reunification rate in 2015 was 100%., thus earning DCF’s 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, 2/3s of our 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. For those comparable families that DCF serviced in-house, the reunification rate was 31%.
Nonprofit collaborations: ‘r kids understands the value of leveraging its own expertise by exploring collaborations with other local nonprofits.
Raise the Roof: In response to identified needs of our population, we completed a strategic plan assessment with Marta Moret's pro bono assistance that validated our plans to expand services. Fortunately, we constructed our Family Center with the forethought and structural capacity to expand. Given the federal Main Street Initiative’s selection of Lower Dixwell as one of the first sites for New Haven, and with in-kind donations of blueprints by BL Companies and a construction cost analysis by A. Secondino Co., we are seizing these synergies and just completed a capital campaign feasibility study to Raise our Roof.
As I reflect on my first year as Board Chair, I celebrate the significant milestones we have already achieved: a completed strategic plan assessment with the pro bono assistance of Marta Moret, a capital campaign feasibility study to Raise the Roof and a management succession plan. Moving forward, I am excited by the challenges presented to steer this small but mighty nonprofit through a capital campaign to Raise the Roof and expand our services to fill unacceptable gaps that exist today for children impacted by abuse and neglect, who too often are already at a societal disadvantage because of poverty.
We lead the collaborative for DCF's only Reunification and Therapeutic Family Time program in New Haven. DCF refers families deemed appropriate for assessment and reunification transition to ongoing intensive case management, implementing services 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, kinship 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.
‘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.
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
'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. In response to our summer strategic vision Board/Staff retreat, we now provide a minimum of $500 per employee for professional training opportunities.
r kids has long recognized the extraordinary gap that exists for youth committed to DCF, a divide they are too often unable to overcome alone to pursue postsecondary education successfully as the life altering accomplishment it is. We know that students in foster care are especially at risk for school failure, as evidenced by poor grades and high rates of absenteeism and disciplinary referrals; they are too often older for their grade level. A review of state standardized test results by Connecticut Voices for Children revealed that 10th graders in foster care are far less likely to receive a proficient score or above in the core subject areas than their peers, a test-score difference that is evident as early as third grade. ‘r kids recently added a Youth Prevention program targeted specifically for elementary aged youth in foster or kinship care that includes wrap around services.
This recent DCF initiative 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.
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.. Steeped in her spiritual belief, the quote “With each child, the world begins anew” Midrash, encompasses the vision that Randi has implanted within '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, an M.A. in Human Development from Farleigh Dickinson , a B.A. in Psychology/Art Education from the University of Bridgeport, and 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, kinship and adoptive 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 now a fourteen year history at ‘r kids, and twenty two 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 DCF 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. After receiving funding from an anonymous CFGNH donor to support her participation in a two year post-degree program and after UCONN School of Social Work waived its MSW prerequisite based on Enna's extensive experience, Enna earned her Training for Adoption Competencies certification. In her new role as Director of Programs, she 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, 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 our 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 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.
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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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