161 posts categorized "Children and Youth"

An international community for LGBTQ youth: A Q&A with Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director, Trevor Project

April 21, 2022

Headshot_Amit Paley_Trevor_ProejctAmit Paley is the CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. Before diving into the world of philanthropy, Paley was an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, where he led the global consulting firm’s LGBTQ group and spearheaded its efforts on inclusion for transgender and nonbinary people. Before his work at McKinsey, Paley was a reporter at the Washington Post, where he covered numerous beats, including as a foreign correspondent based in the paper’s Baghdad bureau. His coverage earned him a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. 

Paley began his work with the Trevor Project as a counselor on the 24/7 TrevorLifeline in 2011, where he continues to take calls. Paley is the first volunteer in the organization’s history to become CEO and has served in the position since 2017. Under his leadership, the organization has built and launched an integrated crisis services platform, expanded its chat and text services to 24/7, and more than quadrupled the number of youth served each month. 

Earlier this year, the Trevor Project announced plans to launch its crisis services in Mexico. PND asked Paley about his expectations for the international expansion and what it means for the organization in the long run. 

Philanthropy News Digest: As a former counselor, what do you think is the most important trait to look for in the first crop of volunteers in Mexico?  

Amit Paley: While the geography will be different, the goal will be the same: The Trevor Project’s crisis services volunteers are trained to support LGBTQ young people who reach out to us when they are feeling suicidal or need a safe, non-judgmental place to talk. Outside of being passionate about our mission to end LGBTQ youth suicide, we look for volunteers who embody empathy and understanding and are committed to this life-saving work.

For the last 10 years, I have been a crisis counselor for TrevorLifeline, which has kept me grounded and centered on our mission, even as Trevor continues to grow and expand. This is a pivotal moment for our organization, and the first group of counselors that we train in Mexico will play a crucial role in helping establish Trevor as a trusted resource for LGBTQ youth around the world....

Read the full Q&A with Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project.

How organizations are responding to the Ukraine crisis

March 08, 2022

Ukraine_credit_Joel Carillet_GettyImages-1371827450According to UNHCR, between February 24 and March 8, 2022, an estimated 2,011,312 refugees left Ukraine. The vast majority (1,204,403) fled to Poland, while others went to Hungary (191,348), Slovakia (140,745), the Russian Fedeartion (99,300), Moldova (82,762), Romania (82,062), Belarus (453), and other European counties (210,239). On March 1, the United NationsOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a funding appeal for $1.7 billion in support of humanitarian relief efforts for people in Ukraine and refugees in neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, numerous NGOs are working on the ground in Ukraine and in the region to address the humanitarian needs of those affected by the Russian invasion. Needs range from medical supplies, food, water, hygiene kits, and psychosocial support to mental health assistance for children and families fleeing the region.

Here we highlight just some of the organizations directly assisting  and/or supporting efforts to assist internally displaced Ukrainians and refugees and the communities hosting them.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

The New York City-based American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has operated in Ukraine for three decades and supports nearly 40,000 low-income Jewish people in 1,000 locations across the country. Through its emergency hotlines, volunteer corps, and network of social service centers, the organization provides essentials such as food and medicine. JDC also is preparing to respond to mass displacement and deploy psychosocial support and increased aid to the most vulnerable. JDC has received grants from funders including Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and the Jewish Federations of North America.

American Red Cross

According to the American Red Cross headquartered in Washington, D.C., as of March 6, 2022, Red Cross teams have distributed more than 90,000 food and hygiene parcels to families on the move across Ukraine, including Mariupol; provided first aid training to more than 12,000 people in metro stations and bomb shelters; delivered more than 32 tons of food, blankets, medicine, medical supplies, trauma kits, and household items; assisted with the evacuation of people with disabilities; and distributed critical care items to more than 7,000 people seeking safety in bomb shelters from shelling. The American Red Cross also has deployed crisis responders to provide humanitarian relief in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Lithuania, and Russia, where Red Cross volunteers are supporting displaced people. ARC has received grants from funders including Bank of America, Key Bank, and Wells Fargo.

“The escalating conflict in Ukraine is taking a devastating toll,” said International Committee of the Red Cross director general Robert Mardini in a statement. “Casualty figures keep rising while health facilities struggle to cope. We already see long-term disruptions in regular water and electricity supplies. People calling our hotline in Ukraine are desperately in need of food and shelter.”

Americares

Based in Stamford, Connecticut, Americares has worked in Eastern Europe for decades, delivering $120 million in medicine and supplies to Ukraine to date. To help provide health services for Ukrainian families affected by the current humanitarian crisis, the organization has sent an emergency response team of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals to Krakow, Poland. The organization will deliver medicine, medical supplies, emergency funding, and relief items to the region and provide primary care services, emergency treatment for injuries, and mental health and psychosocial support services to help survivors cope with stress and trauma. Americares has received commitments from Boeing and United Airlines, among others.

CARE

Atlanta-based CARE works to address global poverty—with an emphasis on empowering women—and deliver emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters. In Ukraine, the NGO is supporting local partner organizations to provide warm, safe spaces for refugees to rest at border crossings and to send food, sleeping bags, diapers, and other essentials into Ukraine. At the Ukrainian-Romanian border, CARE and its partner, SERA, are training 200 psychologists in emergency psychosocial support to help arriving refugees overcome the trauma of war and leaving their homes and also are supporting social services and child protection services at arrival points and on transit routes for the most vulnerable children. In addition, CARE has warned that “[f]or women who have been forced to flee their homes, who are far away from their usual support networks and usual means of income; exploitation—including sexual exploitation—is a real risk” and is calling for coordinated protection services to register and accompany those fleeing the conflict.

“One of the best ways to ensure a gender-sensitive humanitarian response is to fund women’s organizations in Ukraine, and other local organizations led by and serving specific groups, such as people with disabilities,” said CARE emergency media manager Ninja Taprogge in a statement. “These groups also need to be consulted as the international humanitarian response is planned, because their local knowledge, skills and networks are invaluable.”

Center for Disaster Philanthropy

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) in Washington, D.C., has created the CDP Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund, which will focus on addressing needs among the most vulnerable, marginalized, and at-risk internally displaced peoples, and refugees. The organization is in contact with and can award grants to Ukrainian and other international organizations that are not 501(c)3 entities. In addition, CDP has a list of suggestions for disaster giving by foundations.

“Although it will take a few days before we get a better understanding of the scale and extent of additional humanitarian needs from this rapid escalation and expansion of the conflict, we know that people forced from their homes need shelter, food, clean water and other basic necessities, particularly in the harsh winter climate,” the organization said on its website.

Direct Relief

Based in Santa Barbara, California, Direct Relief works to equip health professionals in resource-poor communities to meet the challenges of diagnosing and caring for people in need. As of March 3, 2022, Direct Relief—which has supported hospitals in Ukraine for years—has sent two shipments of medical aid to Poland for transport into Ukraine. The shipments include medicines and supplies requested by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, such as medical oxygen concentrators, antibiotics, wound dressings, and respiratory medicine, as well as field medic packs. The organization anticipates a rapid expansion of medical relief to Ukraine in the near term, as dozens of medical manufacturers, including Eli Lilly and Co. and Merck, lend their support. FedEx is also working with Direct Relief to provide in-kind support of a charter flight containing medical aid.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with U.S. headquarters in New York City, has delivered a shipment of emergency medical supplies—including surgical kits, trauma kits, and basic necessities for intensive care units, emergency rooms, and surgical operating theaters—to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health in Kyiv. Experienced MSF emergency and specialist medical staff are currently entering Ukraine, with more scheduled to arrive to support teams already working on the ground. MSF teams are assessing medical humanitarian needs at the Polish-Ukrainian border as well as elsewhere in Poland. The organization is also assessing the needs of refugees in Hungary, with a focus on identifying less visible needs for particularly vulnerable people; in southeastern Moldova, with a focus on chronically ill patients or mental health needs; and in border areas in Slovakia. In addition, MSF has an established presence in southern Russia and in Belarus—with its tuberculosis and hepatitis C programs—where it is assessing whether new medical humanitarian needs have emerged.

Global Giving

Global Giving, based in Washington, D.C., works to facilitate donations to reliable, locally led disaster relief and recovery efforts around the world through its online giving platform. The organization has set up a Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund in support of humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled, including shelter, food, and clean water for refugees; health and psychosocial support; and access to education and economic assistance. As of March 7, the fund has raised $6.47 million toward its $10 million goal. Global Giving also provides a Ukrainian Crisis: Fast Facts page that provides historical context for the war and its impact on humanitarian challenges.

International Medical Corps

The International Medical Corps, based in Pasadena, California, is on the ground in Ukraine, has created a logistics and support hub in Poland, and is working with health agencies and local partners to provide primary and emergency health services; mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS); gender-based violence (GBV) response services and protection services for women, children, and other at-risk people who face risks during conflict; and medicines and medical supplies, including personal protection equipment, to help provide critical care and prevent infectious diseases like COVID-19 among refugees and displaced populations. The organization first delivered essential relief and medicines to Ukrainian healthcare facilities and trained local doctors and medical staff in 1999; since 2014, when the healthcare system in eastern Ukraine collapsed, it has been providing primary health care, MHPSS, GBV, and COVID-related services.

International Rescue Committee

The New York City-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), which helps those whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive and recover, is on the ground in Poland, working with local partners there and in Ukraine. The organization is providing critical information to some of the one million people who have arrived in Poland from Ukraine and are also procuring medical supplies and essential items such as sleeping bags and blankets for distribution at reception centers on the Ukrainian/Polish border. In addition, IRC is also working to quickly mobilize resources and connect with partners in Ukraine to establish a response that will provide life-saving support to civilians forced to flee their homes. The organization has received a grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Project HOPE

Project HOPE, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is coordinating with local NGOs, hospitals, and government officials across Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, as well as the World Health Organization, Logistics Clusters, ministries of health, and other authorities. The organization’s immediate focus is on continuing to source and ship essential medicines and medical supplies for primary health and trauma care to affected areas, including hygiene kits, Interagency Emergency Health Kits, and insulin. In Poland, Project HOPE is procuring vital medical supplies to be delivered to a neonatal hospital in Kyiv, supporting an NGO in Kyiv in purchasing and transporting medicines and medical supplies to civilian hospitals, and assessing health needs in the Dnipro region, including for those who are internally displaced. In Moldova, the organization also is procuring and delivering critical medical supplies to the Ministry of Health to serve refugees. In addition, in Romania, Project HOPE is sourcing hygiene kits, medical supplies, and medicines for transport into Ukraine and for the refugee population.

“These refugees have no idea when they will be able to return home or what home they will return to. Many of them only have the few belongings they could grab before fleeing,” said Project HOPE’s Vlatko Uzevski in a statement. Within these waves of refugees are untold thousands who are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or managing serious medical conditions. The doctors and medicines they rely on are gone. There were already three million people in Ukraine in need of humanitarian assistance before this invasion. They are the ones who will bear the brunt of this war.”

Project Kesher

Based in New York, Project Kesher works to build the Jewish community and advance civil society by developing and empowering women leaders. Their work in Ukraine is to mobilize globally to support Ukrainian women and families. Project Kesher Ukraine staff are currently on the ground, either sheltering in place or traveling in search of safety. At the same time, Project Kesher activists are crossing into border countries in Europe, many with children and elderly family members, while those in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Israel are fielding requests from Ukrainian women for help with evacuation, support at the border, immigrating to Israel, and accessing emergency support services. The organization is in daily contact with Jewish relief efforts on the ground and in Europe.

Razom

New York-based Razom works to foster Ukrainian democracy and civil society through a global network of experts and organizations supporting democracy activists and human rights advocates across Ukraine. Razom’s emergency response to the crisis is focused on purchasing medical supplies for critical situations like blood loss and other tactical medicine items through an extensive procurement team of volunteers that tracks down and purchases supplies, and a logistics team that then gets them to Ukraine. Razom also is coordinating with several partner organizations worldwide, including Nova Ukraine, United Help Ukraine, Revived Soldiers Ukraine, Sunflower for Peace, and Euromaidan-Warszawa; working with governments and embassies on establishing humanitarian corridors; and arranging for warehouses and points of delivery in Poland and Ukraine. Donated funds will be used to purchase tourniquets, bandages, combat gauzes, sterile pads, and satellite phones.

Save the Children

Connecticut-based Save the Children is supporting humanitarian programs aiming to reach 3.5 million children and their families with immediate aid and recovery through its Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, which will provide children and families with immediate aid such as food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance. Save the Children is on the ground in Romania, working with migrants and asylum seekers in five reception centers. Teams are currently conducting a needs assessment in four refugee camps in northeastern Romania and preparing to distribute essential items and set up spaces where children have a safe place to play, learn, and cope with grief and loss; it is also urgently assessing needs in Poland and Lithuania. In addition, Save the Children is calling on neighboring countries to provide access to asylum, protection, and assistance to all people fleeing Ukraine, regardless of their nationality or visa status.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

California-based Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights partners with women’s movements worldwide to support women’s human rights defenders striving to create cultures of justice, equality, and peace. In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the fund supports women, trans, and nonbinary activists on the ground in Ukraine and the surrounding region by providing flexible funding and security support. To that end, the organization is responding to requests from groups and individuals seeking help with emergency evacuations and relocations; legal, financial, and medical support; security and disaster survival training; increasing shelter capacities for children, women, and all other civilians; and access to alternative communication channels, mobile internet, power banks, VPNs, proxy, spare phones, and tablets.

World Central Kitchen

Founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen (WCK), based in Washington, D.C., provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises while building resilient food systems with locally led solutions. WCK is on the ground in Ukraine and nearby countries, serving thousands of fresh meals to Ukrainian families fleeing home and those who remain in the country. Within hours of the initial invasion, WCK began working at a 24-hour pedestrian border crossing in southern Poland and now feeds families at eight border crossings across the country. In addition, WCK supports local restaurants preparing meals in eight Ukrainian cities, including Odessa, Lviv, and Kyiv. WCK teams are also on the ground in Romania, Moldova, and Hungary and plan to assist in Slovakia. Andrés ,who last year was awarded a $100 million “courage and civility award” from Jeff Bezos for his humanitarian work, has said via Twitter that he will commit support from that award to Ukraine.

“It’s hard to know that, even in this moment, there are mainly women with children walking for hours out of Ukraine to safety, to different countries,” said Andrés s in a recorded message. “Every country is welcoming them, and every country is doing their best, but it’s hard to know there are people walking in the streets or spending the night in a car with no gas, with no way to heat themselves.”

The majority of these organizations has earned a Candid Seal of Transparency at the Platinum, Gold, or Silver level.

A Candid Seal of Transparency indicates that an organization has shared publicly information that enables informed funding decisions. Depending on the level (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum), requirements include information about its mission, grantmaker status, donations, and leadership, programs, brand details, audited financial report or basic financial information, board demographics, strategic plan or strategy and goal highlights, and at least one metric demonstrating progress and results. Learn more about how nonprofits can earn a Seal of Transparency. https://guidestar.candid.org/profile-best-practices/

Find more articles in Philanthropy News Digest about  philanthropy’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Find more updates and resources on Candids special issue page on the philanthropic response to the war in Ukraine.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Joel Carillet)

Lauren Brathwaite is content editor and Kyoko Uchida is features editor at Philanthropy News Digest.

 

Child mental health and social risks: A Q&A with Andrea E. Spencer, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine

February 28, 2022

Headshot_Andrea_Spencer_Boston_Medical_CenterA study led by researchers at Boston Medical Center found that the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw increased depression, anxiety, and social risks among urban children of color between the ages of 5 and 11. Based on surveys of caregivers of 168 children—of whom 54 percent of identified as “non-Hispanic Black” and 29 percent as “Hispanic” and 22 percent were non-English speaking—rates of emotional and behavioral symptoms rose from 8 percent in September 2019 to 18 percent in January 2021. The children’s families also faced higher social risks during the pandemic, with 50 percent reporting food insecurity mid-pandemic, up from 16 percent; 38 percent having difficulty paying bills, up from 16 percent; 12 percent reporting housing insecurity, up from 3 percent; 10 percent having difficulty with dependent care, up from 1 percent; and 10 percent experiencing unemployment, up from 3 percent.

According to the study, the share of children with depression and anxiety problems increased from 5 percent pre-pandemic to 18 percent mid-pandemic. The study also found that, while mental health symptoms in children were significantly correlated with the number of social risks before the pandemic, this was not the case mid-pandemic; the symptoms were worse due to factors beyond those unmet social needs, such as their caregivers’ anxiety or depression.

The study’s lead author, Andrea E. Spencer, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, director for pediatric integrated behavioral health care at Boston Medical Center, and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. PND asked Spencer about the study’s implications for public health, health equity, and public policy.

Philanthropy News Digest: The study, “Changes in psychosocial functioning among urban, school‑age children during the COVID‑19 pandemic,” found that before the pandemic, the children’s emotional and behavioral symptoms were associated with unmet social needs such as food or housing insecurity. How significant was the correlation, and what are the implications?

Andrea E. Spencer: Our clinic screens for mental health symptoms and social needs as part of routine child annual visits to be sure we know when a child and family is struggling with symptoms or needs that we might be able to address at our hospital or via our partnership with community organizations. For the study, we were able to access this information from participants’ medical records to obtain a pre-pandemic baseline.

We saw a significant and moderate correlation between unmet social needs and emotional/behavioral symptoms before the pandemic. This is similar to our findings in another paper published several years ago that also used data from our electronic medical record system. The significance of the finding refers to the probability that random chance generated the data. A small p-value means that the results are very unusual if they were due to chance only. We set our significance level at 0.05, which means that we considered the finding “statistically significant” if there was a 5 percent or lower random chance of getting that result if there really is no correlation. The correlation between unmet social needs and mental health symptoms before the pandemic was in fact highly significant with a p value of less than 0.001—meaning that this finding would have been generated only 0.1 percent of the time if only due to chance. The moderate correlation indicates that as social risks increased, mental health symptoms also increased, but that this relationship is not perfectly linear. This makes sense, because we know there are other factors that relate to child mental health other than social risks. What this doesn’t specifically tell us is the directionality of the association.

PND: The study also found that during the pandemic, by contrast, the children’s symptoms were not significantly correlated with unmet needs, knowing someone with COVID-19, or exposure to COVID-related media. What, then, are the factors that contributed to the jump in children’s mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression?

AES: In our study, the increase in anxiety and depression symptoms during the pandemic were associated with increased screen time, low school engagement, and parent depression symptoms. In addition, families felt that the lack of activities outside of the house, the change in normal routines, social isolation, stress and fear of COVID-19, and lack of physical activity were negatively impacting their child’s well-being....

Read the full Q&A with Andrea E. Spencer, director for pediatric integrated behavioral health care at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine.

‘Trust is critical in a gender-responsive approach’: A Q&A with Mary Marx, President and CEO, Pace Center for Girls

January 27, 2022

Headshot_Mary Marx_Pace_Center_for_GirlsFounded in 1985 in Jacksonville, Florida, Pace Center for Girls works to provide girls and young women who are experiencing challenges in their home or school environment with opportunities for a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. Today the organization’s twenty-two locations in Florida and Georgia provide more than three thousand girls with academic instruction, life skills, coaching, and counseling to help them face their past and prepare for their future. In addition, over the past decade, Pace’s public policy advocacy work has helped reduce the number of girls who are referred to Florida’s juvenile justice system by more than 60 percent.

Mary Marx joined Pace as vice president of external affairs in 2007 and has served as president and CEO since 2010. PND asked her about Pace’s advocacy efforts around juvenile justice reform, its national expansion strategy, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on needs and programs.

Philanthropy News Digest: What does the “gender-responsive” framework that Pace Center for Girls uses in its academic and social services entail, in concrete terms?

Mary Marx: I’d like to start by explaining why we’re using the gender-responsive framework and why it’s one of Pace’s foundational pillars. Pace Center for Girls was founded because a growing number of girls were entering Florida’s juvenile justice system, largely driven by experiences of trauma and the impact that trauma had on their behavior and physical, emotional, and mental health. Trauma places girls at significant risk for poor life outcomes, including dropping out of school, poor physical and mental health, long-term economic dependency, and involvement in human trafficking or the delinquency or dependency systems.

In 1985, there was no research on girls and delinquency, so our approach intuitively was centered on girls’ unique needs. Then, as the research findings came to light, we were able to validate that the gender-responsive model was the correct approach. Of course, then the question becomes, “What does that mean? What is a gender-responsive approach?” First, it means that you create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for girls. For example, each Pace center has an enrollment of about sixty to eighty girls, by design. Rather than attending a school with three thousand students, you’re getting more individualized attention at Pace and access to wraparound services such as counseling, leadership skills development, and workforce training.

A gender-responsive model also entails that we take a holistic approach when we look at someone’s treatment strategies. This means taking into account all areas of development, such as physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional health. Another really important facet of a gender-responsive approach is that it’s relationship-based; meaningful connections fuel healthy development, and that is particularly important for young people who may have experienced abuse or neglect early in life. Healthy relationships are modeled by the staff and include helping girls develop healthy peer-to-peer relationships. We do a lot of peer mediation, peer mentoring, and group work so the girls are developing healthy relationships among themselves and with staff.

Another facet of the gender-responsive model is taking a strength-based approach, meaning that we focus on the strengths of each girl rather than her shortcomings. This also has to be based in health. At Pace, each girl has her own counselor, whom she can see at any time. There’s a minimum requirement that each girl be seen at least twice a month, but most, especially when they come to us in the beginning, are seen almost every day. In terms of physical health, we have our own health clinic in the Pace Center. We also have a relationship with the county department of health, where we take the girls for wellness checks, as oftentimes trauma is written on the body, for example, in the form of self-harming and eating disorders.

Trust is critical in a gender-responsive approach, as is ensuring that each girl has choice and control. One of the most important facets of our model is that we’re a voluntary program; no one is court-ordered to be here, and girls can leave of their own volition. That’s a really important piece, because they haven’t had mastery or control over their lives for a long period of time. We are very collaborative in how we make decisions with them and share power with them. And finally, we consistently prioritize empowerment and skill building for our girls....

Read the full Q&A with Mary Marx.

We have good tools to address the pandemic in youth mental health. Let’s use them.

January 25, 2022

Adult_and_child_hands_mental_health_GettyImages_fizkesWe are just beginning to appreciate the long-term impact of the past two years on mental health—and especially for children and adolescents. But we already know that lockdowns, isolation, and uncertainty have contributed to increases in anxiety and depressive symptoms and that parents have been pushed to the breaking point as the crisis disrupts their fragile support networks.

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic caused mental health symptoms—it has revealed the lack of basic support for the emotional health of our children, who as a group are underserved by current systems. In a recent report on the state of youth mental health, noting the disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, the Office of the Surgeon General encourages responding with a “whole of society” approach.

We, who are working at the forefront of philanthropy and child mental health, urge our peers across sectors to embrace this call to action and come together in a “whole world” approach. We need to be able to give our mental health the same attention we give our physical health, recognize that this is a universal problem, and finally remove the stigma that hinders healing. The single most important takeaway from the COVID mental health crisis is the need to build capacity to support children’s emotional health.

This isn’t an easy task. In the United States, deficits in training and workforce development in children’s mental health at all levels—at school, in the pediatrician’s office, and in mental health care settings—has been a persistent barrier to access and utilization. Seventy percent of U.S. counties don’t have a single child and adolescent psychiatrist. (The same is true for most rural areas in Greece, where we are collaborating on a mental health initiative.)

And that was before the pandemic. In the same way that COVID revealed weaknesses in our pandemic preparedness, it also revealed weaknesses in our mental health care system, which has historically ignored children almost completely and is still woefully underdeveloped. The risks of untreated mental health problems are significant and long-lasting—including higher rates of continued mental health disorders, school dropout, family dysfunction, social isolation, and suicide. Yet two-thirds of individuals with mental health disorders never get the treatment they need.

The mental health crisis shares another similarity with the coronavirus pandemic: It is global and has a disproportionate impact on marginalized and underresourced communities. According to the Child Mind Institute’s 2021 Children’s Mental Health Report, Black and Hispanic/Latinx teens are more likely than white teens to express concerns about pandemic-related mental health challenges. In Greece, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s (SNF) Health Initiative has seen that households in remote areas, refugee and migrant populations, and Roma are less likely to have access to adequate mental health care. There is a critical, global need to invest in access to evidence-based mental health care for all children and adolescents—particularly those most at risk.

When we listen to the needs of the people on the ground who are awake to the barriers and inequalities present, we hear calls for capacity building. The Child Mental Health Initiative (CMHI), a new joint initiative between the Child Mind Institute and SNF that is part of the latter’s Health Initiative in Greece, hopes to do just this: to expand capacity for mental health support for children and youth in Greece.

The CMHI aspires to reinforce and extend the critical work done by mental health and child protection providers across the country. Through a collaborative, interdisciplinary model between the institute and regional teams of Greek professionals specializing in child mental health and psychosocial care, the program aims to increase care access, capacity, and resources while developing a country-wide network and improving mental health literacy and awareness. By collaborating and bringing together international and local expertise, our initiative is using field-leading research to build robust and accessible mental health support for young people across Greece.

We see this capacity-building effort in Greece as a blueprint that can be applied across Europe and potentially around the world.

This work is not optional. Organizations like ours must recognize that addressing challenges facing children and young people is both an immediate priority and a long-term commitment. Governments and NGOs can play their part by sharing best practices and openly communicating with the local professionals and communities who utilize this care.

Whether it’s COVID or mental health, public health crises require sustained international collaboration to determine the best ways to direct resources and build capacity for preventing further harm. We need to demonstrate a common will to come together across borders and agree that access to mental health care is an area we cannot be divided on. As Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy writes: “It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place.”

Andreas_Dracopoulos_Harold_Koplewicz_philantopicAndreas Dracopoulos is co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), and Harold S. Koplewicz is founding president and medical director of the Child Mind Institute. A version of this post originally appeared on the Child Mind Institute’s blog.

(Top photo credit: Getty Images/fizkes)

(Harold S. Koplewicz photo credit: Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Studio)

Striking a balance in education philanthropy: A commentary by Annie W. Bezbatchenko and Tamara Mann Tweel

December 27, 2021

Remote_learning_mother_boy_GettyImages_SeventyFourAchieving both breadth and depth in education philanthropy

Picture a one-room schoolhouse. Ten children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old are seated in front of a teacher who lives in their community. Now picture the Khan Academy. Fifteen million students, each in a separate room, digesting short video lessons recorded by hundreds of individuals in countries they may have never visited. The leap from the physical room to the virtual room is both thrilling and destabilizing. On the one hand, education has been democratized and access to it made available to millions of students. On the other hand, education has been sapped of the emotional vitality that connects a student to a teacher and a group of peers.

For foundations invested in education, the choices can seem stark: Do we help educate the many or the few? Do we focus on large-scale content delivery or personal mentorship? Do we aspire for reach or for depth? At the Teagle Foundation, with its focus on liberal arts education, we have tried to navigate the options by exploring new mediums of scale without losing our grip on the longstanding benefits that a humanistic education offers: (a) a relationship with a teacher; (b) relationships with peers; and (c) texts that shape how students understand the world and their place within it. Rather than pursue an either/or approach in our grantmaking, we have sought to strike a balance between the two....

Read the full commentary by Annie W. Bezbatchenko and Tamara Mann Tweel, senior program officer and program director for civic initiatives, respectively, at the Teagle Foundation.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/SeventyFour)

'Working with the wider community to support teachers': A commentary by Richard Bernstein

November 16, 2021

News_sheet_musicNonprofits must step up to support teachers

There is a nationwide teacher shortage. This is as catastrophic for today's youth as it is for society's future success. Not all the issues teachers face can be fixed instantaneously, but we must ensure that nonprofits are working with the wider community to support teachers.

I personally know the importance of a good music teacher — I've played the piano since childhood, and today it is a vital part of my daily routine — but like most kids, I had limited access to music in my public school, and even today, 50 percent of New York City public schools don't have a certified music teacher. This shortage reflects the wider challenges in teacher recruitment nationwide.

Teaching is a critical vocation, yet teachers are paid up to 60 percent less than other similarly qualified professionals. On top of this, many teachers pay for their own certifications, transportation, and even classroom supplies.

We know that nonprofits can help address these challenges. When nonprofits donate books so that teachers don't have to buy them themselves, libraries are fuller, and student imaginations are richer for it. Organizations including Verizon Foundation, Infosys Foundation USA, and Intel's Skills for Innovation have tech skills programs for teachers, which help them support their students over a wide variety of platforms. Still, clearly it is not enough: One in four teachers is currently considering quitting....

Read the full commentary by Richard Bernstein, board chair of Education Through Music.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

'Grounded in anger and in love': A Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO, Robin Hood

November 09, 2021

Headshot_Richard Buery Jr.Richard R. Buery, Jr. succeeded Wes Moore as CEO of New York City-based Robin Hood in September, after serving as CEO of Robin Hood's community partner Achievement First, a network of thirty-seven charter schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He previously served as New York City's deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, in which he led Pre-K for All, which for first time offers free, full-day, high-quality PreK to every four-year-old in New York City; created School's Out NYC to offer free afterschool programs to every middle school student; launched two hundred community school partnerships; managed the city's mental health reform initiative; and founded the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises. His experience in civil and nonprofit leadership also included stints as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation, and CEO of Children's Aid. He also co-founded Groundwork to support the educational aspirations of public housing residents in Brooklyn, as well as iMentor, which pairs high school students with mentors to help them navigate to and through college.

A first-generation Panamanian American born and raised in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Buery is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Harvard College, and Yale Law School and clerked on the Federal Court of Appeals in New York.

PND spoke with Buery about worsening income inequality and the racial wealth gap, the impact of COVID-19 on the fight against poverty, the importance of equitable access to early childhood education and mental health services, and diversity among foundation and nonprofit leaders.

Philanthropy News Digest: You've held leadership positions with and/or founded numerous organizations focused on children and education — from the KIPP Foundation, Children's Aid, Groundwork, iMentor, and Achievement First to spearheading Pre-K for All and community-school partnerships. How did you come to devote your career to improving educational outcomes for underserved children?

Richard R. Buery, Jr: I think it stems from love and anger. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn but was able to attend a high-performing specialized high school, Stuyvesant, in Lower Manhattan. Riding the subway for an hour each way between East New York and Stuyvesant, I realized there were two New York Cities — one where children have all the resources they need to succeed, and one where they don't. Why was I one of the lucky ones who got to attend a great public school, when so many other kids in my neighborhood who were just as talented and driven were sentenced to a second-tier education?

Experiencing those two New Yorks every day did something to me. It made me angry. But I got lucky. In college, I began volunteering at an afterschool program in the Mission Hill housing development in Roxbury, Boston. I fell in love with the children, the families, and the community. It reminded me of home. I wound up starting a summer program to support those children when school was out.

So, I think my career is grounded in anger and in love. My experience in Mission Hill taught me that when injustice makes you angry, you can do something about it. You can organize people, organize resources, and you can work with communities you love to help solve problems.

Read the full Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr.

 

As COVID persists, New York's youth need nonprofits now more than ever

October 22, 2021

Boys_and_girls_town_nycThis was not the "return-to-normal" back-to-school season many of us had hoped for. Remote learning and isolation for more than a year have left many students, especially the most vulnerable, behind. On average, K-12 students are now an estimated five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. And there is a mental health crisis among teenagers hit hard by loneliness. While schools, families, and government agencies continue to provide substantial support for youth, it is simply not enough. Nonprofits are playing a vital role in supporting our youth through this pandemic and its fallout.

As executive director of A Chance In Life, a New York City-based nonprofit that supports at-risk teens through positive youth development, I've seen how essential such organizations have been over the past eighteen months. We operate all over the world and recently opened a center for youth on Staten Island, our first U.S. program. The demand for our services, which include paid internships, food distributions, and afterschool programs, has been high.

As schools, government agencies, and the private sector come together to improve the lives of youth and their families, nonprofits must have a seat at the table. They can help mitigate COVID-related learning loss, provide supportive social reintegration settings, and use their local connections to provide support where other entities fall short.

The negative repercussions of the pandemic on youth and their education are staggering. The effects are even more pronounced for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and those from high-poverty districts. Educators are doing everything they can, and I am deeply thankful for their work. But volatile conditions and insufficient funding have put them in an impossible position. Moreover, budget and time constraints limit teaching to core subjects, leaving little room for the additional support many students need.

Nonprofits are perfectly positioned to provide extra support to supplement students' classroom education with free tutoring, afterschool enrichment programs, and distribution of school supplies. They can also broaden students' education to include topics that don't always make it into school curricula, like financial literacy education.

Just as essential are the spaces for social development nonprofits provide — away from the pressures of exams and grades. Teens have been particularly negatively impacted by the social isolation of COVID-19, with 61 percent of young adults surveyed in a recent study reporting feeling lonely. Detachment puts young people at risk for mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Nonprofits offer safe, enriching spaces that foster peer-to-peer connections. Whether it is for group tutoring, an internship or a music lesson, it is important to carve out room for teens to be themselves and form bonds away from outside stressors.

In addition, the close community ties many nonprofits forge through their work help them recognize problems sooner. And they can respond with solutions more efficiently because they're less constrained by red tape than government agencies.

As COVID-related budget cuts stretched social services to their limits, nonprofits have been stepping up. A Chance In Life chose Staten Island as the site of our first U.S. program in part because it had fewer social programs than other New York City boroughs. Nonprofits across the country have done the same by setting up shop in neighborhoods that have been most neglected — whether the problem is a lack of public transportation, crowded schools, or food deserts.

For-profit businesses that care about giving back should also work with nonprofits to achieve a meaningful and sustainable impact — for nonprofits are the link to the community. Community-based organizations, their leaders, and staff have built local relationships and know where resources are needed. Nonprofits use their trusted voices to let residents know how to access donations from businesses. They also know where to go in a community to reach the people who need those resources the most.

For example, this past August, we partnered with another community-based organization, Staten Island Community Partnership, and ShopRite to distribute food donated by the supermarket chain. Without the corporate donation, we would have had no food to share with our neighbors, but without our connections with local residents and physical presence in the borough, ShopRite would not have known where to distribute that food.

We may not yet have returned to "normal." But nonprofits are willing, ready, and able to ensure that the nation's youth are supported, no matter the state of the city. I urge those in influential positions — leaders in government, business, and philanthropy — to actively support and include nonprofits as we all work towards solutions to this crisis.

(Photo credit: Boys' and Girls' Town of New York City)

Headshot_Gabriele_Delmonaco_PhilanTopicGabriele Delmonaco is executive director of A Chance In Life, a nonprofit dedicated to providing shelter, education, and development for at-risk youth.

'Tips for rapid grantmaking during a global pandemic': A commentary by Sierra Fox-Woods

October 18, 2021

News_mental_health.2Five tips for rapid grantmaking during a global pandemic: Lessons learned supporting adolescent mental health organizations during COVID-19

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread losses people have suffered — of loved ones, jobs, safety, and a sense of normalcy — community-based organizations are stepping up to bridge the gaps in social services. While government agencies are slower to move resources in response to real-time and evolving needs, philanthropy can act quickly and mobilize resources through rapid-response grantmaking.

At the Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health, we've seen firsthand the challenges of reviewing high-volume, short-turnaround proposals. The initial concept for the fund was proposed in July 2020 as a collaborative COVID-relief fund at Panorama to focus on adolescent mental health and well-being, and was seeded by Melinda French Gates' Pivotal Ventures with additional support from the Klarman Family Foundation. Over the course of three months, we developed a grantmaking and implementation strategy supported by an advisory committee of practitioners, policy experts, and researchers, and issued a request for proposals in late October, with applications open for six weeks. The fund received 485 proposals from forty states and the District of Columbia, and to date has awarded more than $11 million to ninety-two organizations.

We'd like to share five considerations for rapid grantmaking that were critical to our process and designed in the spirit of advancing trust-based philanthropy. Some validated our own grantmaking principles at Panorama, such as the importance of giving general operating support grants, while others were unique to processes required to execute on an expedited timeline....

Read the full commentary by Sierra Fox-Woods, a program officer for Panorama's Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health.

 

Building better futures for young refugees through education

October 14, 2021

Globe_handsThe emergency evacuation that recently unfolded in Afghanistan once again placed a spotlight on the plight of the world's refugees. It is a recurring crisis. In fact, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that of the 82.4 million people forcibly displaced from their countries in 2020 due to persecution, conflict, human rights violations, or other events, thirty-five million were under the age of 18. That's a staggering number of young people forced to live without the support, structure, and safety of their communities and unable to move beyond their present circumstances.

Tragically, education, which is so essential for young people to achieve their full potential, is overlooked when considering the welfare of refugees.

While working in Angola in the late 2000s, I saw firsthand the downstream consequences for people who grew up in refugee camps or far from their home communities with limited to no access to education. Make no mistake: Fleeing to neighboring countries allowed those young people to avoid forced conscription, brutal and violent war, and in many cases death. But few had the opportunity to pursue education beyond elementary school, and this no doubt hampered the post-war development of Angola, a country that experienced one of the longest civil wars of the twentieth century.

The current situation in Afghanistan is equally as urgent and dire. Afghan students and academics are under daily threat. We have not forgotten the attacks in 2016 on the American University of Afghanistan, when fifteen people were killed and at least fifty injured, including students, professors, and staff.  

To offer one solution to the ongoing refugee crisis in Afghanistan and around the world, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has launched and funded a new scholarship for student refugees and displaced persons. The IIE Odyssey Scholarship covers tuition, housing, and living expenses for refugees and displaced students pursing undergraduate or graduate degrees for the duration of their degree programs. We also created new scholarships for students from the now closed American University of Afghanistan. With these scholarships, displaced students will be able to safely continue their studies at college campuses abroad.   

In designing the Odyssey Scholarship, we leveraged our global network and expertise from within our regional offices. A regional approach has an additional benefit because 73 percent of displaced people are hosted by countries in the same region, according to UNHCR.

In addition, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has launched the Hilde Domin Programme, which supports students who are denied education in their home country. In Mexico, Proyecto Habesha began by supporting young people fleeing Syria, offering Spanish language training, financing, relocation support, and opportunities to study at Mexican universities. Their unique public-private programs grew over time, and today Proyecto Habesha brings displaced students from all over the world to live and learn in Mexico.

For all of these programs, the goal is to enable students to learn, grow, and one day return home to rebuild their countries. However, more must be done. At a time when crises around the world are worsening, resources for the displaced are severely lacking.

We know from our more than hundred-year history the importance of education in unlocking human potential. When young people have the opportunity to pursue their studies in safety and security, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. At IIE, we design and grow high-impact programs and make our programs sustainable by fundraising and building endowments that are prudently invested and managed. This is the model under which our longstanding programs and the new Odyssey Scholarship operate. 

IIE and our international network of colleges and universities have been working to provide practical solutions to threatened students from all over the globe and secure their safety. Real solutions require long-term commitment and support. We cannot allow for a lost generation among the refugee community. The resilience and determination we are seeing from displaced students and scholars should encourage us all to find a way to help.

Headshot_Jason_Czyz_IIE_PhilanTopicJason Czyz is executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Institute of International Education.

'The world must not turn its back': A commentary by John Canady

September 30, 2021

Girls_school_Afghanistan_USAID_viaPixnio_ccThree ways funders can protect Afghan girls' rights and access to education:

In 2012, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she defended girls' rights to an education.

Malala Yousafzai's story shocked the world and became a catalyst for the international efforts to increase educational opportunities for girls in developing countries or living under oppressive regimes.

Nine years on, as the world has watched the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan with horror and despair, girls' education — one of the country's greatest successes over the last twenty years — is now in grave danger.

A recent announcement by the Taliban Education Ministry confirmed those fears when it effectively banned girls from secondary education by stating that "all male teachers and students should attend their education institutions," leaving the issue of female education unaddressed — and girls at home.

Global attention understandably has been focused on the plight of many Afghan nationals and U.S. citizens desperately trying to leave the country. The distressing images of helpless parents passing their babies over the perimeter of Kabul International Airport to beleaguered U.S. soldiers are heart-wrenching. But we must not forget the urgent needs of those left behind, especially women and girls....

Read the full commentary by John Canady, CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust UK.

(Photo credit: USAID via Pixnio)

'Systems change work is intrinsic to creative youth development': A commentary by Daniel R. Lewis

August 09, 2021

Lewis_Prize_for_Music_awardeeSupporting creative youth development as systems change work

In her recent blog post announcing $2.7 billion in commitments to equity-oriented nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott writes: "Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health."

[...] As a longtime arts philanthropist, reading Ms. Scott's post, I couldn't help but recognize the work she was describing as systems change — a vision my organization, the Lewis Prize for Music, has set for itself [...] While the pandemic magnified the already apparent need for young people to develop artistic and employable media arts skills, calls for racial justice showed the imperative for adults to provide movement-building support and guidance to young people. The CYD field has simultaneously addressed both of these needs.

Systems change work is intrinsic to CYD, and the holistic approach of CYD is itself systems change....

Read the full commentary by Daniel R. Lewis, founder and chair of the Lewis Prize for Music.

How nonprofits can evolve following a time of uncertainty

July 01, 2021

News_sheet_musicAs the country begins to reopen after more than a year of uncertainty and isolation, the need for a sense of community and belonging is greater than ever. There couldn't be a better time for nonprofit organizations to double down on their commitment to the communities they serve.

According to a recent study commissioned by Fidelity Charitable, 25 percent of current donors plan to increase their donations in the coming year and 54 percent intend to maintain their donation levels. What's more, most donors plan to support local charities. This trend presents a unique opportunity for local organizations committed to purpose-driven work to step up and lead.

For the Brooklyn Youth Music Project (BYMP), a small nonprofit dedicated to teaching and inspiring young musicians from diverse backgrounds, the inability to hold in-person rehearsals and performances caused us to think differently about our fundraising tactics — just as we were coming up on our tenth anniversary. We are certainly not alone in this situation; studies have shown that the pandemic has negatively impacted activities such as volunteering across all sectors around the world.

By changing our perspective on what's possible and staying focused on how to continue serving our community, BYMP was able to evolve and make this a record-breaking year right out of the gate. We did so by employing five principles that can help nonprofits ensure success and sustainability in even the most challenging times:

1. Re-commit. The three part-time employees who make up BYMP — with the support of a committed board of directors — stayed true to our mission despite the challenges we faced.

As an organization that is based on in-person rehearsals and performances, having to shift to a world gone virtual was a daunting task. By keeping our mission of serving the children and families in our community (many of whom had been with BYMP for years) in focus, we were able to find new ways of working and connecting with them. Re-committing to our mission meant doing whatever we could, and had to, to keep the kids connected through music. This also included being fully transparent with our community as to what was, and was not, possible.

2. Shake up the status quo. When faced with unprecedented circumstances, the sooner you acknowledge that old ways of operating need to be upended, the better. We did so by embracing technology that enabled us to leverage virtual events and showcase our students as well as broaden our reach beyond our local community. More on this in Principle 5.

3. Take chances. Unforeseen obstacles presented an opportunity for us to step out of our comfort zones and expand our horizons. We seized the opportunity to dial up our presence by scheduling five concerts over the course of the year — doing virtually something we never could have done in person, even in a milestone anniversary year, due to the resource and logistical needs of staging live events. Taking risks and stepping outside the collective comfort zone is the essential path to organizational growth.

4. Assess your results. Take a thorough inventory of your fundraising tactics and determine what worked and what could have had more impact. Our efforts resulted in record event attendance at virtual fundraisers and performances. Most importantly, donations from our first two fundraisers resulted in a 100 percent increase in donations over 2019. So we will look to incorporate virtual events into our program schedule moving forward, peppering them in with in-person events once pandemic protocols are lifted.

5. Learn new skills. Taking time to learn new skills and programs goes a long way in helping the professional development of your team and strengthening your organization's assets. A win-win for everyone. While it requires an initial investment in time, the long-term results can make for a strong return on investment. For example, the time our staff spent learning video and audio editing for online concerts was substantial, but the skills we gained will continue to pay off for years to come. In addition, by using existing free tools, we expanded our reach and made it easier for both new and existing supporters to donate. With YouTube Premiere, we increased views of a single video by more than 400 percent, and the text-to-mobile feature enabled by Pledge.com helped increase our donations during our concert watch parties.

The good news, as evidenced by the philanthropic community's uncharacteristically responsive, quick, and flexible support for COVID-19 relief efforts, is that individuals and corporations can approach local philanthropy with a sense of urgency. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, one of the keys to ushering in a new era of giving is for large-scale donors to invest in local charities as a way to test and learn and fine-tune their efforts, which in turn can help inform their corporate giving models in advance of supporting national or even global initiatives. So, the task at hand is to make this a long-term reality for nonprofits large and small and those charged with more evergreen, mission-driven programming. Let's keep local charities front and center by re-committing to our missions, shaking up the status quo, taking chances, assessing our results, and learning new skills. These actions will drive forward motion, keep the momentum going, and help develop new ways of connecting with potential donors. This way, smaller charities can become an integral part of ongoing high-impact giving rather than a stepping-stone to larger organizations. There is room for everyone, and the benefits of local giving can be immediately felt within one's own community, which is reason enough to step outside our comfort zones and push through with confidence and conviction.

Every challenge presents an opportunity. In the words of Thomas Edison, "When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this, you haven't."

Pat Gunther_Brooklyn_Youth_Music_Project_PhilanTopicPat Gunther is managing director of Brooklyn Youth Music Project. She has more than twenty-five years of combined experience in nonprofit arts administration and project management.

5 Questions for...Frances Sykes, President and CEO, Pascale Sykes Foundation

April 27, 2021

For much of its existence, the New Jersey-based Pascale Sykes Foundation has worked to strengthen low-income working families in the New Jersey/New York region through what it calls the Whole Family Approach, a preventive (as opposed to crisis-driven) strategy that helps family members, both adults and children, support one another in achieving their long-term goals. With the understanding that financial stability, healthy relationships, and physical well-being are linked, families are matched with a coach who works alongside family members to identify and set their goals; ensure they have the resources and tools needed to achieve those goals; and connect them to a network of agencies able to deliver holistic, coordinated support. The approach has been applied in various settings and with immigrant families, foster youth, and families dealing with members who are re-entering society from the criminal justice system.

The foundation's work extends into other areas as well. After rural families in southern New Jersey identified transportation as a major challenge, the foundation supported an initiative known as Transportation Plus, which provides residents of the region with connections to NJ Transit. And through its Economic Initiative, a partnership with a community development financial institution, the foundation invests in a series of low-interest loan funds for small businesses and nonprofits in the region.

Frances P. Sykes has led the foundation since its founding in 1992. In 1995, Pascale Sykes trustees voted to sunset the foundation by 2022. PND spoke with Sykes about the foundation's Whole Family Approach, where things stand with the spend-down process, and her hopes for the field.

Headshot_frances_sykesPhilanthropy News Digest: You've said you created the Pascale Sykes Foundation with two intentions: to serve working low-income families that aren't eligible for many safety-net services, and to help reshape the way social services in the United States are delivered. How did you come to settle on those two objectives?

Frances Sykes: When I was teaching, I witnessed a working family struggle to get help for their eleven-year-old, who was in danger of going down the wrong path. The family made too much to qualify for free supportive services, and under a sliding scale they would have been asked to pay more than they could afford. They were stuck, whereas a middle-class family in the same situation more than likely would've been able to afford to pay out of pocket for counseling and other services for their child. It wasn't fair that the issue the child was experiencing wasn't severe enough, or that the family wasn't poor enough, to allow them to access the resources they needed. Far too many families are in that same position — living one step above the poverty line and lacking access to the kinds of support they need. I wanted my work to be a part of the solution to that challenge — to help build a bridge between what families need and the agencies that have the resources to empower them.

The Whole Family Approach evolved over ten years. By working alongside grantees, Pascale Sykes trustees, staff, and grantees could see what made a lasting difference in families' long-term well-being. And we also came to realize that families know what they want and are capable of achieving it if they are taught how to navigate the system. It's not complicated. Adults in charge. Financial stability, relationships, and physical/social/emotional health reinforcing each other. What happens to one person affects the entire family, and what happens to the family affects each individual within it. Root causes must be addressed or problems recur.

The approach turns traditional social work on its head. In our approach, social workers are no longer expected to fix problems or work with individuals in isolation or address isolated issues. Instead, coaches work to build trust and walk alongside every member of the family as they work to achieve their self-defined goals.

PND: A critical component of the Whole Family Approach is the requirement that two "dependable adult caregivers are actively engaged with the children in the family." Why is it important that two adults be involved?

FS: All families look different. But every adult needs someone to call or turn to in an emergency, or just to share good news with. The second adult not only supports the primary caregiver but is an additional support system for children in the family as well. And that's a win-win for everyone. The stronger the support system, the healthier the family and the more likely its members will reach their shared goals.

PND: A July 2020 report that examined the results achieved by eight collaboratives using the Whole Family Approach found that participating families were in a better position to handle the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis because of the stronger familial ties they had forged and the access they had to support networks, even though they still experienced anxiety and mental health issues in addition to the stressors they were facing pre-pandemic. Are you seeing any evidence that the field in general is shifting toward this type of strategy? And looking down the road five to ten years, where do you see challenges to more widespread adoption of the approach?

FS: The field has been shifting for a few years. You see variations of the Whole Family Approach promoted by larger funders like Kellogg, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and other high-profile organizations under names like "2Gen" or "Intergenerational Approach."

I really see no challenges to its adoption by others in the field — even if others give it another name and make it their own. It's a proven approach that we know works better for families. Our research has shown that adults have less financial stress, that ties between adults in a family are strengthened, that children's health and educational achievement improve, and that the academic aspirations of both adults and children are raised. In the time remaining before we officially sunset later this year, the foundation is on a mission to raise awareness of the approach and to get others to embrace it. We believe it can advance the field and put more of our working families on a path to stability.

PND: The foundation's approach emphasizes collaboration — among family members, nonprofits, and human services agencies, and between the foundation and its partners. In a 2019 post for our blog, you urged funders to shift their grantmaking so as to foster more collaboration and less competition among grantees. What are your thoughts about the state of collaboration in the social sector today?

FS: The competition for limited resources has resulted in a fragmented approach to service provision that undermines the value of those services for families in need. Too often, families are forced to start from scratch in their efforts to access services, filling out the same form multiple times for multiple agencies, then receiving a separate set of recommendations from each of those agencies. What's more, different agencies often will offer differing and/or conflicting advice. Families become overwhelmed. Parents become frustrated, unable to prioritize and plan their next steps. Children feel the lack of stability and bear the brunt of its effects. It's also difficult for busy family members to build solid, trusting relationships with representatives from multiple agencies.

We believe collaboration is key. That's what the Whole Family Approach is all about. To maximize their effectiveness, funders, nonprofits, and agencies that have bought into the approach capture and share information about their clients' goals, progress, and life changes in a centralized database, enabling partner agencies to see families as holistic entities with their own unique challenges, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Instead of operating individually, agencies begin to see other nonprofits in the collaboration not as competitors but as teammates they can lean on to organize priorities, share resources, and advance their mutual goals and objectives.

The more foundations see the benefits of the Whole Family Approach, the greater the chances we'll be able to change the system so that it is more efficient and effective in helping families thrive.

PND: In 1996, your board voted to sunset the foundation within thirty years, and in 2009 a non-trustee workgroup researched and set up plans for the spend-down process. How much of an impact has your status as a limited-life foundation had on your grantmaking strategies? And would you recommend the approach to others who may be thinking about establishing a private foundation?

FS: Being a limited-life foundation is necessary for any small foundation that wants to create real change. Change requires the flexibility to respond to unexpected situations. This can only happen if a funder is focused on making change, not preserving the corpus.

The decision to sunset was based on two key factors. First, the decision to make a large impact was critical, and distributing 5 percent to 6 percent of our investment income each year simply would not accomplish that goal. And second, when we started, the Whole Family Approach was not well known. Thirty years later, we're proud of the fact that more foundations and organizations are implementing a version of the approach, and that it is leading to greater impact. I have no doubt the approach will be accepted more broadly. And when it is, instead of shifting into a new focus area or something less relevant to us, we'll be able to say we accomplished our mission.

We look forward to more funders picking up the mantle and moving this work forward in their own way. And I highly recommend our grantmaking strategy and the Whole Family Approach as a way forward for others who want to make a big impact in a particular way.

Kyoko Uchida

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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