As the COVID-19 situation continues to impact families in Sunset Park and across New York City, Center for Family Life is so very proud of the staff members across our programs who are working tirelessly to implement creative programming to address the needs expressed by our neighbors. From our food pantry, which has expanded its capacity to address surging food insecurity in our community, to our virtual after school program, where youth participants are choosing from a diverse menu of creative programming to our free tax preparation program, where clients will soon be able to access end-to-end virtual services that will mimic an in-person experience, all of CFL’s programs are continually adapting to and overcoming the challenges we face.
We are pleased to share the program updates below. We hope that these highlights provide a glimpse into CFL’s dynamic response to the challenges posed by this volatile, uncertain time. Please note that new developments from this week are identified with italicized text.
Center for Family Life’s main office remains open at this time at 443 39th Street, Brooklyn. We are working to maintain all services upon which our community depends, while also following the evolving health and safety guidelines and social distancing.
- CFL is actively engaged in advocacy work, representing the community’s interests and amplifying its voices to achieve positive change locally as well as more widely at the state and national levels. In response to devastating public funding cuts in the context of COVID-19, including the cancellation of the Summer Youth Employment Program, all summer youth programming funded by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, and other essential safety net programs, CFL staff and participants are engaged in critical rapid response advocacy for the restoration of these programs, or virtual/socially distanced alternatives, and adequate support for youth, families, and non-profit organizations across New York City in partnership with a number of youth-led coalitions, social services provider coalitions, and elected officials at the city, state, and national levels.
- We are deeply disappointed in the city’s failure to engage with the provider community to coordinate a strategy to trim budgets to best preserve essential supports for the most vulnerable in our society. The loss of all summer programming poses tremendous challenges for the health and well-being of our children and families, and if there is any chance that the city will re-open for any type of work, there needs to be a responsible plan to support working parents with child care. Essential services that support economic recovery in our community need to be part of the federal stimulus package and need to reach the hardest-hit communities, and CFL is focused on these issues in our advocacy.
Virtual Afterschool and Advisory
- Across CFL’s seven school-based sites, virtual afterschool and advisory continue to ramp up and engage an increasing number of youth participants with a menu of activities from which they can choose. Staff is remaining in contact with youth and families, especially those identified as particularly vulnerable in our first round of outreach calls, via check-in phone calls to assess needs and connect families to available services. We continue to hold weekly staff meetings and supervision virtually.
- This week, we continued to develop our virtual after school programming for elementary and middle school participants, with activities being offered live via videoconferencing platforms, pre-recorded on YouTube, and posted on Google Classroom. Youth have been engaged in everything from academic enrichment, to chess competitions, to portrait drawing. Additionally, we are offering several sessions per week for each afterschool group to come together in “group time” with group leaders, activity specialists, and social work staff to help rebuild community through purposeful activities and guided conversations. Approximately 250 elementary and middle school participants have engaged in virtual afterschool thus far, with many more to be engaged as the program is fully implemented.
- In our high school programming, live virtual sessions for three more clubs (Dance Troupe, Visual Arts Troupe, and TGIF) were added to our weekly schedule. In addition to their regular content, clubs have begun to incorporate tutorials in-home life skills, such as cooking. Thus far, we have engaged 100 high school students in virtual afterschool and connected with 478 SPHS students via virtual advisory during the school day.
- Participants of all ages can also “drop-in” to a daily tutoring and homework help session, which we are offering as a direct response to concerns voiced from parents about their children’s academic progress during this period of social distance learning.
Regional Enrichment Center
- CFL staff from across our school-based programs continue to provide child care and educational supervision to the children of first responders, health care workers, and certain other essential personnel at one of the NYC Department of Education’s Regional Enrichment Centers in the adjacent neighborhood of Windsor Terrace. Staff and participants are adhering to social distancing and CDC guidelines, and children are enjoying a range of activities in literacy, the arts, social-emotional learning, and team-building.
- Many of the students at the REC have expressed to CFL staff that they are grappling with the loss of special events that were planned at their schools — from graduations to spirit days, to class birthdays. We surveyed the students to find out what kind of special days they would like to see at the REC, and kicked off the events with Spirit Week! On Monday, the school was filled with superheroes; Tuesday was Pajama Day; on Wednesday we saw the full spectrum of the rainbow on “Wear Your Favorite Color” day; Thursday was Hat Day, and Friday is Wacky Tacky Day! CFL staff remain attuned to the social-emotional needs of our students, and we are quickly developing creative programming to keep youth engaged and well.
Community Resource Center
- Programs at our Community Resource Center, including our Benefits Access (formerly Single Stop) program, our satellite Human Resources Administration program, our health insurance enrollment program, and our ActionNYC immigration legal services program, continue to operate on a remote access basis via phone.
- Our food pantry continues to operate with expanded hours — Monday 10 AM – 1 PM, Tuesday 10 AM – 1 PM, Wednesday 11 AM – 1 PM, Thursday 11 AM – 1 PM, and Friday 10 AM – 1 PM — and is now distributing over 2,500 meals per week! Packages are being prepared in our pantry and distributed outside with clients observing 6 foot distancing in line. Diapers and gift cards in the amounts of $50.00 and $100.00 are also being distributed at the Food Pantry to our most needy families.
- In our free tax preparation program, clients may self-prepare their tax returns for free via Single Stop (for individuals with AGI below $66,000) or TaxAct (for individuals with AGI below $56,000 and who are aged 56 or younger) and can contact CFL’s Tax Manager with any questions. In addition, CFL is in the process of implementing end-to-end virtual tax preparation services. Once established, this system will allow clients to book an appointment with a CFL tax preparer, meet with the preparer via video conferencing, upload necessary tax documentation through a secure file transfer system, and sign their return electronically once prepared. We are excited to offer another option for free tax preparation to our community, particularly those who may be uncomfortable with self-preparation and prefer an experience that mimics the in-person services typically offered by CFL.
Adult Employment Program
- In our Adult Employment Program, our ESOL program, job placement services, assistance with unemployment claims, and case management through our Immigrant Families and Healthy Families programs continue to serve existing and newly enrolled clients remotely via phone, video conferencing, and email as appropriate.
- Our AEP team has developed an informative PowerPoint presentation available in English, Spanish, and Chinese for all CFL staff to share with our clients. This guide provides a detailed summary of unemployment eligibility and application instructions, including images of each step in the process, to allow participants to easily navigate the New York State Department of Labor’s unemployment services online system and submit a claim.
- To further engage with the community and prospective program participants, our AEP team has also created a Google Form to record requests for information from our team on applying for unemployment benefits and accessing job placement services.
Cooperative Development Program
- CFL’s Cooperative Development program and worker coops continue to meet virtually, and our staff continues to support coop worker-owners in accessing various forms of relief, including the Payroll Protection Program, and researching potential new business lines.
- This week, our Coop team presented a webinar on CFL’s cooperative development model, with participants joining from across the country. Sharing information on the cooperative economic model is critical as it is a potential avenue to uplift local communities after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
- Our Coop team has made progress in the new line of commercial cleaning business for cooperatives. We are developing tools and systems for deep commercial cleaning and conducting a feasibility study to better understand the market and its requirements.
- CFL’s Cooperative Development program is grateful to have received a generous grant of $10,000 from the Brooklyn Community Foundation to provide direct cash assistance to worker-owners whose income has been impacted by COVID-19.
Family Counseling Program
- Our child maltreatment prevention services, funded by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, including our ACS/Beacon services jointly funded by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services and the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, continues to provide service to our families. Weekly contacts are being made in person when advised, and via video using WhatsApp or FaceTime and phone calls. Case planners and/or supervisors have been in contact with all enrolled families at this time, and a limited number of new cases are being accepted into the program. All activities and contact notes are being entered into the PROMIS and Connections systems, as required by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services.
Census 2020 Outreach
- To ensure a complete and accurate count in Sunset Park, CFL’s 2020 Census outreach team continues to encourage community residents to self-complete the Census via technology-enabled outreach and communications, including text messaging, email, and social media. The Census team is also working with school-based program staff to incorporate Census information into virtual afterschool programming.
Center for Family Life remains committed to our mission and serving our clients. We recognize that the communities we partner with are experiencing serious challenges at this time, including unemployment, a lack of resources for child care for parents who still need to work, food insecurity, and inadequate access to healthcare. We will continue to work closely with our Board, funders, and other partners to maintain critically needed services for our neighbors.
We will do our best to provide timely updates to our Facebook page as things change. With gratitude and appreciation for our supporters, we hope that you and yours stay safe and healthy at this time.
of children in our early education centers met or exceeded national literacy performance standards
students in our transfer high schools who were at risk of dropping out graduated with a Regents diploma