This week, as we send you our update, a report released from the Center for an Urban Future found that as many as 24% of Sunset Park residents work in one of the four industries where layoffs have been most prevalent during COVID-19 – restaurants, hotels, retail, and personal care services. This is the fifth-highest rate among all NYC neighborhoods. As families in our Sunset Park community are reeling from the staggering increase in job and income loss, CFL is prepared to support them throughout this process, as we expect that community needs will remain heightened for months, if not years, to come. We are closely monitoring recent developments as we plan our service delivery for the current moment and through the city’s recovery.
Center for Family Life’s commitment during this volatile and uncertain time is to innovate and demonstrate models of practice that are scalable and relevant to the fluid post-COVID recovery environment that we will be experiencing throughout FY21. We are uniquely poised to quickly and efficiently stand up pilot projects and model programs that demonstrate innovative approaches to providing safe and enriching programming for all ages of children, youth, and adults. While the prospect of service provision in this highly uncertain environment may appear daunting, we are excited to lean into this moment and to provide examples and models that others across our city can draw inspiration from and can replicate. We view this as our responsibility and are eager to show how CFL is uniquely positioned and uniquely able to provide innovative and creative solutions to the pressing needs and realities that our community faces in this extraordinary time.
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 continues to advocate for Sunset Park, 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 (SYEP), 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.
- We are also advocating for continued City Council funding for our Cooperative Development Program and ESOL classes, both of which have provided uninterrupted, essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.
- On Monday, June 1st, youth-serving organizations from across Brooklyn are coming together for a Town Hall to demand funding for youth programming during this summer of recovery. CFL youth, families, and staff will be giving testimony so decision-makers know we are ready and able to implement virtual and socially-distanced programming to support the growth and well-being of all NYC children and youth. Click here to join at 4:30 pm next Monday, June 1st.
Virtual Afterschool and Advisory
- Across CFL’s seven school-based sites, virtual afterschool and advisory continue to engage an increasing number of youth participants with a menu of activities from which they can choose, including tutoring and homework help. CFL now convenes all school-based Program Directors and Teaching Artists in a weekly program development meeting to foster creative cross-site collaborations and broadly share the highly innovative remote programming developed by our staff. 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.
- CFL’s career and college readiness club at Sunset Park High School (SPHS) ended its school-year programming this week. Students had the opportunity to decorate and present a virtual graduation cap, share their appreciation, and reflect upon their growth during their high school experience. The program hosted a special senior celebration that highlighted the colleges’ students will attend, including Hunter College, Quinnipiac University, John Jay College, SUNY Buffalo, Brooklyn College, SUNY Albany, New York City College of Technology, College of Staten Island, the Allen School of Health Sciences, and Kingsborough College, among others. We are happy to share that CFL program participants Jennifer Pizarro Carrion and Meiqi Zheng were named, respectively, valedictorian of the Health community at SPHS and salutatorian of the Business community at SPHS. Jennifer was also awarded the Albert Shanker Scholarship, an initiative of the United Federation of Teachers.
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 (RECs) 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.
- We are thrilled to share Diane Sawyer’s ABC special, “NYC educators support children of essential workers at Regional Enrichment Centers,” which featured interviews from children, parents, and staff from CFL’s REC! The piece highlighted the critical need for emergency child care options for essential workers and the gratitude families feel knowing their children are safe and well cared for.
- This week’s theme at the REC was Kindness. Students learned about expressing gratitude and how to encourage others, imagined possibilities for positive change in our world, and celebrated self-love.
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.
- In response to increased community demand and thanks to the donations of our generous supporters, CFL’s 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 10,000 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, $100.00, and $500.00 are also being distributed at the Food Pantry to our most needy. Thanks to our close ties to public and private funders, who value our deep ties to the Sunset Park community and our on-the-ground response to the COVID-19 crisis, CFL has leveraged over $1 million in funding for client cash assistance, much of which is designated for individuals who are ineligible for federal stimulus payments.
- 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. Clients may also access virtual, end-to-end tax services at CFL. This system allows 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.
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. We continue to develop resources to share with our clients, including a PowerPoint presentation on accessing unemployment benefits available in English, Spanish, and Chinese and a Google Form to record requests for information from the Adult Employment team on applying for unemployment benefits or accessing job placement services. Click here to join our mailing list for weekly updates from AEP.
- AEP continues to meet the increasing needs of our community due to widespread job and income loss. This month, staff referred more than 30 clients to job interviews and helped place more than 10 clients in new jobs, primarily with local companies.
Cooperative Development Program
- CFL’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) 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, researching potential new business lines, and offering OSHA training that will allow workers to safely expand their business into Proactive Coronavirus Disinfection Care.
- This week, the CDP team submitted an application to the WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s Opportunity Challenge to support the expansion of the Brightly® cooperative franchise. The team also hosted a workshop in partnership with TakeRoot Justice on the importance of bylaws and membership manuals in conflict resolution, with 25 worker-owners in attendance.
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 we have reopened intake and to accept new families into our 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. Additionally, to better support our Family Counseling participants and their families during this uncertain time, we are hosting two COVID-19 support groups, one in Spanish and one in Mandarin.
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. In collaboration with the Brooklyn Public Library, CFL’s Census team is planning a Facebook Live event to engage Spanish-speaking audiences and encourage their participation in the Census. Staff from our Adult Employment Program are also including information regarding the Census in their virtual programming and in phone contacts with clients. The Census Team is additionally working with school-based program staff to incorporate Census information into virtual afterschool programming. The census team at CFL continues to collaborate with other grantees of the NYC Complete Count Fund to develop new opportunities for Census outreach and messaging.
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.
people with special needs develop skills to reach their full potential
participants in our Young Adult Workforce Program at Rikers Island completed our program to become licensed drivers to improve their employability