Friday, 11 December 2009 00:00
Family and Children’s Association, the human service network for Long Island, provides a coordinated system of more than 40 individual programs carefully designed to help babies, children, adults, senior citizens, and families lead more self-sufficient lives. Family and Children’s protects and nurtures abused and neglected babies and children; shelters homeless and abandoned teenagers, teaching them to trust in themselves; helps and supports families in crisis; treats and rehabilitates people of all ages with mental health and substance abuse problems; and safeguards senior citizens, helping them to live the lives they wish for themselves.
Family and Children’s Association has served the people of Nassau and Suffolk counties for more than a century. The work of the agency’s 400 employees and 240 volunteers touches the lives of more than 48,000 individuals every year, helping people in every walk of life, from financially secure families to the poor and working poor.
They are dedicated to matching people with whatever services will make their goals possible. Visit their website, (www.familyandchildrens.org) or contact them directly at their Mineola office at 516-746-0350.
The following story, indicative of some of the struggles many Long Islanders are facing, was written by a client of the Family and Childrens Association. Names have been changed in order to protect the privacy of the family.
My name is Brian and I am the father of three children: Ariana, Margo and Tricia.
My wife fell into a stroke-related coma and remained in a coma for two years. During this time, while beginning to process my own feelings of grief, I was struggling with missing work days and mounting debt from hospital and doctor bills. My wife passed away in 2007. In many ways, my story begins here.
I am what many refer to today, as an example of the working poor. Even though I am employed at a local hospital, it has been difficult to manage my financial obligations while raising my three beautiful daughters, ages 15, 13, and 12 who miss their mom very much.
When my wife got sick, we all began a downward spiral of sadness. My rent was not being paid, I was in arrears with utilities, and getting bill after bill from credit card companies from my wife’s past debt. While I struggled with the stress of my unraveling finances, I could see that my girls were depressed, and I had no idea what to do. And then my luck changed; I met Abi from Family and Children’s Association.
On day one, Abi came into our home and our lives, and brought with her a smile and hope. Although Abi couldn’t make everything better, we no longer had to struggle alone.
Abi knew just the right way to talk to my girls. We all looked forward to each visit. When my wife passed away, Abi was there at the funeral and every week that followed for support. She recognized the importance of bereavement counseling and assisted me in enrolling the girls in a program designed for children. Abi spoke with the girls’ teachers and together we made sure my kids didn’t fall through the cracks.
Abi helped me secure after-school care for my children until I got home from work. This provided them with a safe and supervised place to complete their homework and socialize with their peers. And, it provided me with peace of mind and security knowing that my girls were being well cared for – something that all working moms and dads know is priceless. Family & Children’s also helped me and my girls with household organization planning and the creation of a chore chart so that we could all pitch in together and keep our home life running smoothly. My young, shy and depressed daughters have grown into healthy, confident adolescents. They enjoy playing softball every season as well as tennis and volleyball; practicing every weekend. They have become more responsible with their household chores. They have learned positive ways to communicate, even when their feelings are difficult to express. And they have taught me the values of patience, accountability and selflessness.
Even though I work fulltime, I ended up in housing and utility arrears during this difficult period. Family & Children’s presented my situation to the Department of Social Services and I was awarded a three-year preventive housing subsidy. This has helped me organize and pay my bills while keeping my family together in our home. They also guided me through the paperwork to receive FEMA money for my utility arrears. And, for the past two years, my daughters have received holiday gifts through Family & Children’s Adopt-A-Family program. This program puts kindhearted donors together with families in need of some holiday cheer. We met our donor family in person, which allowed us to see the power of generosity and the human connection. I’ve used this with my girls as an important lesson about giving back.
It is still a day-to-day struggle with bills, schedules, and coping with our loss. However, knowing that the good people who support and work at Family and Children’s are there, we never feel alone. I sincerely thank Family and Children’s for all they have done for me and my daughters. I encourage anyone who is thinking about giving a helping hand to a neighbor in need during the upcoming holiday season to call them and offer to help. Our lives have been transformed thanks to the kindness of others. One day, we hope to return the favor.