Category Archives: Staff

New Year of Growth

More often than not, the new year presents us with renewed energy and awakened feelings of hope for the future.  It is important that on the hardest, coldest, and most unrelenting days of our lives, we harness the energy we have at the start of the year because every day is an opportunity to make a difference, to change, to get it right.  Here is a message from a Children’s Corps member about some of the lessons she is taking with her to work in the child welfare field.

Hi Jess,

I’m doing well 🙂 I’m sorry I couldn’t make the holiday party. I came down with a cold and I am currently without a voice. It’s been a long few days. Things are going okay. I’m trying to live by this motto “Own the mistakes, count the victories, and trust the process.” So far I’ve made a lot of mistakes and it’s been stressful. The victories are great though! I enjoy connecting with my kids (which is my strength lol) they’re awesome and make me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m growing up in areas that I wasn’t previously mature. Learning office politics, agency culture, and that I am not likable to everyone- all a part of the process. Needless to say, I am having daily temper tantrums within myself as I go down this path. Thanks for checking in with me.
Love and Peace
New Year, New Growth (1)
To learn more about how you can participate in the Children’s Corps program, visit

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On this final Wednesday of National Adoption Awareness Month, we celebrate the opportunities we’ve had to partner for permanency this month and throughout the year so that more children are connected to safe, loving, and permanent homes.  There are over 100,000 young people  who wait an average of 2 years for the opportunity to be with their adoptive families.    As many of you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast with your loved ones, we want to leave you with this touching story from the Adoption Stories Network about the moment we hope every child can experience – where they are acknowledged as son or Daughter. Read more here


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Your Plans vs. Reality

The presence of a consistent and committed social worker in the life of a child in the foster care system has a significant impact on the outcome of that child and family.  Our Children’s Corps program fundamentally is guided by that fact.  Achieving that positive outcome varies from case to case and it certainly doesn’t always happen the way one would anticipate.  The message below is an example of a successful start to a positive outcome for a young child who was on the case of one of our members.    

 Hi Jessica!

I wanted to give you an update on how things have been going. It’s been a crazy two weeks!!!! I got my little guy in a home in which I thought from the beginning would be good for him. It is a home he was in respite while they moved him right when I got the case. It is culturally appropriate and in a home with much fewer children. There were a few hurdles (a couple of school visits for me and a very close call to having him taken to the hospital) but I really think for now I have him settled in a school that is willing and able to work with him and in a home that he feels safe and is aware of his needs. I have also got him set up for evaluations so if we need to move him into a therapeutic home in the future we can do it quickly. I’m working with the therapist to get a referral out to a community therapist. I am also meeting with *Kara on Saturday and was planning to talk with her further about it. I also got mom a little more on board with making sure he understands things like it’s not okay to try to run away from school…. It was tough but I really think these two weeks have made a big difference!

And of course now that I put all this work in, finally got him comfortable with me (enough that I was able to calm him down successfully during a break down at school) and got mom on board they are transferring him to another case planner. It is good and bad of course. The case planner has been working with the family since the beginning and I only had this boy and his brothers for these two months that their caseworker was on maternity leave. This way one person will be working with the whole family and all of the kids and will really know what is going on. But of course I am a little sad! It’s kind of crazy how the most challenging case can be the one you are saddest about when it moves on from you. (click to tweet) It really provides a little insight on how difficult it can be when your cases come to a close and how you always need to be preparing for it. I mean I was only working with them for two months!!

I just wanted to update you. It was a bit stressful, but again all that time and energy it seems, for now, has paid off. Thanks for just listening when I needed to vent. Sometimes it’s just nice to know someone has your back when you aren’t 100% positive with what you are doing 🙂

Hopefully see you in a few weeks at the next meeting

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the person referenced.


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Meet the New Class

Their youthful presence and zealous energy will have you thinking our corps members are all 20 something’s with the pomp and circumstance march still playing in their heads. While this is true for a number of them, we select from a diverse pool of people from all backgrounds who have the right amount of courage and maturity in them to commit to this type of work.

You’ve already heard from one of them already, Kristin Gowin.  Check out her blog post, “The Pseudo First Day and Snow Patrol.”  Ms. Gowin, originally from Knoxville Tennessee, made New York her home when deciding to pursue a graduate level degree in psychological counseling with a specialization in mental health before her bout with Children’s Corps.  She cites her experience working in as domestic violence counselor as her inspiration for joining the corps.

Kristina photo

“It was during her Master’s level internship experience working as a Domestic Violence Counselor/Advocate at The Children’s Aid Society’s Family Wellness Program that Kristina realized the passion she has for working in community agencies in the child welfare system. After completing her Ed.M. program Kristina joined Children’s Corps and is now employed at The Children’s Aid Society as a Sociotherapist in the Treatment Family Foster Care Program where she provides in-home supportive counseling to high-need youth and foster families. Kristina’s ultimate career goal is to work with youth and families as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor using trauma-focused therapy in both community agencies and private practice settings. “


Pictured here (-r): Kristin Jones and Miriam Kwietniewska. I think these two would agree that the PEELED Snacks that keep them looking young and jubilant! =)

Some of them have families of their own and some have undergone major career, lifestyle and location changes to do meaningful work.


Kaya Ceci, originally from Hawaii, has spent a significant amount of time volunteering in Latin America before joining the corps here in NYC.

“I recently graduated with my BA in Psychology and Latin American Studies, which ultimately led to my disillusionment with the field of Psychology for many reasons- principally, its tendency to pathologize individuals rather than the societal factors all too often leading to their circumstances. Originally from Hawaii, I had quite the nomadic childhood- bouncing between 9 different states over the years. This familial instability and the arduous lifestyle that fueled it have ignited my empathetic desire to empower children and their families to be proponents of their own social change. My volunteer experiences with the marginalized youth of Latin America have also sparked my sense of personal responsibility to use my education/life experience to benefit the lives of others who are systematically denied those very rights. I am excited to have found a career that accommodates my critical views and desire for change!” 

We are fortunate to have people from far and wide answering our call to action and we are equally excited to have individuals who’ve been locally born and bred like Steven Franco representing both for the men in child welfare and the native New Yorkers.  Steven, like many of his peers,  sees Children’s Corps as a way to do his part in leaving the world a better place.

Steven Photo

Steven Franco

As you can see, there are several differences that make this group unique.  Eager to learn the ropes from veterans who’ve already made careers in the field, collaborate with others who share their passion for justice, sprinkled with a little tenacity, a lot of personality and doused with even more optimism, these individuals all share the belief that their time is marked with the opportunity to make progress.  It is a belief that has been held by classes preceding them and that will be apparent to those who encounter them.  Don’t believe us?  MEET THE NEW CLASS 


The revolution will be televised.

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by | September 12, 2013 · 4:05 pm


contributed by Heather-Ann Schaeffner

“…like twelve of us are going to Ikea after training today.”

“Let me see your map of the living room.”

“I have to stop at home first, I forgot my coupon.”

“You should try to get a sponsorship from Ikea, we’re going to spend thousands of dollars there today.”


Last week concluded the third #ChildrensCorps Summer Training Academy at Columbia University’s School of Social Work.  After five weeks of note taking, lectures from some of the most influential educators and professionals in the child welfare system, role-plays, networking and knowledge-sharing the thirty-eight new members (our largest class yet!) are ready and eager to start work in the field.  Some have already begun their two year commitment as early as this past Monday.

Similar to the families they will serve, the transition will not be easy.  A number of them are acclimating to the New York City lifestyle, claiming their independence, some are starting along a brand new career path and totally changing the pace of their lives. Over the next two years many of them will be faced with some of the toughest challenges of their lives.  They will cry, think about giving up, one or two may even decide that this work is not for them- this is a reality.  What is also a reality and probably the most important reality,  is knowing that every one of them in this process has grown already, and will continue to grow.   The seed of their positive thinking will be planted at the agency they work at, and in the families they serve.

I heard a mixture of excitement and trepidation at lunch, but the air was light and happy. The room was bursting with their enthusiasm for humanity and their desire to affect positive change in the lives of children and families who benefit greatly from folks with this sort of uplifting demeanor to be a resource for them on their journey through the difficulties of life. Many of these corps members uprooted their entire lives just over a month ago to move to New York City to fulfill some inner need, desire, or calling for social justice and child welfare.

So here they are, after five weeks of unpaid training, about to furnish their new apartments, seemingly entirely at Ikea.


Image by Heather-Ann Schaeffner

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Everyday We Serve

By Sonya Spann

Everyday we serve because there are children without mothers, sisters separated from their brothers, fathers and sons missing each other.   In our role, there is no placing blame.   Issues that impact one lifetime, take several lifetimes of work to change.  We  just help maintain families, retain sanity, ultimately rebuild community and restore faith in humanity.

Everyday we serve because this is not just a cause.  We are agents of change united to foster change in a system that is flawed.  We don’t expect an overnight transition, but we are grateful to be in a position to build from within and enable families to win the chance that they deserve to grow and to learn.

Everyday we serve in places where respect is earned and at every turn you are met with a challenge.  Where in a single day we tight rope walk through dangerous neighborhoods and navigate a system of checks and balances. Where achieving permanency for a family sometimes is a checkbook we’re balancing. Where few ever really check to see how well we’re balancing it all. Where there’s never really a calm before the storm, you just hold on to that umbrella and hope you don’t slip and fall.  Where our work is thankless and never about the paychecks but we remain steadfast because so many lives are involved.

Everyday we serve because in it is self discovery and through that, we develop into better people.  We learn the world and understand that we are in fact all created equal.  Privilege and discipline may not always be administered accordingly, but it’s our job to aid in the recovery of children with their families. One that we take seriously, one that we love dearly, and one that do everyday sincerely.

Join Children’s Corps Today.

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Well, our Corps members wrap up training today and officially “graduate” from our pre-service program. What a whirlwind it’s been! Every single person that has come into contact with our members has been so impressed by their engagement, energy, and professionalism. I’m so proud to have each of them in the Corps, and so excited for this next phase. Some members start work on Monday, others start after Labor Day, and some in between – but all will be full-time caseworkers by early September! There’s still so much to learn and do, for us behind the scenes and for the members on the front line: mentoring, regular trainings, and social outings will all be ways for us to continue the community of support that has been established over the last couple of months.

Thanks for reading with us through the summer! I have to keep reminding myself – it’s not an end, but a beginning. Our members will keep updating with news from the field – their work promises to be both challenging and rewarding, and I’m sure there will be much on which to reflect. For now – let’s celebrate! Congratulations to the staff and the members of Children’s Corps!

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Intern perspective

When I am asked about my summer internship, I have a hard time explaining Children’s Corps concisely because I’m so excited about the program that I want to talk all about it! My answer always starts with, “It’s awesome!”, which is about as concise and accurate as it can get (although may not be the most intellectual vocabulary ever used by a future MSW). Usually it’s an acquaintance who is asking about my internship because it’s the polite thing to do, so they aren’t expecting such an enthusiastic answer. I’ve said all along that Barry and Viviane’s passion is impossible to say no to, and clearly it’s rubbed off on me!

The goal to recruit a rockstar inaugural class and provide a 5-week real world, how-to training to be a foster care caseworker has been far exceeded. As I sit in the back of the training room taking notes on the training Jen, Sarah and I helped hammer out, I can’t help but think back on my last year doing preventive family therapy in East New York, Brooklyn and say, “If only I had someone to tell me this stuff before I started!” My learning curve would have been greatly improved if I had heard half of what is being given to CC members. That coupled with the across-the-board outstanding quality of the members makes me beyond confident that foster care families and agencies in the New York City area are going to benefit greatly.

Sometimes we joke about if the members only knew what went on behind-the-scenes. At times it has been hectic, I’ve gotten a crash course in the amount of work it takes to start a new program. This experience is perfect for me, as my long-term career goal is to develop, implement, and run programs for teens. The past few weeks have been incredibly informative in curriculum and evaluation development. It’s nice to hear members’ feedback which is by far positive, but it’s the areas for growth that are the most important. I know this year has laid a great foundation for future years.

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Scenes from HQ

It’s crunch time here at CC HQ and we’re only feeling slightly frantic… So much to do and so little time! We’ve spent all week prepping and we’re so very excited for training to start on Monday (only a few hours away!!!). Go Children’s Corps!!

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Two Days to go

The conference room table is covered with training materials.  We haven’t seen Jen for hours…she is too busy making copies to come up for air. Rachel is fighting with the hole puncher and the hole puncher might be winning. Viviane is finalizing some last minute placements, selecting some fun music to collate and staple to and reminding the staff to eat. All in all, things are under control. Don’t worry Children’s Corps members, we really do know what we are doing!

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