Partnership for Family Supports and Justice
John Mattingly's Quote
primary focus of the Fund for Social Change
is preventing violence against young people and improving the well-being
of families, through a combination of direct services, parent and
youth empowerment programs, and social action campaigns to change
existing policies or programs. One such comprehensive approach is
Bridge Builders, a community-based preventive services project in
the Highbridge section of the Bronx, designed to reduce violence
against children and their placement into foster care. Bridge Builders
is funded by the Partnership for Family Supports and Justice (PFSJ),
of 15 foundations and the Administration for Children’s Services.
The collaborative is administered by the Fund for Social Change.
years the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has
implemented far-reaching reforms that have improved the child welfare
system and dramatically reduced the numbers of youth in care. Yet
some neighborhoods still have a disproportionately high percentage
of children being taken from their families and placed into the
system. Highbridge is one such neighborhood. Before the project
began providing services, Highbridge replaced Central Harlem as
the City’s Community District with the greatest number of
foster care removals.
Builders is based on the belief that parents, neighbors, and young
people in a community, acting in partnership with existing providers,
are the first line of support for families experiencing difficulties.
Parents are trained to be outreach workers, leaders, and advocates,
and are mobilized to identify at-risk families and to get them help.
Families are diverted from abuse and neglect investigations, and
are instead provided with an array of social services and legal
think it is a perfect example of how a commitment to neighborhood-based
services can lead to better services and outcomes,” John Mattingly,
ACS Commissioner, told The New York Nonprofit Press. In
addition to providing funding, ACS closely collaborates on the initiative’s
Bridge Builders focuses on a small geographic area—three census
tracts make up the heart of Highbridge—the project is able
to use detailed data to closely identify abuse and neglect trends,
and to target outreach and preventive services to those families
most at risk. Families are referred to a community network of service
providers created by the project, including the Highbridge Community
Life Center and the Citizens Advice Bureau, long-time providers
of foster care prevention services under contract with ACS.
Bridge Builders uses two key approaches which are generally lacking
in community-based child welfare programs:
An active role for parents, particularly those who have had
contact with the child welfare system.
legal representation to families before and after ACS has begun
parental involvement, Bridge Builders includes the Child Welfare
Organizing Project (CWOP), launched with the help of the Child Welfare
Fund (CWF). CWOP recruits and trains parents who have had involvement
with the foster care system to serve as parent organizers, offering
support and guidance to at-risk parents. Bridge Builders’
extensive outreach effort encourages parents to come forward and
seek help before ACS knocks at the door.
families often lack quality legal representation. Parents in Family
Court hearings are routinely represented by court-assigned 18-B
attorneys, who are too overwhelmed and underfunded to work closely
with their clients.
this problem, Bridge Builders has provided funding to The Bronx
Defenders, a legal service provider in the South Bronx, to expand
Family Court legal services to parents in Highbridge before children
are placed into foster care, and to Legal Services of New York/Bronx,
for legal services after children are in foster care.
ACS, with its emphasis on neighborhood-based services, shares the
goal of eliminating unnecessary foster care placements by providing
preventive services, says Anne Williams-Isom, Deputy Commissioner
and special counsel to the commissioner at ACS. Speaking of ACS’s
collaboration with PFSJ, she told The New York Nonprofit Press,
“It was an absolute match made in heaven. These were things
we were already supporting…We are serving more kids in preventive
services than we are in out of home care.”
Builders is being evaluated by a team headed by Dr. Fred Wulczyn
of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago.
The evaluationl assesses whether fewer children come into care,
return home more quickly, and whether rates of abuse and neglect
evaluation of Service Year III, presented by Chapin Hall of the
University of Chicago to the donors in January 2017, is hopeful.
It states “…what we are hearing and seeing is a type
of synergy, a breakthrough in thinking and action that has changed
the way collaborative members work and the way that they think about
PFSJ donors’ collaborative includes the Child Welfare Fund,
the Open Society Institute, the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation, the FAR
Fund, Hedge Funds Care, the New York Community Trust, the Annie
E. Casey Foundation, the Sills Family Foundation, the Oak Foundation,
the Clark Foundation, Heckscher Foundation, United Way of
NYC, Hagedorn Fund/JP Morgan, Viola W. Bernard Foundation and the
Administration for Children’s Services. The Fund for Social
Change invites additional donors and individuals to help sponsor
this important initiative to assist at-risk families.
of Bridge Builders
of Bridge Builders
the Evaluations of The Bridge Builders
more about Bridge Builders in the New York Nonprofit Press -- January,
the Evaluation of Bridge Builders by the University of Chicago/Chapin
"Small Victories" about families who have been helped
by Bridge Builders
Visit the Bridge Builders