Colorful bird drawing

Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Wishes You A Healthy and Happy Holiday Season!

For over 40 years, Center for Family Life has been committed to enriching the lives of individuals in Sunset Park through community partnerships and a dedication to service. Today, our comprehensive range of services engage more than 13,500 people at 10 community locations!

Children at PS 503/506 participating in Lights on Afterschool, which highlights the benefits of afterschool programs. Your holiday donations support these programs!
Children at PS 503/506 participating in Lights on Afterschool, which highlights the benefits of afterschool programs. Your holiday donations support these programs!

Thanks to your support, Center for Family Life achieved the following 2022 Highlights:

Our Benefits Access Program helped 851 clients obtain nearly $831,000 in benefits like SNAP and health insurance for their families!

Over 3,000 neighborhood residents were provided with meals from our food pantry. Between January and June of 2022, CFLSP was able to distribute over 14,000 pounds of food to our community members!

Our Child and Family Services provided child maltreatment preventive services and public benefits eligibility screenings to 265 families with 519 children!

Our ActionNYC team provided free immigration and legal services to 603 members, screening clients for immigration risks and all possible forms of relief.

We were able to assist in filing 3,127 returns for tax year 2021, generating a total refund of $4.4 million!

Our new 5-year NYS Education 21st Century Community Learning Center contract will allow us to serve 2,500+ youth at 10 school sites in the coming year!

"Life Lines" Community Arts Project Exploring "Art as Nourishment." They chose to share the message "We can rest our mind" with community members!
"Life Lines" Community Arts Project Exploring "Art as Nourishment." They chose to share the message "We can rest our mind" with community members!

Center for Family Life in Sunset Park is dedicated to promoting positive outcomes for youth and their families. Our services enrich the quality of life of individuals in our community and beyond, supporting families and increasing opportunities. We are honored to assist our community members in any way possible and are so thankful for all of your support. Our 2022 highlights are a testament to the generosity of each and every one of you. We hope to do even more in 2023!

Staff from PS 516 being highlighted before breaking out into our discussion groups!

November: Center for Family Life in Sunset Park’s Annual All Staff Retreat

On November 11th, Center for Family Life in Sunset Park held our Annual All Staff Retreat at Sunset Park High School. The retreat, attended by more than 250 CFLSP staff, included participants from each of our 10 neighborhood schools as well as our family serving programs in the food pantry, immigration law and tax programs, benefits access and adult employment programs, counseling and case management programs and our cooperative business development program. We were grateful to be joined by our Board Chair, Tim Sheehan and Board Vice Chair, Bonnie Greaves.

The annual retreat is a unique opportunity to refresh our staff’s commitment to our mission and their awareness and understanding of all of the many programs that we offer in our integrated services model. Most importantly, each staff member is given support to understand and share the way in which the work they do each day, whether at an afterschool program, a food pantry worker or as a legal navigator to name only a few staff roles, contributes to our ability to achieve our mission as an organization.

Tree as metaphor for retreat
Each discussion group helped to decorate a tree during the retreat by writing what they hoped to achieve at CFLSP in the coming year on leaves and acorns!

A tree was used as the metaphor for this year’s retreat, and the foundations of our work, which draw from the mission of the historic settlement houses, from our founders Sister Mary Paul Janchill and Sister Geraldine Tobia at the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and social group work theory, were understood to be our “roots”. 

The retreat began with a super-sized welcome circle in which the entire staff gathered and were celebrated in games and activities for the work that they do for the community. After recognizing each program site in the welcome circle, staff joined 14 different discussion groups each made up of a diverse group of staff from across our many programs and led by program leaders from across the agency. 

This year's discussion group leaders!

The thematic focus of discussion groups in this year’s retreat was social group work. The discussion groups explored the ways in which this methodology is rooted in our practice at Center for Family Life in Sunset Park. Social group work is a methodology that facilitates social action and change as individuals practice both leadership and “followership,” each contributing to each other’s learning and growth. Within group work there are stages of development which consist of beginnings, middles, and ends. During these stages, different objectives are achieved within the group and the outcome can be both individual and community growth as well as advocacy and activism.

Tashira Velez Hernandez receiving her award for 5 years with CFLSP, presented by Co-Executive Directors Julia Jean-Francois and Julie Stein Brockway!
Tashira Velez Hernandez receiving her award for 5 years with CFLSP, presented by Co-Executive Directors Julia Jean-Francois and Julie Stein Brockway!

The conclusion of the all-staff retreat including a staff recognition ceremony and shared meal. During the recognition ceremony, any staff member with an educational milestone, including those currently in school and those who had recently graduated, were enthusiastically cheered and congratulated by all for their achievements. Staff were recognized for longevity milestones as well, including the truly remarkable 40th anniversary of service by our own Co-Executive Director Julie Brockway! Staff were deeply touched by the kind words said in the recognition ceremony and all were acknowledged for their dedication to service and community advocacy.

Migrant Families Being Given Clothing at P.S.1

October: Newly Arrived Migrant Families Initiative

With the arrival of tens of thousands of asylum seekers in New York City, Center for Family Life in Sunset Park began our Newly Arrived Migrant Families Initiative to offer assistance to those in need. With this initiative individuals and families are screened for immediate needs and services and provided with assistance either by CFLSP or referred to others in our community. Beginning in September, CFLSP has helped 250 adults as well as 235 children under the age of 18, and counting.

CFLSP Staff and Board Member Peter Meiland at a Resource Fair for Asylum Seekers Held at the Glo Hotel Family Shelter

Last Friday, CFLSP attended a resource fair for asylum seekers at a local shelter, sponsored by Alexa Aviles. At this fair, CFLSP informed those attending about the resources and supports that we offer. 

Center for Family Life is providing newly arrived migrant families with essential items including food and toiletries such as specially provided microwavable meals, soap, toilet tissue, and diapers. These families are also given clothing, including professional wear and winter items. Beginning October 8th, staff in our P.S. 1 school site began distributing clothing donations to migrant families. Each Saturday between 11AM and 1PM, families can select clothing and other donated items while children engage in crafts and activities. CFLSP staff at our Main Office have been referring migrant families, or anyone else in need, to P.S. 1 for clothing items.

CFLSP also provides legal assistance including consultations with attorneys and staff paralegals. As of October 24th, a dedicated CFLSP staff member has been going daily to the City’s main Navigation Welcome Center near the Port Authority in Manhattan to share legal information, such as details concerning ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), with migrants and to make referrals to legal and other service providers. On day one of her visit, our dedicated staff member estimated she spoke with 100 people, providing translation services and passing along vital information.

Our Employment Program also offers migrants employment consultations, ESOL classes, and leads Know Your Rights workshops. With these resources, individuals are given a better chance of finding suitable employment to provide for themselves and their families.

CFLSP Board Member Phil Marriott Shopping at Costco to Provide Food for Families

Caseworkers in our Family Counseling Program are also offering newly arrived families assistance with our immigrant trauma counseling program and preventive services. Our preventive services coordinators screen individuals for public benefits, provide eligible clients with emergency cash assistance, offer youth supports, and assess other needs.

Newly arrived families with children enrolled in any of our neighborhood schools are also immediately enrolled in after school childcare, giving parents a greater opportunity to find work and fostering children’s development. In addition, CFLSP has been providing individuals with information on our school-based neighborhood center programs that offer free evening and weekend activities to people in the neighborhood. 

In the beginning of October Phil Marriott, a CFLSP Board member, assisted CFLSP staff on a trip to Costco and generously donated food for migrant families. With Phil’s contribution, CFLSP was able to provide meals such as lasagna, chicken patties, and burritos to over 700 people!

CFLSP staff part of our Community Service Program, including Community Program Director, Smilie Filomeno with Phil Marriott

Center for Family Life in Sunset Park is proud that we have been able to help newly arrived migrant families in New York City with our range of services. We encourage any donations that can aid in this effort to welcome and assist our new community members and thank all of those who have continuously supported our work! 

Study Circle participants at the library preparing proposals to share with official electors

September: Thriving Families Safer Children

Thriving Families Safer Children is a project designed to promote solidarity between community members and to build their capacity to use available community level data to support advocacy and to demand the dismantling of unjust social policies.

This project engages Community Study Circles comprised of diverse groups of Sunset Park residents. These groups, which meet weekly, engage a popular education methodology and are facilitated by community member Zenayda Bonilla, who serves as the Peer Advocate. Participants in Study Circles begin with an exploration of their own migration and settlement stories. In this way, Study Circles become a safe and welcoming place for community members where they can be introduced to and become conversant in publicly available data. The group uses the data to identify the ways that immigrant and BIPOC residents are disparately impacted by economic and social challenges. Specific attention is given to data on economic and social factors which result in disproportionate involvement in the child welfare system. Attention is paid to interpreting data on child welfare investigations and child removals with a goal of uncovering “the story” that data can tell us about human experience.

Participants consider how racial disparities contribute to the involvement of the child welfare system and how to promote a more equitable future
Participants consider how racial disparities contribute to the involvement of the child welfare system and how to promote a more equitable future

Participants in these groups look at data on socioeconomic status of members within their neighborhood alongside comparative data showing the socioeconomic status of people in adjacent communities. They also review data on the number of people living in poverty, relying on public assistance, receiving Medicaid, as well as the level of education reached by members of their communities. This data is personal to those reviewing it as it represents their own and their neighbors’ situations and experiences.

 

 

Participants consider data on poverty, unemployment, and those experiencing rent burden to understand how these challenges connect to broader issues
Participants consider data on poverty, unemployment, and those experiencing rent burden to understand how these challenges connect to broader issues

Participants share what they learn with others in their neighborhood and present their observations and proposals for positive change to elected officials and advocacy groups in New York City. Further, Study Circles give those impacted the most by the child welfare system the resources and understanding necessary to challenge the system’s policies. Zenayda Bonilla and Julia Jean-Francois have discussed the problems associated with the current child welfare system in their recently published article “Reflections on our Work in Community- Troubling the Frame,” which is part of the Summer 2022 edition of the journal Family Integrity & Justice Quarterly. Julia Jean-Francois has also written about this issue in her chapter, “Community Based Organizations and Public Child Welfare Authorities: The Challenge of Partnerships,” in the recently published book Leadership Reflections: How to Create and Sustain Reforms in Children and Family Services.

Zenayda Bonilla
Zenayda Bonilla

In their article in the Family Integrity & Justice Quarterly Bonilla and Jean-Francois write about reform efforts in the child welfare system in New York City and how these have impacted Black and Brown communities. They bring attention to the long history of community surveillance and family separation and investigate the current and historical conditions which perpetuate disproportionate participation in the child welfare system. They suggest that the solution to this is to support community driven advocacy that focuses on the wellbeing of communities as a whole. To read more about this, click the link here.

Cover of Family Integrity & Justice Quarterly Summer 2022 Edition
Cover of Family Integrity & Justice Quarterly Summer 2022 Edition

Thriving Families Safer Children supports community members to dismantle barriers that perpetuate inequity in their neighborhoods through data driven advocacy that is framed and carried out by the community itself and that can promote a just and inclusive New York City.