My Father & Al Capone

I have two sons. My oldest is six and he is in elementary school. When I see him with his friends on the playground, I am reminded of how difficult it is to be a child, any child, and trying to find your place in the world. There’s a lot to learn. When I was a child in elementary school, kids seemed to belong to very distinct groups and, at times, I didn’t fit in with any of them.

My father was an interesting and sometimes confounding role model. He seemed to be someone who had found his place in the world and had done so early. He was never out of place. He did not seem to suffer from the least bit of self-consciousness. Ever. He was an accountant and a partner at a large firm. He could talk with anyone about anything. I had seen my father begin conversations standing in line for coffee or at the grocery store. He could talk about the weather, politics, sports, traffic, cars, money, economics, dance and more. Sometimes, he spoke in a loud voice in very quiet places. He told weird jokes. What I noticed most often was that people responded well to him. As a child I found this astounding. There were times when I felt embarrassed by his behavior in a way that all children, at a certain age, are completely and unjustly horrified by their parents.

When I was in fourth grade, my father came to my class for career day. He was coming to talk to ten year-olds about accounting. In fourth grade, I knew very little about accounting other than it had to do with numbers. Also, I suspected it wasn’t a scintillating topic. Worse, my father’s appearance had been preceded by the teacher’s nephew, a NAVY jet pilot, who had spoken the week prior. Anyone would have found that a hard act to follow.

On the day of his talk, my father barreled into class and sat on the teacher’s desk. He was beaming. As our teacher introduced him as my dad, I sank a little lower in my seat.

He began by discussing Al Capone, the notorious mobster. He noted that after many failed efforts by the police and the FBI to prosecute Capone, it was ultimately a group of accountants who brought him down – for tax evasion. He talked about his work and how he was an adviser to individuals, companies and governments – some of them quite local, and included the towns where my classmates played soccer and baseball. He was riveting. At the end of class the teacher asked who wanted to be accountants when they grew up and, both surprisingly and not, several kids raised their hands.

I wasn’t one of them. When the teacher asked me directly what I wanted to be when I grew up I said I didn’t know. I needed more time to figure it out. But, in that moment, what I learned from my father was that there were many paths to becoming who you would ultimately be. By his own happy admission, my father’s path was not a straight one but it was a successful one. In thirty minutes, thirty five years ago, he conveyed something that has stayed with me for my entire life. The answer wasn’t necessarily about finding what worked for everyone else. What mattered most was that you worked hard at something with which you could feel satisfied, whatever it might be. Be true to yourself, and in that way find delight in any number of things – apparently even in unappealing things such as accounting or standing in line for coffee. Then, you would find your place. That was what he did. That was something I could do.

These days I know who I am. Someday soon, I may have the privilege of speaking to my sons’ classes about my work. I can’t wait to give them a glimpse into what I do when I mysteriously leave the house in a suit every morning.

Happy Father’s Day.

-Adam Halper, Director of The Family Center’s Legal Wellness Institute

TFC Attorney is a Front Line Hero


Lauren (right) with LWI Assistant Director, Caroline, after receiving her award.

On Tuesday, April 18th, Family Center Attorney Lauren Groetch was recognized by New York Nonprofit Media (NYN Media) for the outstanding legal counsel and representation that she provides to NYC residents through our Legal Wellness Institute.  NYN Media inducted Lauren into their 2017 Front Line Heroes class, and The Family Center could not be prouder of Lauren and this acknowledgement of her dedication, commitment and hard work!  As part of the awards ceremony, NYN Media produces a program with honorees’ bios and answers to questions that reveal their value to NYC residents and communities.  Below is the program excerpt that featured Lauren.

Lauren Groetch is a staff attorney for the Legal Wellness Institute at The Family Center, where she represents vulnerable New Yorkers on matters related to family and matrimonial law, trusts and estates, benefits and housing law.  Groetch is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she was named a Hermann Biggs Health Policy Scholar and served as the executive editor for the New York University Review of Law and social Change.  She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.

What or who most inspired you to do the work you’re doing now?
LG:  My whole life, I’ve been surrounded by powerful women who draw strength from doing work that they find meaningful and fulfilling.  I’ve been lucky enough never to have been disabused of the idea that I should, and could, do the same.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve had to do in your job -or for a client?
LG:  The wheels of justice turn slowly, and the wheels of bureaucracy even slower.  For my clients with life-limiting illnesses, time is always of the essence.  I work hard to get my clients what they need as quickly as possible, often with success.  But my clients face so many mountains and I can’t move them all.  It’s challenging to advocate for very sick clients within institutions that aren’t designed -and often aren’t able- to provide quick relief.

What career accomplishment has brought you the most joy so far?
LG:  When I meet clients, they’re staring down frightening diagnoses, devastating loss and profound uncertainty.

I’m here to resolve legal problems, but my job is also to protect my clients’ dignity; to help them feel heard and respected; and to remind them of their own power in circumstances that would make anyone feel helpless.

When a client comes to me feeling ineffective and forgotten, and leaves feeling strong and important, that’s a huge accomplishment for me.

Parents on a Journey at TFC

Parenting Journey is a 12-week group which encourages parents to reflect on their own childhoods, in order to be able to choose what kind of parent they want to be and create their own style of parenting – one that reflects their personal vision and values.  The fun and interactive program encourages parents to build confidence and community.  TFC is excited to be offering our second cycle of Parenting Journey and we thank our terrific group members for making it a powerful experience for all.  Enjoy photos taken during the group’s most recent meeting below!

PJ photo 9

Parenting Journey group members working hard to be the best parents and caregivers that they can be!

PJ photo 11

A piece of artwork that also doubles at the Parenting Journey group contract -how clever!

PJ photo 6

A Family Center staff facilitator of Parenting Journey shows off the day’s agenda.

2017 GrandRally

In collaboration with advocates from around the state and city, TFC is organizing a bus to bring grandparents and kin caregivers to the 5th National GrandRally in Washington DC on Wednesday, May 10th. The GrandRally elevates the critical role grandparents and other relatives play in providing safe, loving, permanent families for children and the policy changes needed to effectively support them while building and strengthening a community of hope.
Children are welcomed to join in this day-long event.  The Brooklyn pick-up and drop-off will be near Atlantic Center, and the Manhattan pick-up and drop-off location will be near the State Office Building on 125th St. in Harlem. There is a $30 suggested donation, but everyone will be welcomed regardless of the ability to pay.
If you are interested in joining this empowering trip, click here to register and reserve your seat(s). If you have any questions or need help registering please contact Marya Gilborn at
GrandRally Flyer 05.10.2017-page-0

The Open-Hearted Grandmother Behind The New York Times Story: Ms. Parker

Neediest-Cases-1.24.2017-862x575Ms. Sandra Parker is a current Family Center client, who was featured in the New York Times Neediest Cases in January. The article, A Door to a Home Brimming with Love, and Open to All, has a title that accurately describes Ms. Parker and her devotion to her grandchildren, despite her own obstacles and health issues. Ms. Parker has been involved with The Family Center since 2014. Ms. Parker stated that an issue came up and she was in need of some assistance accessing furniture. She called and met with Marya, The Family Center Director of Social Services, who was able to quickly put in an application for furniture. With the assistance from The Family Center, Ms. Parker was awarded a $1,000 grant from FPWA, one of the eight organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

Since receiving that grant, Ms. Parker and her family have received a variety of different services, for which she is very grateful. Ms. Parker is currently caring for four grandchildren, from age five to sixteen, a responsibility she accepts open-heartedly, but has experienced her share of struggles and setbacks; she is appreciative of the additional support from The Family Center. Ms. Parker and her family have participated in events and are benefiting from counseling and support offered at The Family Center.

Ms. Parker said, “I love the Family Center because even though I have had hard times, no one has been judgmental. Everyone has been kind about my situation and very helpful.”

The Family Center strives to provide our client families with nonjudgmental, compassionate and supportive assistance in a variety of different areas.  Ms. Parker is a client, who is a pleasure to work with, as she has an overwhelming love for her grandchildren and does her best to impart wisdom and teach her grandchildren valuable life lessons, such as the importance of education, disregarding negativity and always trying to reach one’s potential.

-Tara Pine, Family Center Social Worker

The Family Center Has Moves

Clients at The Family Center are making moves! Recently, TFC hosted a dance and movement workshop in partnership with Gibney Dance, an NYC-based organization whose mission is to “bring the possibility of movement where it would otherwise not exist.” Clients from Familia Unida Latina (FUL), a peer-led Spanish-speaking support group, took part in the workshop; and Amy Miller, Associate Artistic Director of Gibney Dance Company, facilitated.

PrintGibney Dance partners with community organizations all across New York City to offer free workshops for survivors of violence, and people living with illness and loss. Gibney workshops focus on the principles of choice, self-expression, trust, and sharing, in order to create a collaborative space for healing. FUL group members had a great time moving and creating together, and found that the workshop provided a very energizing start to the day! Thank you, Amy and Gibney Dance for this wonderful opportunity!

-Sophie Schapiro, Family Center Social Worker & FUL Group Facilitator

TFC @ SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Grantee Meeting

Greetings to all from the SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment grantee meeting!  Family Center representatives attending the meeting were delighted to present findings from the first three years of our BWEL program.
Marya Julian Ivy and SAMHSA Program Officer

From left to right: Family Center representatives Marya Gilborn, Julian Ho, and Ivy Gamble Cobb with SAMHSA Program Officer Kim Thierry-English

Key outcomes include the following:

  • BWEL clients reported fewer days in the last month of serious depression and anxiety after 6 months in the program
  • BWEL clients score reported less acuity of symptoms of emotional distress after 6 months in the program.
  • 77.8% of HIV+ BWEL clients who were not virally suppressed at intake had reduced viral loads at discharge, in most cases achieving viral suppression.
  • BWEL clients who reported current or past PTSD symptoms remained engaged and achieved benefits like those described above at rated higher than those who reported no past trauma or had experienced traumatic events but reported no or few PTSD symptoms.
The Family Center’s partnership with SAMHSA allowed us to achieve these outcomes for Brooklyn women.  We are grateful for SAMHSA’s ongoing support and gracious welcome to present at this meeting.
Best from Ivy, Marya, and Julian