New Directors Join The Family Center Board

The Family Center is proud to announce that a new cohort of Directors has joined our Board.  See a photo of our dedicated new Directors below and read more about them on our website.


From left to right: Maggie Jiang, Brian Pasalich, Helen Wanamaker, Rosie Hill, Adam Mintz and Vikram Shankar

The Family Center Attends JALBCA’s Symposium on Cancer and Capitalism

Caroline and Ivy with Kaye and guest

From left to right: Vivienne Duncan, Director of the Cancer Advocacy and Elderlaw Projects at City Bar Justice Center; Caroline Bersak, Family Center Legal Wellness Institute Assistant Director; Luisa Kaye, Co-President of JALBCA, daughter of Judith Kaye, for whom The Family Center’s Judge Judith Kaye Project is named; and Ivy Gamble Cobb, The Family Center Executive Director

On Wednesday, March 28th, the Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert, also known as JALBCA, hosted The 22nd Annual Ellen P. Hermanson Memorial Symposium.  The Family Center is deeply grateful for the support that our breast cancer -affected clients and their families have received from JALBCA over the years, so we were delighted to attend this Syposium on “Cancer and Capitalism: Who Will Stand Guard in the Cancer Wars?”  In addition to the Symposium’s informative panel discussions, The Family Center enjoyed meeting Claire Gutekunst, JALBCA’s new Executive Director.

JALBCA funds both The Judge Judith Kaye Project and The Maite Aquino Program at The Family Center.  These programs address the impact of breast cancer and its treatment on vulnerable New Yorkers and their families, primarily community members of color who are living on incomes below the poverty line.  Since 2008, JALBCA has generously supported thousands of breast cancer -affected New Yorkers through The Judge Judith Kaye Project and The Maite Aquino Program.

The Family Center is proud of our partnership JALBCA!

Marika Ivy Caroline in front of JALBCA logo

From left to right: Family Center Board member Marika Pritchett-Casey, Executive Director Ivy Gamble Cobb and Legal Wellness Institute Assistant Director Caroline Bersak

Marika Claire and Ivy

From left to right: Family Center Board member Marika Pritchett-Casey, JALBCA Executive Director Claire Gutekunst, and Family Center Executive Director Ivy Gamble Cobb

Thankful for The Family Center

Macys volunteers 2

Beth, far left, volunteering at The Family Center’s 20th Anniversary Gala in 2014

Beth McCarthy, a member of The Family Center Leadership Council, recently emailed her friends and family with a sweet note about us and our work.  We thought we’d share:

Hello and happy holidays!

As you may know, I am a member of the Leadership Council at The Family Center, which is a nonprofit that provides legal, social, and mental health services to NYC families living below the federal poverty level.  I have been volunteering with this organization for many years and am so proud of the work being accomplished.

This past year the Leadership Council has undertaken and achieved many wonderful things for the clients of The Family Center. We have continued to develop our financial literacy program by teaching and providing workshops on budgeting, banking, credit and other financial services to those in need. As Kofi Annan said, “Knowledge is power, information is liberating and education is the premise of progress in every society, in every family.”  We believe that with this education the clients can take control of their financials allowing for more freedom and security in their daily lives.  We have also helped to host our annual Harvest Ball, sort toys through the toy drive and held our annual Holiday party which brings so much joy and excitement to the children, it is truly special.

I understand that this time of year is extremely busy but if you could take a moment out of your day to donate (using the link below) I would greatly appreciate it as would the people who you are helping directly.  Your donation will help us continue our efforts to improve the lives of those around us, especially in times of need. The families that The Family Center serves are often dismissed and forgotten and we want them, particularly the children, to know they are important and deserve the kind of holiday we all enjoy.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Thank you!  Have a great day!

Beth McCarthy

We not only appreciate Beth’s kind words and thoughtful sentiments about our clients, we are also thankful for her!

Happy Holidays to Beth and all our supporters!  And a healthy New Year too!

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 @ 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

#StressAwarenessDay 2017: Reducing Stress for Families of New York

Stress: synonymous with strain, pressure, tension, worry. The root of stress looks different for all of us, but for some illustrates a reality of quality-of-life needs that are not easily met due to the challenges of poverty, inequality, trauma, or violence. Little stressors that impact all of us might include train delays, a late paycheck, or overcooking the dinner in the oven. Bigger stressors that impact only some of us include rebuilding a life in the wake of domestic violence, getting food on the table for four children as a single grandparent while working full-time, or educating young ones about ways to stay safe from gun violence. For the 15% of adult New Yorkers and 22% of children who are living below the poverty line, stress is so deeply woven into the realities of their days, it may be difficult to imagine life without it.

How can we reconcile these statistics, and gain a deeper awareness that, although stress impacts all of us, the creature comforts that some of us may be accustomed to are a distant thought for so many other Americans? Now that we know that stress is a major contributor of high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes, what “stress medicine” should we prescribe to aid in this crisis? And in learning that stress is often at the root of depression, anxiety, and suicidality, how can we aid in improving the mental health of our fellow New Yorkers, and address the social inequalities that are an inarguable reality?

the creature comforts that some of us may be accustomed to are a distant thought for so many other Americans

Today is #StressAwarenessDay 2017, and in attempting to answer these questions as a mental health counselor in NYC, I look towards existing models that work to reduce stress for individuals and families every single day. I have experienced the inner workings of a variety of mental health clinics in my time as a psychotherapist, and it is rare to find an organization that honors, serves, and truly values its clients as much as The Family Center in Brooklyn. Although there is only one day annually to raise awareness around the impacts of stress, the mission of The Family Center sheds light on how we can all work towards eliminating stress for New Yorkers in need, 365 days a year.

it is rare to find an organization that honors, serves, and truly values its clients as much as The Family Center

Much of the medical model in this country has moved towards fixes for what has already happened – antibiotics for infection, blood pressure medication to aid in symptoms related to obesity, or psychotropic medications to alleviate PTSD. Sometimes, these solutions are all we have to help an individual – the problem has compounded and the root is buried deeply below. But when it comes to stress and helping our community, we also have this moment right now – making life easier on the day-to-day for those who are in desperate need of a pause in the avalanche of difficulties they must fend off for themselves and their children as a daily reality.

It is the choosing to operate in the “here and now” that makes The Family Center a true asset to New York City, and sets them apart from so many other organizations who utilize “band-aid fixes” rather than focusing on how to truly serve the ongoing needs of a community facing social inequalities. The Family Center offers clients family law and lifetime planning services so that parents can make informed choices now, rather than later. They provide preventative programming for youth, such as mentoring services and trauma-informed care, to help at-risk youth feel supported today, rather than tomorrow. The Family Center consistently adds new programming to adapt to the needs of their client families, such as financial literacy initiatives and increased requests for grant funding to keep their services accessible for clients. They work tirelessly to evolve as an organization by listening to the needs of their clients daily, rather than waiting for annual reports that may

Lindsey Pratt, second from left, with other Family Center Leadership Council members and supporters at our annual picnic in Central Park for clients and their families.

show the numbers but lack the voices of those they intend to serve.

And it is with this model that The Family Center upholds as their daily mission that we all might learn something about coping with stress: The best preparation for tomorrow is doing our best today. Stress may be a daily occurrence, but what can we do today to work towards a more peaceful tomorrow, for ourselves and our communities? We may start by getting involved with an organization that gives back in the way that The Family Center does, and by strengthening our understanding of how we might alleviate stressors not only for ourselves, but others, too. May we all find ways to help reduce the load on #StressAwarenessDay 2017 – after all, a shared burden is a lighter burden.

-Lindsey Pratt, Leadership Council member

Learn more about Lindsey at!

Honoring My Favorite Guy on Father’s Day

Fathers Day blog IGC photo_James GambleWhile Mother’s Day often gets top billing over Father’s Day, for me the day has always been very special because I believe that I had the best father anyone could ever have.   My dad, James Gamble, exemplified what it meant to be a true father.  He retired from career in the printing field while I was still in elementary school.  So I had the pleasure of coming home every day and finding my dad there waiting with a home-cooked meal.  As my mom continued to work, he took on the day-to-day caregiving and household responsibilities for me and my siblings.  Trust me; this change in roles did not at all diminish who he was as a man.  Still strong, head of the household, but the best caregiver anyone could ask for.  The relationship that he developed with his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends was unparalleled.  We often called our home Grand Central Station because everyone knew that if they needed a hot meal, or a listening ear, he was there for them.

Fathers Day blog IGC photo_James Gamble at wedding anniversaryThe Family Center is honored to work with men who are partnering with us to help bring additional support to their children and their families.  Men who are not afraid or ashamed to say they need help.  I am glad that The Family Center is there to offer support and encouragement as these men tackle the hardest job there is, caring for children, helping them to mature into responsible, caring adults.

On this Father’s Day, I salute the fathers who are actively involved in raising their children.  A special hats off to the men, brothers, uncles, Godfathers, friends, who step up to care for children, who may not be biologically related to them, but who nonetheless are actively involved in these children’s lives.  Thank you for all of the support, guidance, and nurturing provided to the children whose lives you are enhancing.

Fathers Day blog IGC photo_James Gamble at IGC wedding daySo on this Father’s Day, I acknowledge the man who raised me and the many men who are standing tall, making a difference in the lives of children.  Thank you for your dedication and commitment.

Happy Father’s Day

-Ivy Gamble Cobb, Executive Director

What Our Clients Are Saying

In early December of 2015, 116 of our clients completed a satisfaction survey and gave high scores (4 out of a total score of 5) on different areas such as: cleanliness, comfort, safety, and appearance of The Family Center’s facilities, as well as the helpfulness and friendliness of staff.  Clients were also asked to talk about their experience coming to The Family Center, specifically what they liked vs. disliked, and if they would recommend our services to others in their family or community.  People commented on how comfortable they are coming to The Family Center, how supportive and great our staff are, and expressed having an overall pleasant feeling at our office in Brooklyn.

In order to better demonstrate what clients said about The Family Center, a word cloud was created using the written statements from the satisfaction survey.  This word cloud shown below is a graphical representation of a word count where the size of the word directly relates to the number of times the word was used.  Looking at this word cloud, you get a sense that people talked a lot about our services, our helpfulness, and friendliness, as well as the good people at The Family Center and what a great place it is.  Interestingly, the word “Family” is the largest word, and the word “center” also appears in this word cloud, demonstrating that clients talked about The Family Center as a whole, but also mentioned their family, or families in general, a great deal since the word is larger than the word “center.”  The Family Center learned a great deal from the feedback we received from our clients.  We hope to continue bringing exceptional services and care to the New York City community and our clients.

Word Cloud from Client Satisfaction Survey 2.12.2016

-Casey Castro, Family Center Research Coordinator


An Unexpected Path to a Fulfilling Commitment

Joel (far left) with friends at TFC Turns 20! our 20th Anniversary celebration last year

Joel (far left) with friends at TFC Turns 20! our 20th Anniversary celebration last year

Earlier this month, New York Life awarded The Family Center a $20,000 Community Impact Grant to provide young children, receiving our developmental assessments and interventions, with the psychological and psychiatric services of our pediatric mental health clinic.  We received this grant, thanks not only to our expert services, but also to the successful advocacy efforts of our Board member, Joel Field.  Joel was also gracious enough to draft the following guest blog post that relates the story of his surprising path to joining our Board of Directors.

Last summer, I met with leadership of The Family Center out of respect for a friend of mine who had referred me to the organization. I had not planned on joining the Board -until I attended this meeting. I was completely blown away by how well run the organization is, how passionately involved the employees, volunteers, and Board members are, and by just how substantial an impact on the lives of needy children this organization makes. I enthusiastically join the Board shortly thereafter.

The more I have become involved with The Family Center, the more excited I am about its mission and impact that it makes. As a result of my involvement, a number of individuals from my church have also volunteered their time and services, and The Family Center has begun partnering with New York Life in a number of ways so that their employees can also make a substantive difference in the lives of children.

I am thrilled about the possibilities ahead to significantly impact the quality of life and futures of the children The Family Center serves.

-Joel M. Field III, Family Center Board member

The Community Impact Grant program awards grants of up to $25,000 to local nonprofit organizations which are championed by New York Life agents and employees to serve the needs of their local communities.  More than 366 grants totaling more than $4.7 million have been awarded to nonprofits across the country since the program’s inception in 2008.

Inspired to Spread the Word

For The Family Center’s 20th Anniversary last year, we worked with the amazingly talented and skilled film maker Pauline Zalkin of Fineas Media to create Remember the Sun about a client family recovering from a major loss.  As with many of our supporters who come to know our client families, Pauline developed a strong bond with grandmother Glenda and eventually become a mentor in our Buddy Program to little Odette.  We recently reached out to Pauline, who is very well-connected in the NYC media world, as we sought to publish our attorneys’ piece “47 Million Clients, Every Lawyer’s Dream.”  After its publication in Law360, Pauline sent us the following note:

My involvement with the Family Center has been and continues to be a profoundly rich and fulfilling experience. There is no question that this organization and its staff are truly serving the community in the full sense of that word, and doing this really hard work with a lot of heart. Everyone associated with  TFC, staff and clients like Glenda continue to inspire me every day. My outings with Odette are often the highlight of my week.

I am so glad the article was published — I think anything we can do to shed more light on the work you all are doing is worthwhile.


We at The Family Center could not be more grateful for the support of generous New Yorkers like Pauline, who enthusiastically spread the word about our work, while also expanding our children’s horizons.  Thank you, Pauline!  We are inspired by you too!
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