Behind Every Phone Call: TFC’s Extraordinary Work in Extraordinary Times

Serving clients at TFC has grown only more complex in these challenging times. It was Friday at 2:30 , after a long week when a worker in our TPLW program made a routine check-in call to a client, as we have since the pandemic began. The worker, Douglass Moss, learned that the client in East New York had run out of his vital HIV medications a week ago.  He had gone to his usual clinic, a well-known community facility, but found it gated and boarded up “with some signs about COVID.”  He had tried to call reception, then his own doctor, but none answered. When we called that Friday afternoon, he had already missed seven days of a vital medication he takes daily. Douglass offered TFC’s own pharmacy service, the client said yes, and our team swung into action. 

One worker coordinated with the pharmacy, who agreed to order and fill the prescription that day as soon as they received a prescription. Another sought out a new HIV doctor to write the prescription. For an hour, two team members called several doctors, but none would prescribe without seeing the client and awaiting blood tests. Switching strategies, the team located an urgent care near the client, that was also in the same network as his prior clinic, so they might have access to his past records. Success! By 4:30, they agreed to write the prescription – if the client came in to be seen. 

But the immunocompromised client feared going out due to COVID.  So, our team dispatched a TFC driver, who had COVID two months ago, and is now recovered.  At 5:00, he picked up the client at his residence, both masked, and drove him the 20 minutes to urgent care. Each step was complicated because the client‘s cell phone wasn’t working, so we had to relay messages through the driver’s phone and calls to the urgent care staff.  Then bad news came from the pharmacy:  they would close early, at 6:00, due to mounting demonstrations in Bed Stuy. That left 45 minutes. We called the urgent care back, asking the client to call from the office phone the minute their doctor filed the prescription. At 5:50 the pharmacist got it and we headed over, but heavy traffic now blocking the area made it impossible to reach the pharmacy by 6:00. Another call, and they agreed to leave the meds secured with the cleaning staff, providing 15 extra minutes. At 6:11 a TFC worker pulled up, ran out, scooped up $3,800 worth of lifesaving meds and the car rolled out on what we thought was the final lap. 

Again, staff called urgent care to inform the client that a car was coming with the meds, to stay put, and we would get there as soon as traffic allowed. But due to increasing traffic and police blockades, the ride from Bed Stuy to East New York took an hour. On the way, we coordinated the same driver to meet him at urgent care, and bring him home safe with his valuable meds. At 7:20, the neighborhood roiling around us, we pulled up at the urgent care in East New York with our lifesaving cargo in one car and his driver in the other.  

But the client was gone. He had left 10 minutes before, either impatient or confused. Urgent care staff had no idea where he was. We had no way to reach him.  Calls to his housing facility went unanswered. In exactly five hours since his call, a team of two TFC workers, a pharmacist, two doctors, the urgent care staff and two drivers had worked in synchrony to deliver lifesaving meds. Yes, we had found him a new doctor and vital meds, mobilized care and deliveries, but we weren’t done. As night fell, we texted him to reassure him we had his meds. Saturday dawned, his phone charged, and that morning our worker met the client to hand him his pill bottles. It took a team and most of a day, but this client now he has a new doctor and a stable supply of his lifesaving medications.  And it all began with that phone call. 

-Dave Nimmons
HIV Treatment Education Manager & Founding Board Chair


For the past month, The Family Center has been conducting a group program called SPARCS for Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress.

SPARCS is a trauma-informed, evidence-based group intervention aimed to address the impact of chronic stress, which is defined as consistent exposure to high levels of stress and trauma. For this group, our facilitating clinicians recruited teens 13-16 years-old whose families were receiving services at The Family Center. SPARCS encourages mutual aid and support between participants who engage in activities like self-monitoring their stress levels, mindfulness exercises, problem-solving activities and more.

From their response to DACA’s current status to their outrage over gun violence in schools, youth in our society have a relevant, compelling voice. The Family Center believes that all youth should be heard and we are happy to give them a safe space to exercise their voices.

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!

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

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

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

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

A Long Way from Accounting: One Child Welfare Worker’s Journey

Angelina was studying accounting in college when she took a social services elective that had an internship requirement.  Her internship involved working at a school.  When one of the children left their group project to see the school social worker, Angelina became curious.  She wondered, why might this little girl need a social worker?  While she didn’t pry at the time, Angelina knew she was hooked on helping children from that moment forward.  Today, she makes a lot of inquiries of Family Center clients as she strives to help them be the best parents and caregivers that they can be.

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Angelina, far left, with a client family happy to receive her support.

Working in The Family Center’s Family Net/ Family Connections program as a Case Planner, Angelina knows that the struggles faced by families, who receive her support, can seem insurmountable.  Angelina feels particularly fulfilled in her work when a families reaches their treatment goals or when she can help them secure something that they really need.  In 2016, Angelina worked with her Family Center colleagues to connect a client family to the Modell’s/ Pix11 Toy Drive when NY Giants player Landon Collins was Santa for the kids.

Angelina lauds The Family Center for all the services that we offer struggling families.  She also credits the NYC Administration for Children Services, Family Net/ Family Connection’s funder, with having a wrap-around fund that helps families obtain much-needed material goods when their incomes are prohibitively low.

The Family Center is proud to have dedicated staff like Angelina in Family Net/ Family Connections.  While she would surely have been a good accountant, we know dozens of client families thankful that Angelina chose the social services industry.

Thank You for Listening

Family Center Social Worker Deborah Rosado received this letter of gratitude yesterday. We are always so touched by our clients’ thankfulness, as we see our work with New Yorkers and their families as a privilege. After all, they invite us into their homes and lives during some of the most difficult times. The courage demonstrated by our clients is profound -and yet so many are grateful to the point of tears. In this day and age, we can all listen to each other more -and be more grateful. At The Family Center, we are honored to listen to our clients -and to receive their gratitude.


The Family Center & Planned Parenthood NYC Team Up for Parents & Caregivers

This month, The Family Center has been thrilled to partner once more with Planned Parenthood of New York City to bring the Adult Role Models (ARM) program to our parents and caregivers.


ARM Program Participants and Facilitators

ARM is a unique peer education program designed to assist parents and other caring adults in educating their children about sexuality – a topic that we know many adults find intimidating.  For the last four Fridays, participants have been getting information, peer support, and tools and techniques on on how to answer tough questions and better communicate with their children. Participants have been encouraged to become their children’s primary sexuality educators and to share their values about sexuality with their children.

As always, our clients who have participated this month raved about the experience, both the quality of the service delivered by the peer educators, as well as the opportunity to learn from and build community with one another.

I found the program to be a great learning experience.” -Jacklyn

I loved the program.  I learned a lot to teach my children and never wanted to miss a session.” -Rayattie

I learned so much about how to speak with my children that I want to pass it onto other parents.” -Carolynne

Thank you to Planned Parenthood of NYC and their terrific Peer Educators, Diane, Ivette and Berniece, for bringing this wonderful and important program to The Family Center.

“Hope is What We All Need” Taking Giving Back to New Levels

Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day in New York as declared by NYS Governor Cuomo.  Every day, The Family Center provides comprehensive legal and social services to those living with cancer and their families.  However, we recognize that our supporters face cancer diagnoses too.  Today, we salute those living with metastatic breast cancer and their families.

Long-time Family Center supporter and volunteer Yvette S. Walker is one such courageous woman.  Recently, she spoke on NBC New York about living with metastatic breast cancer.  Today is Yvette’s birthday.  The Family Center wishes her a very happy birthday and thanks her for all that she is doing to bring awareness about metastatic breast cancer, demonstrating how to live a full and purposeful life in spite of her diagnosis while also giving hope to others.  Thank you Yvette for your courageousness and determination.  The Family Center thanks you for being a part of our family and wishes you many more happy birthdays.  Please click the link to watch her powerful message for those living with this type of cancer.

Watch Yvette talk to NBC 4 New York’s Lynda Baquero about Metastatic Breast Cancer.


Starting from far left: Yvette at TFC Turns 20!; Yvette in gold, third from left, supporting TFC at the annual BLOOM fundraiser; Yvette on the right with family friends, TFC Executive Director Ivy Gamble Cobb and sister Michelle Watson; Yvette, third from the top left, with friends and family at TFC Turns 20!