Pro Bono Week Spotlight on Legal Intern Dahlia Romanow

DahliaIn honor of National Pro Bono Week, we’d like to introduce one of our fantastic legal volunteers.

Dahlia Romanow has been a legal intern in The Family Center’s Legal Wellness Institute (LWI) since May.

Dahlia is currently in her second year at NYU School of Law. Dahlia was a full-time legal intern over the summer and decided to volunteer with us again this fall part-time while she continues her studies.

Before moving to New York for law school, Dahlia received a bachelor’s degree in classics at Smith College. She then spent two years working as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate at South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc., a nonprofit legal service provider in the Fall River area of Massachusetts. In this position, Dahlia gained valuable experience, helping clients with issues relating to family law, consumer debt and bankruptcy, and housing court.

Dahlia has a strong commitment to pro bono legal assistance. At NYU, Dahlia also currently serves on the boards of two student groups: The Identity Documents Project, which helps trans and gender non-conforming New Yorkers update their federal and state legal documents to ensure they match their names and genders; and the HIV Law Society.

In her time volunteering with LWI, Dahlia has particularly enjoyed getting to apply the skills she’s learned in law school in a real-world setting – including drafting motions that have been filed in court (and won!). She also has also enjoyed getting to see cases through to successful completion, including a name change petition that she took the lead on, which was recently granted.

Dahlia was drawn to the Legal Wellness Institute’s holistic approach to direct legal services and has enjoyed working with clients and gaining experience in many areas of law.  Having lost her father unexpectedly at age 18, Dahlia also has a strong personal connection to The Family Center’s work.

Pro bono legal volunteers play a vital role in helping LWI serve more than a thousand vulnerable New Yorkers each year. The staff and clients of The Family Center’s Legal Wellness Institute thank Dahlia and all of our other pro bono volunteers for their time, energy, and talents.

A Special Reconnection

Recently, The Family Center received an email through our website from a former volunteer who mentored one of our children some time ago.  Dara’s note is heart-warming and at the same time, encourages our Board, staff, volunteers and supporters to persevere in our work to keep vulnerable families stronger, longer.  Her words also reveal that we don’t just strengthen families: we build communities.

Back in early 2000’s I became a mentor to Amanda. I was only her mentor for maybe 2 years. I don’t really remember why I stopped being her mentor. Anyway, 15+ years later, she found me on Facebook and messaged me. She emailed me the following:

“Hi Dara,
I don’t know if you remember me, but you use to be my mentor when you were apart of The Family Center back in the early 2000’s. I always wondered how you were and what you were up to? I also wanted to say thank you for everything you did for me back then, I truly appreciated everything you’ve done and I’m glad to see your doing well. Congratulations on you marriage (I know I’m off a several years sorry!) and your kids are sooooo adorable!!! I’m so happy for you! Also, please give a hug to Nikki for me, it’s funny I’m actually listening to “Test Drive” right now, it is such a good album! Why haven’t you guys put anything else out though? Anyway, much love and hugs to you both!!!  – Amanda”

We have emailed back and forth quite a bit since then. I love that she reached out to me. I honestly didn’t think I made that much of an impression on her!

I just wanted to email this to you as yet another story of how the Family Center helps the families who participate in your organization. I was so glad I got to be a part of it.



Amanda and Dara in 2003

We are so grateful to Dara -and Amanda- for giving us permission to share this story with you, our blog readers.

Do you have a story about your Family Center experience?  If so, contact us!

At The Family Center, we delight in spreading news about the good work of volunteers and supporters like Dara.

Amanda Lombardo on swing.Buddy Camping.06.03

Amanda at a Family Center event

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

A TFC Alum Shines in Miami

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!

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

#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!