Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Independent Living Classes hosted by Saddle Rock Ranch

Program aids teens in foster care
Harrison, Lauren, Long Island Newsday, 12/8/12

Teenagers sat at tables in a Middle Island classroom equipped with a kitchen, watching as a professional chef demonstrated how to chop a cucumber.

"See your fingers? We don't want to lose them," said Richard Freilich, Suffolk County Community College's culinary program director, tucking his fingertips away from the blade. "Use your fingers to control the vegetable."

Food safety and healthy cooking were among several skills 30 teens in New York's foster care system learned Saturday at the launch of a special respite program.

Held at the 15-acre Saddle Rock Ranch, the program aims to prepare teens transitioning out of foster care, with workshops on topics ranging from managing money and enrolling in college to grooming horses.

"The goal is that it will make a difference in some of their lives. They'll be able to start feeling confident," said Lauri Sherman Graff, director of Heart Gallery NYC, which created the program with Family Residences and Essential Enterprises Inc., the ranch operator.

About 100 teens will take part in the monthly program, with some courses taught by Suffolk County Community College instructors, through a $25,000 grant by HSBC, the global banking and financial services firm.

Foster children face "tremendous challenges" in entering the real world, Sherman Graff said.

"A significant percentage of children who age out of foster care end up incarcerated or homeless; the girls end up pregnant," she said. "So we're hoping to just interject before that happens and give them some hope."

Hope is central to both nonprofits. Heart Gallery NYC has helped find permanent homes for many foster children, featuring their photographs in public exhibits since 2007, Sherman Graff said. Family Residences offers a variety of programs, especially centered around equestrian therapy, for Long Island residents with special needs, said Christopher Long, the group's chief of operations.

"One of the important components . . . is how the handlers develop relationships with the horse," he said.

Jasmine, in foster care for 14 of her 16 years, called it "a little bit" overwhelming to learn how to budget the money she makes in a work-study program at a nursing home. "It's going to get harder because when I get more jobs, I gotta learn how to spend my money and how to save it," she said.

For Amanda, 14, who has been in foster care since she was 6, the program takes her "one step closer" to becoming a young adult.

Amanda said she hopes to become a therapist, adding, "Because I've been through so much during my past . . . it would be easier to understand a kid, because I've been through it."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dental Partnership With Child Welfare

NYU Dentistry, foster care agency partnership, improves child health, aids student training

Press Release, October 21, 2012

The New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) and Graham Windham, a local NYC-based foster care agency, have partnered to provide regular dental care to more than 650 children since spring of 2011. The success of the program, Partners Against Caries (PAC), both for the participating foster children and the dental school students, may serve as a model for other dental schools' outreach programs. PAC's successes were outlined in an oral as well as a poster session at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, October 20-23, 2012.

"The program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the children and families in foster care, as well as for the NYUCD dental students," said study author Elizabeth A. Best, MPH, Department of Pediatric Dentistry. "The pediatric patients enjoy receiving care from the dental students, who are very engaged with the children."

For the dental students, the experience has been eye-opening.

"Most of the dental students have little knowledge of the foster care system," commented Best. "At NYUCD, we are now graduating dental students who have worked with this population, and are aware of their unique health care needs," she said.

Poor dental and oral health can affect children's growth, school performance and attendance, and can contribute to physical and mental health problems. According to Healthy Foster Care America, approximately 35 percent of children and teens enter foster care with significant dental and oral health problems.

"Dental health has been described as a "window" to a child's well-being," said Mitchell Rubin, MD, FAAP, Medical Director, Graham Windham. "We believe that an optimal dental state is a necessary ingredient for the interrelated spectrum of medical, mental and social health," Dr. Rubin said.

Low-income children, especially those in foster care, are less likely to receive regular dental care, and, as a result, face a greater risk of tooth decay. These children, as they grow older, are susceptible to a myriad of oral health related problems– from heart disease, diabetes, and oral cancer, to low self-esteem and depression.

"Our exciting partnership with the NYU College of Dentistry not only addresses a heretofore gap in this service, but also serves as an invaluable tool for the dental students – introducing them to a most vulnerable pediatric population. We are so happy that the children are getting such wonderful care," Dr. Rubin said.

The abstract presented at the AAP conference, "An Approach to Dental Healthcare in an Inner-City Foster Care Population: The Partners Against Caries (PAC) Program," describes the partnership, which shifted dental services for these children from multiple providers to a single "dental home" in spring, 2011. The goal was to improve care quality and continuity for the participating foster children, and to provide a unique learning experience for dental students.

Through PAC, the children, ages 18 months to 21 years, receive dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatment and family education at two foster care facilities, as well as transportation and referrals to NYUCD's dental clinics for more complex care.

"We definitely think that other schools could benefit from a similar experience and curriculum," Best said.

Source: New York University