New Alternatives for ChildrenNew Alternatives for Children
New Alternatives for Children (NAC) is a unique, award-winning child welfare agency offering strength-based social services, medical and mental healthcare and a wide variety of wrap-around services. We serve families that have at least one child with... Read more
New Alternatives for Children (NAC) is a unique, award-winning child welfare agency offering strength-based social services, medical and mental healthcare and a wide variety of wrap-around services. We serve families that have at least one child with special needs, often in combination with mental health, behavioral and/or developmental diagnoses as well. NAC’s mission is to achieve safety, permanency and well-being within a family, for children who are at risk of abuse and/or neglect and have special medical and/or mental health needs among other challenges.
Annually, NAC serves over 2,000 children (nearly 1,200 of whom are medically fragile in addition to more than 800 siblings) along with their parents and other family members. The children referred to NAC are medically complex and their birth families have devastating social problems. Their circumstances include poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, immigration and language barriers, parental illness, mental health problems and illiteracy. NAC's children may use wheelchairs or be dependent on medical technology in order to live. They may have HIV/AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, respiratory or cardiac problems or spina bifida, among other diagnoses. Growing numbers have asthma, diabetes and diagnoses on the autism spectrum. Some of the children have spent years growing up in the hospital, others have had more surgeries than birthdays, experienced fragmented health services, prolonged hospital visits, and/or medical and educational neglect.
Despite these challenges, NAC has outstanding outcomes and is one of the highest evaluated programs by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) among all NYC child welfare agencies (including those serving non-medically fragile children).
I've been a NAC volunteer for 7 years so far -- three years as a mentor and four as a foster parent. It's been a rocky partnership. NAC has some dedicated, spectacular staff members. Very high staff turnover rate, though that's kinda par for the social work course. Staff members tend to seem overworked and stressed out. I wish staff had more expertise around foster care legal issues and were more trauma-informed. More importantly I wish that the agency was able to treat foster parents more respectfully as partners and collaborators rather than disposable hired help. My wife and I have also been frustrated by their inability to achieve permanency for the kids in our care and in the care of other foster parents. The incentive structure for the agency sometimes puts them at odds with the needs of the kids in their care. Happy to share more with others thinking about volunteering at NAC and/or taking the foster care plunge.