Crittenton Travel Blog: Children and Families in Crisis Find Safe Haven in Philly
The Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF) summer travel tour took us to a stop in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love is known for its historical connections to the American Revolution; its iconic backdrops featured in the movie Rocky; and for its NFL team the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, few know of the city’s legacy in the field of social work. During our country’s Progressive Era, Philadelphia was among the original U.S. cities to prioritize the idea of child protection, philanthropic partnerships, and legislation concerning child welfare, or as it was called back then, ‘child helping’.
This vision for a better Philadelphia in the early 20th century culminated in the founding of the Philadelphia Training School for Social Work in 1908. In fact, the present day School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania traces its origins to this very institution.
Today, Philadelphia is home to a number of foundations, non-profits and social services agencies that continue the work of ‘child helping’ in the 21st century. Among the organization’s that have been given credit in piloting child welfare and family preservation initiatives in Philadelphia is our sister agency Youth Services, Inc. (YSI).
“To be able to visit the city of Philadelphia and to discover some of the resources the city is able to offer its citizens at their most vulnerable was encouraging to see,” said Martha Jasso, Director of Communications, CSCF, “In addition, the opportunity to finally meet the leadership at our sister agency, was the highlight of the trip. During this visit it was made clear that there are notable organizations in the East Coast that are effectively planting the seeds of resiliency in children traumatized by abuse, neglect, or exploitation.”
Gwen Bailey is currently at the helm as Executive Director of Youth Services, Inc., and the only way to describe her is that she is part social worker, intake coordinator, PR maven, youth mentor, and non-profit executive all rolled into one. The energy she has to fight the good fight for the YSI mission, and the passion she has for maintaining Crittenton’s historical reputation in Philadelphia is something to be appreciated.
Her personality is as electric as the shade of blue she chose to wear during our visit, and the YSI staff and the interns we met that day shared very similar traits of hopefulness and determination that most child welfare professionals are known for.
When speaking with Bailey she noted that even though the last of their residential programs had closed late last year, a teen mom and baby group home, YSI is still very much committed in continuing to protect children from abuse and neglect.
“We strive to keep children out of the child welfare system whenever possible, and to keep vulnerable families healthy and intact. As the city’s strategy for keeping children safe continues to change, we remain committed to or core values of compassionate care and high-quality service,” said Bailey.
For more than 60 years our sister agency has continued to implement, adapt, and spearhead a range of continuum of care options for Philadelphia children and families experiencing crisis. Among the nationally accredited programming our sister agency has to offer includes: a homeless and runaway youth emergency shelter (YES), family based services and parenting education, and one of the few remaining emergency crisis nursery’s that still exist in the United States. In fact, our sister agency, pioneered the Crisis Nursery Program in Philadelphia.
“Having the chance to visit YSI’s crisis nursery put another level of need into perspective. A crisis nursery is supposed to assist a parent, that has no one else to rely on, and is going through a medical emergency, substance abuse issues, or domestic violence, to name a few reasons as to why this service would be needed,” said Jasso, “This type of respite is desperately needed and is a undervalued child welfare safety net for those parents that have exhausted all resources. To finally see the reality of this need serves as an example of how certain jurisdictions implement child abuse preventative measures. But sadly this visit also confirmed a stark reality that this resource is not available in all states.”
YSI has had a number of appreciative clients using their crisis nursery services over the years. One such client by the name of Carolyn is slowly rebuilding her life after domestic violence. It wasn’t long ago that Carolyn left South Carolina to Philadelphia with her children fleeing from an abusive partner who she feared might kill her and harm her children.
At this critical juncture in Carolyn’s life she was introduced to the crisis nursery program and staff at YSI. Our sister agency took action and was able to find Carolyn and her children family shelter services at the People’s Emergency Center in Philadelphia. In addition, YSI made sure to allocate crisis nursery services for Carolyn’s children, provided therapy, mentorship, and parenting education for her.
Carolyn has expressed to our sister agency that she feels worlds away from her darkest days. She is now enrolled in a GED program, domestic violence counseling classes, and is set to begin a program to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.
She states that there are many goals yet to accomplish which includes entering into transitional housing and securing emotional stability for her children. Yet, Carolyn is hopeful and thanks YSI for helping her to transition into her new life, “I feel free now and I feel stronger; I feel like I can accomplish more now…I believe that Baring House [YSI crisis nursery] is a good place for families that need help. They’ve helped me a lot. We need more places like this.”
Needless to say that YSI is one of those organizations that has proven its ability to initiate transformation through the process of empowerment.
Each year brings another opportunity for our sister agency to engage with the community. From launching the grand opening of the YSI Teen Lounge whose purpose is to provide a safe space for youth, and to the hosting of their 12th Annual My Life, My Future Teen Conference at Temple University the summer of 2014 has been a rather busy season of ‘child helping’ in Philadelphia.
And it is this standard of care and this commitment to the child welfare profession that we the Crittenton of Southern California is proud to be associated with and proud to call YSI family.
Crittenton Services for Children and Families of Southern California (CSCF) is a non-profit social services agency whose mission is to heal the wounds of abuse and neglect; strengthen families; and help troubled adolescents reach their full potential. Established and incorporated in 1966 Crittenton has a highly trained workforce operating 24 hours a day / 7 days a week providing comprehensive counseling, medical, and other support services to the clients in our care. We provide a full array of residential, in-home, community based, wraparound, mental health, foster care, and adoption services with a service planning area throughout Southern California that covers Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties.