Throughout the early 1980s, thousands of medically fragile children were left to grow up in New York City hospitals. Referred to as throwaway kids, these children had healthcare and social needs that left child welfare agencies feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of caring for them. New Alternatives for Children wanted a solution to this problem.
Founded in 1982, New Alternatives for Children believes every child deserves a bright future and a safe, nurturing home. To do this, they offer high-quality services to support birth, adoptive and foster families in caring for medically complex children. This includes children with severe physical and emotional challenges and developmental disabilities. By providing these services, they’re able to ensure that children can stay with or be returned to their birth families when possible or that a loving and capable home adopts the child.
Families living in poverty often don’t have the necessary resources to care for children with any type of disability, which often results in the child being removed from the home. But, living in poverty does not qualify someone as a bad parent or mean they’re unable to care for their child. It means they may need a little extra help, especially when dealing with severe conditions that make providing care more difficult. This is why NAC works mainly with families in poverty. By providing services to ensure the physical, educational, social, mental and medical needs are met, these children can stay in the living situation that best suits them. In some cases, the child is unable to remain with their birth family. In those situations, NAC works to find a suitable foster or adoptive home.
In 1985, NAC welcomed their first 15 families. Today, they serve 1,700 children and families each year and offer 52 different services. The services provided fit into four core programs: preventative services, partners in parenting (PIP), foster care and adoption, and post-legal adoption network (PLAN). These services include access to medical and mental health clinics; bridges to health; educational services, recreation and volunteer services; referral, advocacy and emergency services; and transportation.
The services and assistance provided by New Alternatives for Children allow families to bring their medically fragile children home from the hospitals, in some cases, for the very first time. They’re the only child welfare agency in New York City that serves medically fragile children exclusively and offers licensed medical and mental health clinics on site. Through their work, they’ve enabled over 2,900 medically fragile to stay in their communities and prevent long-term hospitalization or institutionalization.