Today, I am proud to mark my second anniversary as the CEO of JCCA. All of you have contributed to my understanding of JCCA’s history, our clients’ needs, and the path we need to pursue in our commitment to clients for generations to come. I am grateful to all of you for choosing to work in an organization where, together, we are actively and creatively helping our children, young people, and families transform their lives for the better.
There has been much change during my tenure thus far at JCCA. Two of my priorities have been the modernization of how we manage our work and an organizational structure that is more efficient. In terms of modernization, we have successfully launched an intranet and Microsoft Office 365 is allowing us to work and store data in the cloud, making video collaboration and Skype possible. Lastly, we have upgraded our servers, standardized our operating system, and provided a total of 550 tablets and 400 iPhones in our efforts to enhance communication capabilities throughout the agency. In terms of our organizational structure, I have initiated a fairly dramatic number of staffing changes, including promotions of numerous long-standing JCCA leaders.
While I care deeply about the experience our children, young people, and families have while we are providing them with services throughout the agency, my goal is to ensure that JCCA is in the best position to continue serving New York’s most vulnerable children and families for generations to come. To accomplish this, we must emphasize in all of our decisions that we are a business with a bottom line. Practical good sense requires that we live within our means, ensuring that our expenses do not exceed our revenue.
Fiscal discipline has not always been one of our guiding principles. Without it, however, we jeopardize our future ability to serve children, young people, and families. I recognize that adopting fiscally-stringent standards as our guideposts in practice, after years of emphasizing other priorities, is admittedly a dramatic culture shift that involves a considerable amount of discomfort and causes a sense of uncertainty. I am encouraged by the fact that so many of you have acknowledged the need to be more fiscally responsible and are actively participating in our efforts to do so.
During the past 18 months, we have made the terribly difficult decision to shed about $5 million in programming. We have also restructured other programs to make them more efficient. These efforts will continue. JCCA is a living, breathing organization subject to a myriad of both internal and external environmental influences, around which we must strategize and nimbly adapt. I will continue to meet with staff in town halls to talk about the rationale behind difficult decisions. I am also determined to answer your questions candidly and heartily welcome your ideas. Your creativity, innovative thinking, and new ideas have informed some of the most important recent decisions and new business lines we are pursuing. For example, our recent Health Home sprint reflects how staff from all corners of the agency are collaborating to help clients and the agency’s bottom line.
Our trustees, who are incredibly committed to a long and successful future for JCCA, are looking at whether we may pursue supportive housing, have endorsed our efforts to expand vocational programming, and are eager for us to identify potential partners for strategic alliances that may build on our current practice areas. They have also backed us up as we have dramatically improved the quality of our care on the Pleasantville campus and as we look forward to taking on a second transfer school, Liberation Academy, in Coney Island.
We have a great deal of exciting and challenging work ahead. Given current political realities, our clients are confronting some of the most difficult circumstances in recent history. Watching our clients navigate these changing realities, as we simultaneously address a shifting fiscal landscape, is difficult on many levels. We know that front-line, child-caring, and child-supporting staff have the most challenging roles. I am familiar with what it feels like to witness other people’s suffering and heartache up close. There are devastating images permanently embedded in my brain from the time I spent representing children and hearing family court cases. Secondary trauma impacts front-line workers and we need to continue to address it; however, there is a distinction between our lives and those of our clients. In general, most of us are blessed at the end of each day to go home and appreciate our lives, including our own families. Secondary trauma is entirely different than the toxic stress our clients suffer. The latter affects one’s basic ability to function. Our mission is to support our clients as they heal from the causes of their trauma and the toxic stress they have experienced. All of you should take enormous pride in your decision to commit yourselves to helping others work through their pain. There is no more admirable calling. Thank you.
I am honored to be a part of this historic, dynamic organization. I know that you all continue to provide first-rate services and treatment to some of the most vulnerable children, young people, and families of this great city. That is one of the reasons I chose to come to JCCA, and it remains such.
I would like to mention two shining stars in the JCCA constellation:
- First, preliminary stats from our Early Literacy Project show that over 40% of our foster kids with serious learning disabilities who were eligible for this program advanced two grade levels as a result of just 24 tutoring sessions, and will read by the third grade.
This intervention has the potential to change the trajectory of kids in our care who might otherwise drop out of school or never learn to read.
- The second is the award to JCCA of a small number of long-term foster home “slots” for Unaccompanied Minors in the Bronx. These are children who are essentially refugees, separated from their parents and alone in a foreign country.
I treasure this program because we were founded to serve immigrant children with no place to live. It is heartening and reinforcing that 195 years later, our calling is the same, and that we are indeed repairing the world, child by child.
I am hopeful that you are as proud as I am to be a part of JCCA’s history in the making.