Cayuga Centers awarded expanded grants by U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement

Mar 21, 2017

Cayuga Centers has become the largest provider of transitional foster homes for Central American children taken into custody while crossing the U.S. southern border.

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has renewed and expanded its grant to Cayuga Centers to provide care under its Unaccompanied Children program. The grant expands an initial agreement in 2014, the year Cayuga Centers began providing short-term care in New York City for 300 children for the federal office.

The grant, renewable for up to three years, will provide care for 600 children in New York City, making Cayuga Centers the federal agency’s largest foster home provider.

“What must it take for me to send my child away,” asks Edward Myers Hayes, president and CEO of Cayuga Centers? “Many of these children have family members in the US and are fleeing dangers in their home countries. That includes violence, gang warfare, sex trafficking, and forced labor.”

Providing care for these children is an outgrowth of Cayuga Centers’ Treatment Family Foster Care programs in Central New York, New York City, Palm Beach County, Fla., and Delaware. Cayuga Centers modified this treatment-focused approach to care for the Central American children.

“We felt matching those children with highly trained, Spanish-speaking adults in New York City would meet their health and emotional needs,” said Hayes. “With a bilingual staff of nearly 400 and several locations in South Harlem and the Bronx, these children receive care, tutoring and support and live in a family home and sleep in their own bed as we locate someone the children know and can be trusted to care for them as their applications to remain in the United States are considered. We are extremely proud of our work.”

By law, the federal government must make sure such children are properly cared for.

Cayuga Centers’ short-term, transitional program includes physical and mental health screenings and matches them with trained Spanish-speaking foster families. They attend an agency-operated learning center, which introduces them to American-style classrooms and teaches U.S. cultural skills and values.

Clinicians complete a mental health assessment and give the children trauma-focused therapy. To qualify family members to eventually sponsor the children, case managers conduct background checks and other screenings. The children are transported after an average 22 days to federally approved sponsors.

“The quality of our foster parents is the Cayuga Centers difference,” said Troy Brathwaite, chief operating officer for New York City offices. “We are among the few programs sheltering these children that were expanded while several were not renewed.”

Placing children in foster homes as opposed to institutions creates safety for these children who are escaping a great deal of violence and trauma, said Melinda Jimenez, the vice president for the Cayuga Centers program.

 The program has attracted the attention of international visitors. The Guatemalan Consul, Myriam Liseth De La Roca Alvarez, toured the program last spring and met with children and foster families. The First Lady of Honduras, Ana García de Hernández, visited in 2015 and said, “Thank you for your great work with our children. It makes such a difference for them to be in a home.” 

 The agency has received a second federal contract to start long-term foster care for youth who do not have sponsors but can’t be deported because their lives may be in danger in their home country. This grant is for 12 foster homes; seven new staff members will support this program.

“We will specialize with teens, particularly those who are highly traumatized, and have been subjects of victimization and violence,” Hayes said. “They are looking to be safe.  We will provide a safe, stable environment and a therapy-rich program as they work out their legal status.”

“Our recent growth with our Unaccompanied Children program complements the increased work we are doing with both NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services in Treatment Foster Care, and increased home-based services we are doing for Cayuga County Department of Social Services.”

 “As we grow, we remain committed to Auburn as our corporate headquarters,” Hayes says. “This new growth means we now have 86 positions supporting national operations. We could locate those staff members anywhere, but we choose to house them in Auburn. From this location we are poised to seek new opportunities and to mobilize quickly.”

The expansion in foster beds requires an increase in staff of 91 positions, including clinicians, case managers, teachers, teacher aides, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, youth transportation specialists, skills trainers and case aides. At the same time, agency support staff for IT, HR, and Finance will increase to provide the infrastructure to undergird the growth. 



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