Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” The de-institutionalization movement of the seventies and early eighties had laid the foundation for significant social change, and the presidential proclamation called upon Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential. In this month’s newsletter we celebrate the work of our dedicated staff and the achievements of our clients in our DDSP program.


CGS’s DDSP Dinner Dance & Awards Ceremony

Each year Catholic Guardian Services holds a formal end-of-year Dinner Dance and Award Ceremony to recognize and celebrate both our clients and staff. In December of 2016, our Developmental Disability Services Program (DDSP) Dinner Dance was held at Maestro’s Catering Hall. Over 300 people were in attendance, including new Board Member Ellen Gallagher and her husband; Chairman of the Board, Rory Kelleher; representatives of Terry O’Neill’s family; representatives of The Office for People With Developmental Disabilites; Kevin C. Riley, Community Relations Director from Assemblyman Carl Heastie’s office; and Kenny Agosto representing Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s office.


This year The Terry O’Neill Self-Advocacy Award was awarded to David Uphold from Westhampton Beach IRA. David was living in a supervised IRA with 24 hour staffing. During his time in CGS’s care, he has achieved his goal of becoming more independent. David is now living in a supportive IRA with minimal staff support. He prepares his own meals, food shops, and goes to medical appointments by himself.  David has demonstrated self-determination in actualizing his life’s goals and dreams. 

The Tim Carey Personal Achievement Award was given to Shirley White from Hollis IRA. Shirley has been in our care since 2009. She is quite a go-getter and, along with several of her peers, has been instrumental in forming a Self Advocacy group. Shirley is planning to move into an apartment of her own.


The Terry O’Neill Advocacy Award was awarded to Donna Whyte, Quality Assurance Coordinator. This award is given each year to a CGS staff person who is recognized for being a strong advocate for the rights and needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, and for being an encouragement to those who can self-advocacy.


The Tim Carey Professional Service Award was given to Sandra Phillips, Regional Coordinator, for living the CGS mission in support of the individuals and the staff of the Developmental Disability Services Program.


Family Reunion and 58th Birthday Celebration

In December of 2016, CGS client Sherry Winters, at the request of her family, traveled to Boca Raton Florida for a family reunion and a surprise 58th birthday celebration. Accompanied by CGS staff, Sherry traveled to Florida where she met an uncle whom she had not seen since the age of 10. Her mother was ecstatic to see Sherry and especially to hear her talking, as she had never before heard her daughter speak. Sherry relished the attention and was happy to be around family. The reunion was gratifying for everyone!



Pope Francis will lead the Church in celebrating the 25th World Day of the Sick

Commemorating World Day of the Sick

On February 11, the twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick will be celebrated throughout the Church. Pope Francis entitled his message for the 2017 celebration of the World Day of the Sick “Amazement at what God has accomplished: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me…’ (Luke 1:49).” 

Pope Francis said the commemoration “gives the Church renewed spiritual energy for carrying out ever more fully that fundamental part of her mission which includes serving the poor, the infirm, the suffering, the outcast, and the marginalized.”

This commitment to the suffering, ill and infirm is a part of CGS’s mission, which we fulfill through our different programs, including our Developmental Disability Services Program and Special Medical Foster Program. We are grateful to our dedicated staff for their solicitude to all our clients.

This is also an occasion for those of us at Catholic Guardian Services to thank the foster parents in our Special Medical Foster Program for the care and dedication they give to children with serious illnesses.

CGS Staff Helps to Feed New York

Robbie Orlando has been a leader in the annual food drive for 3 years. He has worked at CGS for 33 years.

Robbie Orlando has been a leader in the annual food drive for 3 years. He has worked at CGS for 33 years.

CGS Participates in Catholic Charities’ Feeding Our Neighbors Food Drive

Each year Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York undertakes its food drive, Feeding Our Neighbors, to feed the poor and homeless. This year’s food drive is a special milestone, as Catholic Charities celebrates its Centennial. 

Catholic Guardian Services employee Robbie Orlando shows the same commitment to the food drive as he does his career. “I believe that we all have a role in helping our fellow New Yorkers. I am lucky to be able to help others through my work at Catholic Guardian, but I also believe it is important to give more of myself when I can,” says Robbie. 

There is just one goal for Feeding Our Neighbors: to ensure that no hungry neighbor is turned away.




Christmas Giving on a Huge Scale

Every year Catholic Guardian Services gives the children in our foster care programs the best possible Christmas by providing each child with at least two Christmas gifts. We have over 600 children of all ages in our care, and CGS makes it a priority to ensure that every child knows she or he is special. Through the Wish-List Appeal held each Fall at the Child of Peace Awards Dinner, supporters of the agency make pledges to support our Christmas gift efforts. Board members and volunteers also get involved. One family has taken the Christmas gift campaign to a new level. Kelly and Sean Britain have been gathering gifts since Sean joined the Board several years ago. Their efforts started small and grew over time. They did their work quietly along with their friends in their community and this year they alone have gathered more than 100 gifts for children in Catholic Guardian Services’ Foster Care programs. “We know how magical it is for a child to wake up on Christmas and see gifts. Sean and I love seeing that joy in our own children’s faces and want to know that children in foster care are experiencing that joy on Christmas morning as well,” says Kelly. “Christmastime is the season of giving and it brings our family great satisfaction to know that we are helping to give children a happy Christmas,” adds Sean. 

The Britain children with gifts that they helped to collect for foster children.   

The Britain children with gifts that they helped to collect for foster children. 


National Adoption Month and Melanie’s Story

For over two decades, National Adoption Month has been celebrated across the country. Many agencies throughout the country with foster care, kinship care, and adoptive family groups will arrange programs, events, and activities during the month of November to raise awareness for children and youth in foster care who are waiting for permanent families. At Catholic Guardian Services, more than 100 children are adopted by their foster care family each year. When a child is adopted a permanent foundation begins, allowing growth and improving his or her quality of life.

Melanie Rose was only six months old when she was placed into the non-kinship foster home of Mrs. Jennifer Mcburnie and her family. As an infant she was welcomed into the Mcburnie family enthusiastically, where all her needs were met. The Mcburnie family provided the loving and caring environment Melanie needed. When she was four years old she became eligible for adoption and the Mcburnies knew they wanted to be her parents. Melanie was adopted on August 17, 2016 and continues to be a happy and healthy little girl—now Melanie Rose Mcburnie. 

Melanie Mcburnie and her parents, Leo and Jennifer Mcburnie, with Judge Sarah Cooper.

Melanie Mcburnie and her parents, Leo and Jennifer Mcburnie, with Judge Sarah Cooper.


             A Special Happy Birthday...

Anthony Trifaro, a resident at our home for adults with developmental disabilities on Dresden Place on Staten Island, celebrated his 86th birthday on October 30th. The celebration was made more special by a Wheel of Fortune cake baked for Anthony by our facility maintenance coordinator Omadat “Sammy” Punsammy and his wife. Anthony is a big Wheel of Fortune fan and was excited to see – and taste! – this special gift. “Anthony was torn between eating the cake or spinning it!” says Rose Smith, Catholic Guardian Services’ Residence Manager.  

Anthony has lived at our Dresden residence since October 1, 1998. He resided with his family for most of his life and has a strong bond with them. Anthony is a very happy and funny man who enjoys his friends at Dresden Place. He likes to make people laugh when he dances. In addition to watching Wheel of Fortune, Anthony also enjoys the television show Jeopardy!. On Thursdays the Dresden residence has karaoke night and Anthony is always an enthusiastic participant. Anthony has a large collection of stuffed animals and likes to wear rings and watches. 

Anthony enjoying his Wheel of Fortune cake.

Anthony enjoying his Wheel of Fortune cake.

     Misericordia Heritage Group Gathering

Each year CGS Executive Director Craig Longley and his team travel to Canada, to meet with the Misericordia Sisters and update them on the work of our Rosalie Hall Maternity Services Parenting Resource Center, which was named for Rosalie Cadron- Jetté, the founder of the Misericordia Sisters. Rosalie Cadron- Jetté was a widow who took it upon herself to care for unwanted infants in the middle 1800s and the mission of the Misericordia Sisters has always been caring for infants in need. CGS’ Parenting Resource Center is part of this tradition, and serves hundreds of pregnant and parenting women and their infants and young children each year.

At this year’s retreat in Montreal, CGS staff member Edwina Webster presented on the special work of our program in celebration of the Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis. “Mercy is what allows us to look at our clients with understanding and provide the service they deserve,” says Edwina. A baby shower was hosted for Catholic Guardian Services Rosalie Hall Maternity Services Parenting Resource Center and presented at the retreat. “This baby shower provided many parenting essentials and will help many families in our care,” Edwina reports.   


Visiting with the Misericordia Sisters, Edwina Webster, Craig Longley and Catrina Davis.

Visiting with the Misericordia Sisters, Edwina Webster, Craig Longley and Catrina Davis.



Celebrating National Foster Care Month

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services named May National Foster Care Month to raise awareness about foster care and the 400,000 children in foster care in America. As one of the largest foster care providers in the city and state of New York, Catholic Guardian Services knows the importance of foster parents and the care they give to children of all ages. "We know that children are the future, and providing them with the best possible care ensures a bright one," says Craig Longley, Executive Director of Catholic Guardian Services. CGS has more than five hundred children in our care. In 2014, 265 children in CGS’s Foster Care Program were reunified with their parents and 78 were adopted into "forever families."


Last month, CGS hosted the first Annual Alumni Reunion for CGS’s Congregate Care Program. Over 50 former residents and CGS staff came together to reconnect. Attendees included alumni who had been in CGS foster care dating back as far as thirty years ago. Over ten alumni stood to give testimonials and share stories of triumph against the odds. All of them took the opportunity to directly thank CGS staff for their unwavering love and support over the years. Sunday Odua, Director of Congregate Care, conceived of the idea for the annual reunion over six years ago. After searching for foster care alumni on Facebook, Sundaydiscovered an overwhelming desire from former residents for a formal reunion. It was a tearful and joyful reunion for all!

Director of Congregate Care, Sunday Odua pictured with former resident Starr Thompson. Starr recently graduated with her B.S. in Nursing Sciences and is currently a Reserve Officer in the United States Navy. She is the mother of two and engaged to be married this year. Starr’s advice to current residents, "This is not the end for anybody. Do not let the circumstances of your childhood hold you back."

Catholic Guardian Services (CGS), founded in 1899, is one of the largest social service agencies in the state. CGS is a sophisticated human services non-profit organization with programs that respond to the most vulnerable people in the New York City metropolitan area. Our mission is to protect and nurture disadvantaged children and individuals with disabilities, to increase their prospects for self-sufficiency, to strengthen the family structures integral to their support, and to continually adapt our responses to their ever-changing needs.


Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month

        April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Department of Health and Human Services wishes to raise awareness of the problem of child abuse and to educate the public on the best ways to prevent abuse. This is a problem all of us need to be aware of because it is all around us. In 2012, 1,593 children died because of abuse or neglect in the United States, and of those, 70.3% were younger than three years of age. Child abuse prevention needs to begin early.

        At Catholic Guardian Services, we strengthen families to help ensure that children are protected from abusive situations before they arise. Healthy families raise healthy and happy children. Our preventative services programs are focused on helping families who may be at the brink of crisis to survive and grow closer. Through our Family First, Family Unity, Healthy Families New York, and other programs, families are given the support and help to acquire the skills needed to deal with challenges, obtain referrals to community and educational services, and get mental health services when needed. Also of vital importance in preventing abuse and neglect is the parenting education provided by our Parenting Resource Center, which helps mothers and fathers learn not only the basics of child care, but how to deal effectively and safely with the stresses of parenthood and their own trauma from neglect and abuse in their pasts. At Catholic Guardian, helping families in crisis overcome their difficulties and begin to thrive is our passion.

        Catholic Guardian Services (CGS), founded in 1899, is a sophisticated human services non-profit organization with programs that respond to the most vulnerable people in the New York City metropolitan area. Our mission is to serve those in need, to aid those who desire help, and to guide those who seek better lives. Through supportive interventions, we provide help, create hope and preserve dignity. For more information, visit: