“THE FOUNDLING” AT 150

A major milestone for one of our city’s oldest and most important institutions. Find out how the New York Foundling is still helping children 150 years after it was founded.

For more information on the New York Foundling, click here. 

Aired on September 9, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> NEW YORK CITY, AS YOU KNOW, IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ECONOMIC HUBS IN THE WORLD, A PLACE WHERE A HANDSHAKE ON WALL STREET CAN MAKE OR BREAK BILLION DEALS.

BUT AT THE CORE OF THE BIG APPLE ARE STORIES OF TREMENDOUS CHARITY AND HUMAN KINDNESS.

ONE OF OUR CITY'S MOST VENERABLE IS THE NEW YORK FOUNDLING.

FOUNDED BACK IN 1869 AS A HOME FOR ABANDONED CHILDREN, THE FOUNDLING IS ONE OF THE OLDEST AND LARGEST CHILD WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE COUNTRY, OFFERING AN EXPANSE OF AN ARRAY OF SERVICES FOR UNDERSERVED CHILDREN, FAMILIES AND ADULTS, AND THEY'VE BEEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR AN ASTOUNDING 150 YEARS.

JOINING US WITH DETAILS ABOUT THE FOUNDLING'S PAST, ITS PRESENT AND FUTURE IS ITS PRESIDENT AND CEO, BILL BACCALINI.

ELABORATE A LITTLE BIT ON THE HISTORY, IF YOU WILL, HOW IT WAS ESTABLISHED AND WHAT THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE WAS.

SO BACK IN OCTOBER OF 1869, 150 YEARS AGO THIS YEAR, SISTER MARY IRENE, OUR FOUNDRESS PUT A LITTLE CRADLE OUT ON THE FRONT STEPS.

AND BY 1894, 25 YEARS, OVER 27,000 INFANTS HAD BEEN IN THE FOUNDLING'S CARE.

AND NEW YORK CITY WAS A TOUGH -- ROUGH AND TUMBLE PLACE BACK IN THE LATE 1800s.

AND OUT OF IT CAME, YOU KNOW, SOME SOCIAL ENGINEERING PROJECTS THAT TODAY WE MIGHT LOOK A LITTLE BIT ASKANCE AT.

BUT THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS PEOPLE HAD THE BEST OF INTENTIONS, AND PROST THE MOST WELL-KNOWN IS THE ORPHAN TRAINS.

IT BEGAN AS A REFUGE FOR INFANTS.

SOME PLACE WHERE HERE, GIVE THEM TO US AND WE'LL MAKE SURE THEY'RE CARED FOR.

BUT AS I MENTION BRIEFLY IN THE INTRO, IT NOW, AS YOU SAID, EXPANSIVE.

ALL SORTS OF DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF FOLKS BEING HELPED.

GIVE ME A SENSE OF THAT.

THE SISTERS HAD AN UNBELIEVABLE ABILITY TO RESPOND AND ANTICIPATE THE NEEDS OF THE DAY IN NEW YORK.

SO IF YOU TRACK NEW YORK CITY'S HISTORY, THE FOUNDLING'S HISTORY COINCIDES TREMENDOUSLY.

AND THE SISTERS WERE NEVER -- NEVER FOLKS TO BE STUCK IN THE OLD WAYS OF DOING THINGS.

THEY WANTED TO REMAIN RESPONSIVE.

SO IN JUST -- WE THINK ABOUT IT AS A SHORT 150 YEARS, WE'VE GROWN INTO SO MANY AREAS.

WE ALWAYS WANT TO STAY RESPONSIVE TO THE NEEDS OF THE FOLKS IN THE CITY.

SO TODAY I WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT PROBABLY THE PLACE WHERE WE'VE DOUBLED DOWN ON AS IN EDUCATION.

FROM OUR STILL -- AND I SAY STILL, AND SADLY I SAY STILL, WE OPERATE THE ONLY CHARTER SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY EXCLUSIVELY FOR KIDS IN THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM IN THE SOUTH BRONX.

FROM THAT, WE LOOK AT AND THIS NUMBER IS GOING TO TEAR YOUR HEART OUT.

ONLY 20% OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO AGE OUT OF FOSTER CARE TODAY IN NEW YORK CITY HAVE A HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE.

THAT'S FRIGHTENING.

AND ONLY 3% WILL EVER GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE.

WHAT DOES THEIR FUTURE LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU THROW THIS ON TOP OF THAT?

IF YOU'VE AGED OUT OF FOSTER CARE, THE LIKELIHOOD THAT YOU HAVE ANY SOURCE OF FAMILY SUPPORT IS VERY, VERY LITTLE.

AND SO LEER KIDS EXPECTED TO MAKE DECISIONS THAT ARE GOING TO BE WITH THEM FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE WITHOUT ANY SORT OF EDUCATION.

SO WE HAVE SAID ENOUGH'S ENOUGH.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE KIDS.

IT'S ABOUT THE ADULTS.

THE ADULTS HAVE TO DO THE RESPONSIBLE THING.

REMEMBER, NO YOUNGSTER RAISE HIS HAND AND SAYS OH, CAN I COME INTO FOSTER CARE?

THE CITY REMOVES THEM FROM THEIR HOMES.

WE FEEL LIKE THE CITY HAS AN OBLIGATION BEYOND KEEPING THEM SAFE, TO EDUCATE THEM.

NOT TO JUST SAY WE'LL HOUSE YOU FOR A WHILE AND THEN YOU'RE YOUR HONOR OWN.

THAT'S IT.

NO.

WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO EDUCATE.

AND THE FOUNDLING TAKES THIS VERY, VERY SERIOUSLY.

WE HAVE A HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE SCHOOL TUTORING PROGRAM THAT WE'VE RAISED OUR HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATES TO 90%.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE, AND EVERY STUDY SHOWS IT.

THE GREATEST ENGINE FOR STABILITY AND FOUNDATION IS A GOOD EDUCATION.

YOU HAD A REUNION WEEKEND AS PART OF THE 150th CELEBRATION.

I SAW WHERE YOU SAID IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONAL AND HUMBLING EVENTS YOU HAD EVER PARTICIPATED IN.

TELL ME WHY IT WAS SO MEANINGFUL.

OH, GOSH, JACK.

IT'S EMOTIONAL EVEN TO THINK BACK ON THE WEEKEND, STARTING WITH A MASS AT ST. PATRICK'S ON THURSDAY AFTERNOON THAT THE CARDINAL CELEBRATED TO A RECEPTION LATER ON.

BUT THEN THE NEXT DAY AT OUR CONFERENCE WHERE FOLKS WHO HAD FAMILY TIES TO THE FOUNDLING WERE THERE.

AND THERE WAS WOMAN, I WOULD PUT HER IN HER 70s.

I HOPE SHE IS NOT WATCHING.

I WOULD PUT HER IN HER 70s.

SHE ACTUALLY HAD WITH HER THE LITTLE SHOES AND SOCKS THAT HER MOM WORE WHEN HER MOM WAS PUT ON THE ORPHAN TRAIN IN THE LATE 1880s, AND OUT ULTIMATELY TO SETTLE IN, IN HER CASE, MINNESOTA.

I MEAN, IT WAS SO EMOTIONALLY CHARGED.

THE STORIES OF THE DESCENDANTS OF THE ORPHAN TRAINS WHO WANTED TO UNDERSTAND A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT WHERE THEIR MOM OR DAD OR GRANDMA, GRANDPA GOT THEIR BEGINNINGS.

BOY, TO TALK TO THESE PEOPLE WAS JUST, AGAIN, HUMBLING AND VERY, VERY EMOTIONAL.

REAL QUICKLY BEFORE I LOSE YOU, I'M SURE FOLKS ARE WATCHING THIS AND LISTENING TO THE CONVERSATION AND SAY BOY, I'D LOVE TO HELP.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THE FOUNDLING?

OH, BOY.

GIVE US A CALL.

WE HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO VOLUNTEER.

WE HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO JUST COME VISIT OUR PROGRAM, TALK TO OUR KIDS.

YOU'LL OPEN YOUR HEARTS.

YOU'LL SOON BE OPENING YOUR HOMES, AND MAKE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW FOR SO MANY OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE.

WELL, IT'S BEEN 150 YEARS OF LIFE-ALTERING WORK.

JUST MARVELOUS WORK FOR EVERYBODY INVOLVED.

BILL, THANKS FOR COMING IN.

ALWAYS GOOD THE SEE YOU, AND WE'LL TALK AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE NEW YORK FOUNDLING, MAKE SURE YOU VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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