2016-10-20 / Around Town

'Support in a Continuum of Care'

By Betsy Sherman Walker

The Home for Friendless Children at 24 School Street opened in 1866 and was renamed The Children’s Home of Newport in 1956. The Home for Friendless Children at 24 School Street opened in 1866 and was renamed The Children’s Home of Newport in 1956. The sentiment, etched in stone on a granite bench at the top of Queen Anne Square, is so powerful that it stops the reader in his tracks:

“There is no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”

The words, written by Nelson Mandela, were selected by the group overseeing Child & Family’s celebration, launched last January, of its 150 years as a presence in Newport County. Mandela wrote it – and read it – in 1995, at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. When the bench was dedicated last July at the Community Family Day Celebration, the words were presented as a vivid visual of what Newport, as a community, aspires to be. Part admonishment and part validation, explains Child & Family’s Keith Tavares, they were embraced by the board, staff, and planners as a powerful way to capture the mission and the message of its yearlong celebration.

From 1878 until 1946, today's Child & Family was known as The Charity Organization Society of Newport. From 1878 until 1946, today's Child & Family was known as The Charity Organization Society of Newport. “A year,” says Tavares, vice president of institutional advancement, “that has more than met our expectations.”

The last item on the sesquicentennial calendar will be Child & Family’s signature fundraiser, the 33rd annual Taste of Newport, on Sunday, Oct. 30, at the Hotel Viking.

In a year of so many events devoted to the theme of “Strengthening the Fabric of Family,” a few things stand out in Tavares’ mind. Beginning with the January kickoff, he adds, “Things continued nonstop throughout the year.”

The Statewide Conference in May, held in Providence, addressed the needs of Rhode Island’s youth. It drew 300 people, bringing together social service organizations, leaders, and funders, all focusing on the transformation of care. “It was a full day,” he says, “of experts in the field of child welfare” talking about best practices for saving and nurturing the state’s most vulnerable children.

The gala in August, which raised nearly $130,000, also stands out. In the midst of the festivities (which included a successful silent auction), Matthew Peterson, Child & Family manager of residential services, stood up and delivered a powerful story about how volunteering at a group home while a student at Salve Regina inspired him to change his career path. “He brought the room to his feet,” says Tavares.

In that room was the Rev. Anne Marie Richards, the rector of Trinity Church. “Child & Family has a long history with Trinity,” Tavares explains, “going back to the turn of the [20th] century. I love Anne Marie.” He recalled how Richards grabbed the reins and initiated an impromptu giving pyramid, from gifts of $250 up to $2,500. “Within five minutes, we had raised over $30,000,” he says.

Yet, with all the signature events and fundraisers, Tavares is quick to point out that behind the outward show of support is something of far more value. Child & Family, its legacy, and its future would be nothing without the broad and deep support of the community which has, since 1866, embraced and sup- ported it.

Beginning with a special shoutout to the quartet of 150th Celebration co-chairs, Andrea Breyer, Nicholas Brown, Ann Conner, and Sara Hiebner, he then moved from the many event hosts to “the corporate sponsors, myriad businesses and corporations,” not just in Newport County, but throughout the state, including the Prince Charitable Trust and the Rhode Island Foundation. “They all helped us pull it off.”

The "Nelson Mandela" bench, one of two dedicated last July at the Community Family Day Celebration. 
(Photo by Betsy Sherman Walker) The "Nelson Mandela" bench, one of two dedicated last July at the Community Family Day Celebration. (Photo by Betsy Sherman Walker) He sees it as a type of community partnership, a collective consciousness that makes up Newport’s “soul,” as Mandela would call it. That bench, and its partner, engraved with the Biblical “Jesus said, ‘Let the children come unto me,’” – was a result of linking up Memorial Funeral Home, which funded them, with the John Stevens Shop, which did the engraving, and the historic relationship with Trinity Church. “This is a community,” says Tavares, “invested in the well-being in the welfare of its neighbors.”

Still, no one would say the job is done. In Newport County, Tavares says, “we all go about our daily business. We go to work, we feed our kids, we mow our lawns. But so few people have a real idea of what goes on behind the scenes.”

To a comment about the fact that Newporters seem to be a caring and generous crowd, Tavares presents statistics that nationwide, Rhode Islanders are not known for being good givers. According to a 2012 report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the six New England states, philanthropically speaking, came in dead last. The Ocean State came in at 46, below Connecticut’s 45th place.

And that is also part of Child & Family’s mission, to “make sure that families are supported and to make sure the community understands that the need exists.”

There was even the recent annual meeting at Rosecliff on Sept. 29, which drew more than 200 people. “They came to hear about the state of child welfare in Rhode Island and what needs to be done.” Again, needs come to the fore.

Moving forward, Tavares outlined three basic needs.

“We need to focus on family preservation,” he says. “How we can best support families in Newport and throughout Rhode Island; how to serve children, seniors, teenagers, individuals.” He calls it “support in a continuum of care.”

Second, the organization needs to initiate and roll out programs with the best practices in mind. And third, the organization needs more funding, which translates into statewide leadership.

“Child & Family is focusing on how to take a leading role, not just in Newport County, but throughout Rhode Island.” If there is a stronger presence in state government, he predicts, the funding will follow.

This year’s Taste of Newport, with its singular $75 ticket for an “extended cocktail party” (and no later sit-down dinner at an additional price), is aiming to attract a younger crowd. Demographically, he adds that the donor base is older.

“They still support us and are extremely loyal.” They are excited to see a new, younger base of families “stepping up to support the community” and hoping to watch that develop.

The 33rd Annual Taste of Newport is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 30, from 5:30-8 p.m., at the Hotel Viking. For more information about Child & Family and A Taste of Newport, go to childandfamilyri.com.

Timeline of Care

1866: The Civil War ends in 1865 and one year later the Home for Friendless Children opens its doors at 24 School Street, Newport, RI.

1878: The Charity Organization Society of Newport is founded and is renamed “Family Services Society” in 1946.

1917: The Home issues its first appeal for funds during Christmas. 100 paper bags are distributed and 90 are returned, providing abundantly for the Home.

1924: The Home establishes a daycare for children of working mothers.

1929: The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known at Black Tuesday, ushers in the Great Depression along with 2,263 applications for assistance, an increase of 882 more than any year in the Home’s history.

1932: “We plan that each child have at least a dime to spend.” (December Log).

1956: The Home for Friendless Children is renamed The Children’s Home of Newport.

1960: Orphanages become obsolete nationwide and the Home transitions into a short-term Emergency Care Facility.

1966: The Home celebrates its Centennial Anniversary.

1968: The Home adds Counseling Services, becoming a “Case Work Agency.”

1970: The Home and The Family Services Society merge to become Child & Family Services of Newport County (CFS). CFS establishes its Elder Services program.

1982: CFS establishes a formal Volunteer program.

1983: CFS hosts the first annual Taste of Newport.

1986: CFS opens the Portsmouth Center, it’s first Residential Group Home for children.

1988: CFS constructs a second program and services site on Valley Road in Middletown.

1996: CFS opens Winslow Place, a shelter for homeless women & their children.

2007: CFS rebrands to Child & Family.

2009: Child & Family moves from its home of almost 145 years to the newly constructed multi-service Community Center in Middletown.

2012: Child & Family is selected as one of two lead agencies in the State’s new System of Care for children & families and acquires Casey Family Services’ Foster Care program.

2013: Child & Family opens a second multi-service Community Center in Providence.

2013: Child & Family expands its Elder Services program to Providence.

2015: Child & Family conducts Strategic Plan.

2016: Child & Family commences its 150th Anniversary celebration.

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