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March 2005Vol. 6, No. 2Supporting Families Facing a Parent's AIDS-Related Death

Families in which a parent is dying from AIDS or another terminal illness face multiple challenges, ranging from custodial planning for the children to addressing psychosocial issues to securing necessary medical care. In cases in which the children were prenatally exposed to drugs or born with HIV, there are additional needs.

The Family Center in New York City was created in 1994 to address the needs of these families and to aid the parents in securing permanency plans for their children. The Family Center staff includes family specialists, attorneys, mental health clinicians, and specialists in substance abuse and entitlements. Staff members work in multidisciplinary teams to assist parents in formulating permanency plans for their children and in carrying out these plans. A family specialist serves as the coordinator for services for each family, usually visiting the family in the home on a biweekly basis.

Services extend to support for the family after the parent's death. New caregivers may require parent training or legal support; family members may need grief counseling or help with entitlements. The Family Center continues to support the newly configured family through the adjustment.

Staff at the Family Center cite six principles that help them to best serve families:

  • Recruit excellent staff members
  • Provide exceptional training and supervision
  • Honor the parent's decisions
  • Link clients to appropriate services
  • Value clients as an important resource, making important contributions to program planning, implementation, and evaluation
  • Ensure service quality and effectiveness through research

The Family Center operates two Children's Bureau grant-funded Abandoned Infants Assistance Projects for families affected by AIDS or substance abuse:

  • Project Protect provides comprehensive permanency planning and support services to help parents develop and legalize custody plans and ensure the permanence of the family.
  • Project Promise provides a variety of educational services for kinship care families, including group sessions, caregiver workshops, and individual visits.

A third program, Family Pride, until recently was funded by the Children's Bureau:

  • Family Pride addressed the psychosocial adjustment of children affected by AIDS through family communication workshops, summer camp, and other events.

For more information about the program, contact:

Ivy Gamble Cobb, Deputy Executive Director
The Family Center, Inc.
66 Reade Street
New York, NY 10007
(212) 766-4522

Note: Project Protect, Project Promise, and Family Pride were funded by the Children's Bureau, Grants 90-CB-0111, 90-CB-0105, and 90-CB-0109, respectively. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.