Guidance Center Golf and Tennis Outing Raises $150K,” Long Island Business News, June 9, 2022

Guidance Center Golf and Tennis Outing Raises $150K,” Long Island Business News, June 9, 2022

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center raised $150,000 at a recent golf outing to support children’s mental health.

This year marked the 25th anniversary for the event, the Jonathan Krevat Memorial Golf & Tennis Classic, which was held at the Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Heights.

The funds raised supports the centers work in bringing “hope and healing to children and families dealing with mental health or substance use challenges,” according to the organization.

And more than $25,000 in additional funds were raised for the Guidance Center’s Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, which was launched in September 2020.

This year’s honoree was Jeff Krevat, a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center and founder of the Krevat Cup, which is named in honor of his brother.

“The mission of the Guidance Center is more important than ever before, with children and teens suffering from serious mental health challenges,” Krevat, a former board member, said in a statement. “I am grateful to my friends and family for coming out to honor my brother’s legacy and support an organization that makes a real difference for the kids in our community.”

Rachel Priest, a mental health professional who was a Guidance Center client as a teen, was this year’s speaker.

“The life-affirming care I received from the Guidance Center saved my life,” she told the audience.

“I was able to accomplish wonderful things over the years both socially and academically” because of the dedication, skills and compassion of her Guidance Center therapists,” she added. “Knowing that the care I received over 20 years ago is still available and expanding lets me know that the Guidance Center is still changing lives every day.”

Michael Mondiello, Dan Oliver, Michael Schnepper and Troy Slade co-chaired the event. Dan Donnelly served as the event’s emcee and auctioneer.

“I consider it a privilege to be here today to help raise money to support the incredible work that truly makes a difference in the lives of children and their families,” he said.

The Guidance Center’s Work “Beyond Our Walls”

The Guidance Center’s Work “Beyond Our Walls”

By Kathy Rivera, published in Anton Media, May 27, 2022

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is known throughout Long Island as the preeminent mental health organization for youth and families, providing individualized, culturally sensitive therapeutic services that serve to bring hope and healing to those experiencing mental health challenges. For nearly 70 years, the Guidance Center has been listening to your needs and concerns, and responding swiftly and compassionately. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share with you some important information on our offerings. 

As we told you in our April Anton column, we shifted to a hybrid model of service within days of the pandemic’s beginning, seeing clients both in person and via a secure telehealth platform. 

But if you picture the work of the Guidance Center as taking place only inside our three buildings or via a virtual platform, with a counselor and client sitting in an office or communicating via a smartphone or computer, think again. Many of our innovative programs happen beyond our walls, in places that range from state parks to schools to homes. 

The Guidance Center’s Wilderness Respite Program, now in its 23rd year, provides a unique opportunity for at-risk adolescents to put down their tech devices and participate in hikes and other nature activities that help them gain confidence and make lasting friendships. 

Nature takes a leading role in our two Organic Gardens, located at our main headquarters in Roslyn Heights and our Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center in Manhasset. By weeding, seeding and tending to the crops, kids blossom as they learn important skills such as self-confidence, cooperation and responsibility.

The Guidance Center also has a Nature Nursery, where our youngest clients use all their senses as they touch pinecones or paint on an outdoor “canvas.”  The textures, sounds and sights help children explore their creative sides and learn skills to help cope with difficult feelings.

In addition to therapy, our Latina Girls Project incorporates monthly outings to places such as theaters, museums and more. These trips boost the teens’ confidence and sense of independence and help them discover the larger world. In 2019, the trips expanded to include outings for boys that also have been a huge success.

Students from 5-21 who’ve had a hard time succeeding in school have a great alternative with our Intensive Support Program (ISP), held at three Nassau County B.O.C.E.S schools. There, they receive academic help and counseling, with therapists on site to help them flourish emotionally and academically.

We also work in Westbury high school and middle school with our Teen Intervene and Too Good for Drugs programs, designed to prevent substance and alcohol use. 

For children and teens who need our help but can’t come to our offices, the Guidance Center provides intensive in-home therapy with our Clinical Care Coordination Team (CCCT). CCCT aims to lessen acute symptoms, restore clients to prior levels of functioning, and build and strengthen natural supports. Through CCCT, our goal is to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits, hospitalizations and residential placements.

Our Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative (CCSI) supports families with the coordination of services in their homes and communities, identifying and accessing resources, providing advocacy and helping children and families gain the skills and tools needed to be self-sufficient.

Through our Family Advocate Program, parents who have been through mental health crises with their own children are trained to offer peer support for families by joining them at special education meetings, offering support groups and providing many other resources. 

In addition, we have enhanced services to the clients in our Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program by adding yoga classes and self-care outings.

As you can see, the Guidance Center is always thinking “outside the box,” creating innovative programs that meet the needs of the community and enhance the therapeutic value of all our services. We are here for you!

Bio: Kathy Rivera, LCSW, is the Executive Director/CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading non-profit children’s mental health organization. To get help for your child or to support the Guidance Center’s lifesaving work, call (516) 626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.

How to talk to kids about the Texas school shooting

How to talk to kids about the Texas school shooting

Newsday, By Beth Whitehouse, May 26, 2022, featuring Kathy Rivera, Executive Director/CEO, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

Click here to watch a powerful video posted with this article.

“Am I safe?” 

That may be the first reaction of school-aged children when they hear about Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas that left 21 people dead. “Most children want to know, ‘Am I going to be OK? Are you going to be OK? Is this going to happen to me?’,” said Mary Pulido, executive director of the Manhattan-based New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 

Long Island social workers and psychologists offered advice for parents: 

See what your child knows. Ask if they’ve heard any news that they want to talk about, and if so, what they heard, advised Kathleen Rivera, executive director and CEO of North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center, with offices in Roslyn, Manhasset and Westbury. “Let the child use their own words to tell their own story. Sometimes you need to know what you’re working with before you can take proper action,” she said. Correct misinformation and talk to them in ways appropriate for their age. 

If you think they haven’t heard about the shooting, you may wonder whether you should bring it up. While you know your child better than anyone, experts generally suggest introducing the topic. With cellphones and TV ubiquitous, chances  are if they don’t hear about it from you, they will hear about it from someone else when you aren’t there to help them manage their reaction, Rivera said. You don’t need to be detailed, experts said. Kids understand the concept of good and evil.

Emphasize that many people work every day to keep them safe. Tell them, “Days, months, and years have gone by when you are OK and adults have protected you,” said Don Sinkfield, vice president of The New Hope Mental Health Counseling Services in Valley Stream. Outline in concrete terms that it’s your job to protect them, and that many people — from the President of the United States to their local police department to their individual teachers — are protecting them as well, experts said. “You can’t promise them something that is false — ‘it will never happen again,’” Rivera said. But remind them that their school has plans for how to keep them safe; you could review those plans, but don’t contradict the school’s protocol, experts said. 

Don’t have the conversation at night. A lot of parents connect with their children at bedtime. That may not the best time to broach the topic, said Laurie Zelinger, a child psychologist in private practice in Cedarhurst who spent 19 years as an elementary school psychologist in the Oceanside School District. “If you have a child who is particularly anxious or sensitive, have the conversation early in the day,” she advised. Give them a chance to absorb the information and ask questions. 

Keep children away from constant news. “Please turn off the TV, stop the social media apps,” Rivera said. “Stay present with your child.” 

Be conscious of your own reaction and how you are expressing it. “It can have a trickle-down effect,” Rivera said. This shooting happened on the heels of the mass shooting in a supermarket in Buffalo, so adults are feeling vulnerable as well. “We didn’t have a chance to recalibrate,” she said. 

If your child is afraid to go to school and really needs a day to stay home for a day, that may be OK. “Right after a tragic event, kids can have acute stress. You want to be able to help kids resurrect a feeling of safety, and they will feel safer at home,” said Zelinger, who is also the author of the children’s book, “Please Explain Anxiety to Me” (Loving Healing Press, 2014). 

This is not a “one and done” conversation. “As a parent, you have to do a temperature check on your child,” Rivera said. They might be OK today, but not tomorrow. Parents should look to community resources, she said. “We are a phone call away.”

Responding to the Crisis in Children’s Mental Health

Responding to the Crisis in Children’s Mental Health

By Kathy Rivera, published in Anton Media, April 27, 2022

As of this writing, while COVID-19 cases have been inching up, most experts say that we have moved into a new phase of the pandemic, where the disease, while still dangerous, is less deadly than previous strains. In addition, preventative measures and treatments have advanced far beyond the early days of the crisis, when so little was known.

Certainly, that is news we’ve all been hoping to hear for more than two years, but there is another crisis that shows no signs of abating: the epidemic of mental health issues spurred by long-term social isolation, anxiety, illness, financial insecurity and other challenges. 

While all of us have been impacted, the reality is that children, teens and young adults have experienced the losses surrounding COVID-19 in deep and potentially long-lasting ways. Numerous studies have reported sharp increases in rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide attempts. In addition, the number of U.S. children who have a lost a parent or other caregiver to COVID-19 is estimated to exceed 200,000.

In a first-of-its-kind study of youth mental health during the pandemic period, released on March 31, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a dramatic increase in emotional and psychological trauma in kids and teens. More than a third of high school students said they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, with 44% reporting they felt “persistently sad or hopeless.” One in five considered suicide, and nearly 10% made a suicide attempt. 

The CDC also reported that, during the first seven months of lockdown, hospitals experienced a 24% rise in mental-health-related emergency visits for children aged 5 to 11, and a 31% increase for those aged 12 to 17.

Sadly, these statistics came as no surprise to the team of clinicians at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center).

From the early days of the pandemic, we have been flooded with calls from hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, parents, schools and others desperate for help as they saw those statistics come to life.

At the Guidance Center, we’ve provided therapy to children—some as young as three years old—who are experiencing deep grief from the loss of a parent or other loved one. Many are grieving a loss of hope and confidence about their futures. Others are in dire financial situations born of pandemic job loss. All lost fundamental things that we used to take for granted: the ability to be with friends, go to school, celebrate joyous occasions, participate in extracurricular activities and have confidence that we were safe in the world. 

Even if the pandemic disappeared tomorrow, the mental health effects would not disappear with it. Unfortunately, we cannot expect our children to simply get over what has been such a profoundly difficult, scary and uncertain time.

Despite these gloomy predictions, parents need not succumb to hopelessness. You have a vital role to play, and it’s one that can make all the difference in helping your children survive and even thrive despite the challenges of the past two years.

First, be on the lookout for signs of emotional distress. Is your child or teen isolating themselves, even though they are allowed to be with others? Have their sleeping or eating patterns changed? Have their grades dropped dramatically? Have they lost interest in the things that used to make them happy? Are they more irritable than usual? Have they turned to substances to improve or numb their moods?

Don’t assume that they will tell you they’re struggling. Ask them how they are feeling. Assure them that it’s normal to be feeling sad, scared and even angry in the face of all they’ve experienced. And tell them there is absolutely no shame in asking for professional help. Tell them, it’s OK not to be OK.

The Guidance Center has been serving the community for nearly 70 years, and we are here during this time. We never turn anyone away for inability to pay, and we promise to see urgent cases within 24 to 48 hours through our Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project and our Fay J. Lindner Foundation Triage and Emergency Services. We offer individualized, culturally sensitive treatment via telehealth, in person or a combination of both, depending on the needs of the family.

Children are not little adults. They have specific needs that are best addressed by mental health professionals who are specially trained to help young people. They are also resilient, and with the proper support, they will overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic. We all will.

Bio: Kathy Rivera, LCSW, is the Executive Director/CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading non-profit children’s mental health organization. To get help for your child or to support the Guidance Center’s life-saving work, call (516) 626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.

Guidance Center In-Person Lunch Set for April 28

Guidance Center In-Person Lunch Set for April 28

Published in Long Island Business News, April 18, 2022

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center will host its annual spring luncheon – this year in-person – on April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Glen Head Country Club.

After a  cancelled 2020 event and a virtual 2021 luncheon amid COVID, this year’s event continues to raise funds to support the organization at a time of “heightened anxiety and depression among children and teens,” according to the organization.

The day includes mahjong, canasta and bridge, as well as boutique shopping for jewelry, clothing, accessories and housewares.

Keynote speaker is Leg. Josh Lafazan who has passed bills that address the opioid epidemic, caring for veterans and advocacy for those with disabilities.

This year’s spring luncheon co-chairs are Jan Ashley, Amy Cantor and Alexis Siegel.

Photo: This year’s spring luncheon co-chairs are Jan Ashley, Amy Cantor and Alexis Siegel.

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

This story will be published in Blank Slate Media newspapers in April 2022

Helping Your Child Through Divorce

In this monthly column, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center answer your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email communications@northshorechildguidance.org.

Question: After much discussion, including couples therapy, my husband and I have decided to divorce. We both know it’s the right thing to do, but we’re very worried about how our kids (we have two girls and a boy, 5, 8 and 10) are going to handle it. Can you offer some advice on how we can best support them during this difficult time? 

— Splitting Up

Dear Splitting Up: 

The rise in divorce rates in the pandemic period show that you and your husband are far from alone: In 2021, the COVID-19 crisis triggered a nearly 21% increase in divorce filings compared with the previous year.

Whenever there is a separation or divorce, there is no way around the fact that your children will be impacted in profound ways.

And, while divorce doesn’t have the same stigma it did years ago, it still is a difficult event in a young person’s life.

The dissolution of their parents’ marriage can create enormous stress for youngsters. Divorce can be devastating to the children’s feelings of safety, causing fear of abandonment and fear of losing a parent’s love. The result: Anxiety, depression and low self-esteem are common.

Guilt is often another problem, as many children blame themselves for the divorce, believing that it is somehow their fault and that if they had just been “good,” the separation never would have happened. 

In addition, many parents make the mistake of talking negatively about their ex-spouse in front of their children. This upsets them because they see their parents as their caretakers, and they need to feel safe and supported by both of them. 

When parents put their kids in the middle of their battles, the children struggle with issues of loyalty. Even if they are very caring parents, they may do things inadvertently that cause distress to their child, such as asking the child to talk with the ex-spouse about a change in weekend plans instead of dealing with the adult directly.

Here are some tips on how to help your children deal with divorce:

  • Be supportive, reassuring your kids that both of you will always love them and be there for them. 
  • Encourage them to speak to you openly about all their feelings, and validate that those feelings are normal and completely acceptable.
  • Learn how to co-parent the children so there is no confusion on discipline. Rules about bedtime, homework and the like should remain consistent.
  • Never talk negatively about the other parent in front of the children.
  • If possible, show a united front by attending events like back-to-school nights, games and other activities together.
  • Let their teachers know about your separation so they are on the lookout for any troubling behaviors from your children.
  • Foster the relationships your children have with your ex’s family so they don’t feel the loss of those attachments.
  • Consider placing your child in a therapeutic group so they don’t feel like they are alone in their experience. Many schools have programs like “Banana Splits” offered by school-based social workers.
  • Be sure to get support for yourself through this process through friends, family members and professional therapy, if needed.

Remember, the post-divorce relationship with your ex-spouse is perhaps the most important factor in how well your children handle the matter, so do your best to get along for their sake. Knowing that they are loved no matter what by both of you is the most important message. During the pandemic, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is seeing clients both in person and remotely via a telehealth platform. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971 or email intake@northshorechildguidance.org

Guidance Center Luncheon Returns to Glen Head Country Club!

Guidance Center Luncheon Returns to Glen Head Country Club!

Event will feature Mahjong, Canasta, great shopping and more

Roslyn Heights, NY, April 7, 2022 — North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading children’s mental health nonprofit, is thrilled to announce the return of its in-person annual Spring Luncheon, a highly anticipated event that was cancelled in 2020 and virtual in 2021 due to the pandemic.

While the 2021 online luncheon was very successful due to the dedication of longtime co-chairs Jan Ashley, Amy Cantor and Alexis Siegel, the Guidance Center’s devoted supporters are eager to be together to celebrate and raise funds for the organization’s work, which is more important than ever during these times of heightened anxiety and depression among children and teens.

We are excited to be returning to the elegant Glen Head Country Club on Thursday, April 28th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The day will begin with Mahjong, Canasta and Bridge, along with unique shopping boutiques from some of Long Island’s trendiest and most charitable small business owners, including Anatomie, Bonnie’s Nuts, Chintz Giraffe, Dale’s Knits, Daniella Erin NYC, DASH, Designer Sunglasses, Designs that Donate, Freida Rothman Jewelry, Funky Tykes, Roadie Couture, Simply Splendid, Tall Order and Transitions.

The jewelry and apparel are always favorites, but just as chic are the fashionable purses, accessories and housewares. There will also be plenty of opportunities to participate in raffles for luxury prizes, including a $500 gift certificate to Americana Manhasset

The keynote speaker for the Spring Luncheon will be Legislator Josh Lafazan from the 18th District. In 2017, at 23 years of age, Lafazan became Nassau County’s youngest-ever legislator. Currently serving his third term, Lafazan has passed a record number of bills that address a variety of issues such as the opioid epidemic, caring for veterans, and being an advocate for those with disabilities. 

Sponsors of the event include: Americana Manhasset; Anton Media; Jan Ashley; Blank Slate Media; Amy & Dan Cantor; Ruth Fortunoff Cooper; Fara & Richard Copell; Farrell Fritz, P.C.; Stephanie & Ian Ginsberg; Joan Grant; Dorothy Greene; Klipper Family Foundation; The Kupferberg Orlando Team at Douglas Elliman; Nancy & Lew Lane; New York Community Bank; NYU Langone Hospital – Long Island; Cynthia Rubinberg; Michelle S. Russo P.C.; Alexis & Howard Siegel; Signature Bank – Garden City;  South Oaks Hospital – Northwell Health; and Zucker Hillside Hospital – Northwell Health. 

Registration is now open, and sponsorships are available by visiting the Guidance Center’s website, northshorechildguidance.org/luncheon2022/ or calling 516-626-1971, ext. 309. 

About Us:As the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is dedicated to restoring and strengthening the emotional well-being of children (from birth – age 24) and their families. Our highly trained staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors and other mental health professionals lead the way in diagnosis, treatment, prevention, training, parent education, research and advocacy. The Guidance Center helps children and families address issues such as depression and anxiety; developmental delays; bullying; teen pregnancy; sexual abuse; teen drug and alcohol abuse; and family crises stemming from illness, death, trauma and divorce. For more than 65 years, the Guidance Center has been a place of hope and healing, providing innovative and compassionate treatment to all who enter our doors, regardless of their ability to pay. For more information about the Guidance Center, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org or call (516) 626-1971.

Supporting the Well-being of All Mothers and Babies, By Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust

Supporting the Well-being of All Mothers and Babies, By Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust

At North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, our mission is to bring hope and healing to children and families experiencing depression, anxiety and other challenges. Although we are a children’s mental health organization, we know that emotional well-being and physical health are inexorably tied, each deeply impacting the other. 

The Guidance Center has several programs that promote the health of mothers and children. One is our Good Beginnings for Babies program, which aims to promote healthier pregnancies that will result in healthier babies and to nurture relationships between parent and child. Good Beginnings for Babies supports teen and young adult mothers prior to the birth of their child and throughout the first year of the child’s life with support, counseling and advocacy.

Through our Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program, we provide a rapid response and diagnosis for mothers suffering from postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which are estimated to impact one in seven women.  

As part of our educational and advocacy work, the Guidance Center partnered with Hofstra University’s Public Health Program, School of Health Science and Human Services to create Birth Justice Warriors, an initiative born out of the crippling bias and injustice faced by Black mothers in the United States in general and in Nassau County in particular.

According to the New York State Department of Health, a Black woman is up to four times more likely to die in childbirth than a white mother. In Nassau County, the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 9.4 for Black babies versus the 2.2 reported for white non-Hispanic babies.

Birth Justice Warriors are volunteer advocates from many professions and backgrounds, working with community members, pediatricians, nurses, health care professionals, elected officials, members of faith-based institutions and others to bring education and awareness to this inequality. Ultimately, one of Birth Justice Warriors’ goals is to have legislation written that guarantees that this crucial information is delivered to all women of child-bearing age.

In late January, I joined with Dr. Martine Hackett, my Birth Justice Warrior co-founder and an associate professor in the public health and community health programs at Hofstra, at a press conference held by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The senator, along with Representative Alma Adams of North Carolina, are the sponsors of the Maternal CARE Act, which would provide funding for evidence-based training programs to reduce bias in maternal health and establish programs to bring health care services to pregnant women and new mothers in an effort to reduce the disproportionate rate of maternal death and other poor health outcomes among Black women and their babies.

In her statement, Gillibrand said the following: “Health equity for Black women can only happen if we recognize and address persistent biases in our health system and do more to ensure women have access to culturally competent, holistic care to reduce preventable maternal mortality.”

Both North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center and Birth Justice Warriors support this important legislation, and we hope that you will join us in spreading the word so that allwomen receive the care they need and deserve.

Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust is the Director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center’s Leeds Place and is a co-founder of Birth Justice Warriors, a collaboration of the Guidance Center and Hofstra University. To learn more about Birth Justice Warriors, contact Dr. Walthrust-Taylor at (516) 997-2926, ext. 229, or email NTaylorWalthrust@northshorechildguidance.org.

Guidance Center Welcomes New Board Member, Long Island Business News, April 22, 2022

Guidance Center Welcomes New Board Member

Roslyn Heights, NY, March 29, 2022 — The Guidance Center is pleased to announce that Mary M. Margiotta, a Principal in the Ernst & Young’s Financial Services International Tax and Transaction Services practice in New York, has joined our Board of Directors. Mary, who has over 25 years assisting clients in pricing and valuation issues, with a special focus on the banking and capital markets and insurance industries, will serve as Treasurer of the Guidance Center’s Board.

“As a parent, I have seen how important mental health is for children to develop into happy and successful adults,” said Margiotta. “Especially in today’s high-stress world, children need and deserve the opportunity to have access to the life-changing and often life-saving services provided by the Guidance Center. I am thrilled to be able to help make it possible for more Long Island families.”

Margiotta earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany and master’s and PhD degrees from Carnegie Mellon University. She is a past assistant professor of accounting at The University of British Columbia.

“Mary will be an incredible asset to our board,” said Paul Vitale, President of the Guidance Center Board of Directors. “Her keen insight and deep knowledge of financial matters make her the perfect person to take on the role of Treasurer.”

Margiotta and her husband, Vasu Krishnamurthy, are residents of Manhasset and are the proud parents of two college-age daughters, Nina and Mia. Margiotta previously served as Treasurer of the Manhasset Saturday Series program and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Andrew Carnegie Society at Carnegie Mellon University.

To learn more about the Guidance Center, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org or call (516) 626-1971.

About Us:

As the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is dedicated to restoring and strengthening the emotional well-being of children (from birth – age 24) and their families. Our highly trained staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors and other mental health professionals lead the way in diagnosis, treatment, prevention, training, parent education, research and advocacy. The Guidance Center helps children and families address issues such as depression and anxiety; suicidal thinking; developmental delays; bullying; teen pregnancy; sexual abuse; teen drug and alcohol abuse; and family crises stemming from illness, death, trauma and divorce. For nearly 70 years, the Guidance Center has been a place of hope and healing, providing innovative and compassionate treatment to all who enter our doors, regardless of their ability to pay. For more information about the Guidance Center, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org or call (516) 626-1971.

Long Island Seniors Learn to Grow Up Fast in Pandemic Era

Long Island Seniors Learn to Grow Up Fast in Pandemic Era

By Dandan Zou, Featuring Dena Papadopolous from the Guidance Center, Published March 22, 2022 in Newsday

Click here to watch the interview with Ashley Rivas

Ashley Rivas had to grow up fast during the pandemic. 

At age 15 in early April 2020, she shielded her 8-year-old sister from the details of their mother’s hospitalization due to COVID-19, a newly known virus that also had forced schools to close statewide. 

When their mother was in the hospital, the teen helped her father sanitize the house and washed clothes for the family. She also took on the role of caretaker for her sister, helping her with homework in between their online classes. After her mother was released from the hospital two weeks later, she brought her food and cared for her while she was recovering. 

“I was trying to keep my house together with my mom being sick and trying to be the next her,” Rivas, a Hempstead High School senior, recalled. 

Rivas, now 17, is expected to be among about 35,000 Long Island students graduating in June, representing a milestone for a class that has weathered two years of pandemic learning. The students Newsday spoke to said they matured faster during the pandemic, when they had to take care of family members sickened with the coronavirus, and became more disciplined because of their virtual and, later on, hybrid schedules.

Some seniors said they have gotten back to normal since the school mask mandate ended on March 2. They look forward to resumed field trips, get-togethers with friends, the prom, graduation and adulthood. Others noted school is still not the same amid the uncertainty, lamenting lost opportunities to grow friendships, along with the missed basketball games and concert rehearsals that could not to be rescheduled. 

Dena Papadopoulos, a mental health counselor at Roslyn Heights-based North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, said this senior year has been marked by amplified excitement, but also anxiety. 

“There is that … general anticipatory anxiety that ‘I’m excited for college’ or ‘I’m excited about the next step,’ but ‘I’m also anxious because I don’t know exactly what to expect’ ” in any given senior year, she said. Now, “It’s more intensified.” 

‘Stronger than I thought I could be’ 

In the spring months of 2020, Rivas was struggling.

“The teachers didn’t really know how to work with Zoom; my mom was in the hospital, I think. And then it was also around my birthday,” she recalled. “Everything was just falling apart.” 

Because school was virtual and New Yorkers were urged to stay at home, Rivas found herself with a lot of alone time. 

One day when scrolling TikTok, she saw people crochet. She had never done it before but decided to give it a try. She bought some yarn and watched tutorials online. Soon enough, she made a bee plush and put it on Etsy. It sold the next day. She sold about 20 more later. 

Rivas always has been interested in business. When she was a first-grader, she sold purses made out of duct tape to her classmates for $3 apiece. She also has considered becoming a schoolteacher like her mother did in her home country of El Salvador. 

Her bee plush success helped crystallize the path she wants to take. Rivas said she plans to study business administration or economics for her undergraduate degree, though she’s yet to choose a college. National College Decision Day is May 1. 

The experience also taught her something else. 

“I think I matured a lot quicker,” she said. “It made me realize that maybe I hadn’t known who I really was. There were parts of me that I didn’t even know about. … I’m stronger than I thought I could be.” 

To protect her mother, who still has a dry cough, Rivas continues to wear a mask in class for the most part. 

“It’s still not the same,” she said of school. “It’s always in the back of your mind that there’s a global pandemic going on. And you have to be careful.” 

Had to become a ‘mini adult’ 

Zakkiyya Fraser, 17, a senior at Valley Stream Central High School, remembered looking to adults for answers in the early days of the pandemic. 

And not getting them.

It took Fraser some time to learn to accept the unknown. “It’s like you become a mini adult,” she said. 

“The pandemic may have made us grow up in a [different] way,” she added. “Having that mindset of still being a child but having to function almost as an adult has been very challenging, I think, for all high school students.” 

When school turned remote and, later on, hybrid, Fraser said she pushed herself to become more independent. The routine structured by a typical school day was no longer there, and the inconsistency of learning online was difficult for her to adjust. 

“Being on the computer is like, not necessarily that you’re forgotten, but much harder to connect in the classroom,” she recalled. “It’s harder to grasp the content. It’s almost like you’re there, but not there.” 

Ian Hua, a William Floyd High School senior, can relate.

“We didn’t have a school schedule to keep us on track. We needed to manage our own time without a bell,” the 18-year-old said. “We didn’t have teachers to ask questions to. We did, but it was much harder to communicate.” 

Still, Hua said he feels “overwhelmingly lucky” compared to other student cohorts who were affected by the pandemic differently. 

“There were seniors that had their final events taken away. They had no prom. They had no graduation,” Hua said. “Then there are younger kids that never had a first year of kindergarten. … Honestly, I feel very thankful.”

Shifting his perspective 

Timothy Hogan, a senior at East Islip High School, didn’t begin to appreciate school until it was shut down. 

Before, it was like “you can’t wait to leave,” the 17-year-old said. “With COVID, it made me want to go to school in person.” 

The pandemic also has taught him that the things he used to not give a second thought are not a given. 

“Whether it’s family, school, your friends, going out to see a movie or to shop, you can’t take those things for granted,” Hogan said. 

Sharing similar sentiments, Daniel Frankenberry, 18, said he grew closer to his family.

Those first few months of staying at home allowed him to spend more time with family, an experience that confirmed his desire to stay in or near New York when choosing a college. “It reinforced the idea that I wanted to stay home,” he said. He’s yet to decide which college to attend. 

Looking back, Frankenberry felt like part of his high school years was stolen. 

The better part of “my second half of sophomore year just didn’t exist,” the Garden City High School senior said. 

His junior year was spent under such heavy restrictions — plastic shields around desks, social distancing and masking — that he said regular interactions were greatly reduced. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Frankenberry said. “Definitely a little bit upsetting. It’s a shame that [we] couldn’t get the full experience.” 

Frankenberry is hanging out with his friends as much as he can and planning social activities — almost as if to make up lost time. 

“I can’t say I’m trying to fix everything,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to make all that time back. But you have to enjoy what time you still have left … before graduation.” 

With Michael R. Ebert

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

Published in Blank Slate Media, February 25, 2022

In this monthly column, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center answer your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email communications@northshorechildguidance.org.

Question: I have two daughters, 9 and 13 years old. While my youngest tends to approach life with a laid-back attitude, my older one has always been prone to anxiety. Even before the pandemic, she was having panic attacks, but they’ve gotten much worse in the past two years. I had hoped that the return to school and other “normal” activities would help, but it’s gotten so bad that she is avoiding social situations and spending most of her time in her room. How can I help her get over her anxiety?

–Parent Puzzled by Panic

Dear Parent Puzzled by Panic: Anxiety is a normal part of life, for both kids and adults. It would be difficult to find a child who, at some point, didn’t worry about monsters in the closet, or feel apprehensive on the first day of school. Moreover, the last two years have heightened feelings of anxiety for everyone, with the losses, fears and other difficult emotions that have arisen from the pandemic.

In most cases, children’s anxieties are eased with reassurance, love and comfort from an adult in their lives. But for some young people, anxiety is a constant companion. It is part of their everyday lives, and it can seriously impair their functioning. It can lead to debilitating panic attacks, which are characterized by symptoms such as shortness of breath, shaking, dizziness, heart racing and intense fear.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly a third of adolescents have an anxiety disorder, with about 8% suffering from severe impairment that leads to poor performance in school or missing school altogether; avoiding social situations; isolating; and/or using alcohol or drugs to mask the pain. They often feel alone and ashamed, and their anxiety can contribute to other conditions such as depression and eating disorders.

Studies show that during the COVID-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety in kids and teens doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels. One in 4 youth have significantly higher depression symptoms, while 1 in 5 are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.

Although the cause of anxiety and panic attacks is varied, it can include a trauma, a divorce or death in the family or a physical illness. Plus, some people may be biologically predisposed to anxiety and panic attacks.

Here are some suggestions on how to help:

  • Encourage your daughter to speak openly about her feelings. She needs to know that she isn’t at fault when she experiences symptoms of anxiety or panic.
  • Assure her that, although she may feel she is crazy or is going to die, she is not in any danger.
  • If she associates a certain place (such as school) with a panic attack, she may start avoiding that situation. Gentle, gradual exposure is essential, since continued avoidance only strengthens the pattern.
  • News and social media can impact children much more than adults, causing them to feel unsafe in their environment, so it’s wise to monitor what your children are watching on TV and on social media.
  • Make sure she eats healthy meals, gets enough sleep and exercises. Being physically healthy can lessen the effects of anxiety and panic.

Some other important steps to take include getting an evaluation from a medical professional to rule out any physical ailments that may contribute to anxiety. 

The good news is that panic and anxiety disorders are very responsive to treatment, so contact a mental health agency or professional. Tell your daughter that seeing a therapist is a perfectly normal thing to do, and that many kids who experience anxiety are helped through therapy.

During the pandemic, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is seeing clients both remotely via telehealth platforms and in person, depending on the clients’ needs. To make an appointment, call 516-626-1971 or email intake@northshorechildguidance.org

Know the Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Know the Signs of Teen Dating Violence

February 23, 2022, Parenting Plus in Anton Media, by Elissa Smilowitz

Recently, the distraught parents of a local eighth-grade girl contacted North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center because their daughter was severely depressed. They shared that in the past few months, she had been the subject of harassment and cyberbullying from her ex-boyfriend, who had spread false rumors through social media that she was pregnant. He’d also texted her calling her derogatory names, and he hinted that she “better watch her back.”

To their surprise, the parents learned that the boyfriend had treated their daughter poorly before the breakup. Now, she had reached the point of expressing suicidal thoughts, saying that she just wanted to just disappear.

The high-risk Triage & Emergency team at the Guidance Center determined that the case was urgent and made an appointment to see the family the very next day. These therapists, who had received special training through the Guidance Center’s Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, were able to work with the girl to help her realize that her boyfriend’s tactics—isolating her from her friends and family, making her feel unworthy of any connections with others outside of the relationship and sharing damaging social media posts—were his way of making her feel worthless so he could control her. 

Abusive behavior among teens and pre-teens is nothing new, but in the age of technology, abusers have a new tool that can spread their hurtful, hateful messages like wildfire. But whether it’s through social media or in person, the problem is extremely damaging to its victims, and can even turn deadly.

February has been designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, which acknowledges how serious and widespread a problem this is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of males experienced physical and/or sexual dating violence. In addition, 1 in every 5 students between the ages of 11 and 14 say their friends are victims of dating violence, with nearly half experiencing verbal abuse.

Common warning signs of dating abuse include:

  • Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Constant belittling or put-downs
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Constant mood swings toward their significant other
  • Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling someone what to do
  • Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex

How can parents try to prevent their child from becoming a victim of abusive dating behavior? Monitor your kids’ social media usage. Discuss the importance of respect in a relationship. Share the warning signs with them. Most important, always let them know you are there to help, not to criticize; this will help them feel they can come to you for advice.

If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, such as isolation, anxiety or depression, ask them directly what’s going on. They need to know you are there to listen to them in a loving manner, without judgment.

Though demeaning, threatening behaviors are clearly unacceptable, it can be difficult to convince a teen that his or her partner is being abusive. It’s important that young people who have experienced this kind of abuse receive mental health treatment to improve their feelings of self-worth and help them move forward. Through individual and group therapy, they develop the strength and tools to recognize that their relationship is toxic and to learn what a loving, respectful relationship is like.

Bio: Elissa Smilowitz is Director of Triage, Emergency & Suicide Prevention at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading children’s mental health agency. To learn more, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org or call 516-626-1971. For help at any time of day or night, call the 24-hour hotline at the Safe Center LI, 516-542-0404.

LI Herald Editorial: Congress Should Support Maternal Health Grants, Feb 3, 2022

LI Herald Editorial: Congress Should Support Maternal Health Grants, Feb 3, 2022

Featuring Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust and the Birth Justice Warriors, a program co-founded by Taylor-Walthrust and Martine Hackett of Hofstra University.

In Nassau County, babies in communities of color are significantly more likely to die during or shortly after birth than in predominantly white communities.”

U.S. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, last week called on Congress to provide $7 million to fund evidence-based training programs to reduce implicit bias in maternal health, and $25 million to establish a program to deliver integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers that will reduce the inordinately large number of maternal deaths among Black non-Hispanic women.


It is an urgent issue, including here in Nassau County, one that the Herald first called on government officials to address in 2019. We are pleased to see that Gillibrand has taken up the cause.


Three years ago, the Herald undertook a year-long series examining racism in Nassau. We led with an exposé on issues of maternal health faced by Black women throughout the county. In particular, we looked at the group Birth Justice Warriors, founded by Hofstra University Professor Dr. Martine Hackett and the Rev. Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, a pastor and the director of outreach services for the North Shore Child Family Guidance Center, a nonprofit mental health agency with offices in Roslyn Heights, Manhasset and Westbury.


Among the central issues that Birth Justice Warriors is working to address is infant mortality, which is a leading indicator of a community’s well-being, according to the Nassau County Department of Health’s 2016-18 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan. When children are dying in high numbers at birth — the start of life — there are probably myriad other health concerns in a community.


In the majority of white communities across Nassau, the infant mortality rate ranged from 0 to 3 in 1,000 births in 2014-16, according to the state Department of Health. Meanwhile, in most communities of color, the infant mortality rate was three to nine times that.


In its annual rankings of healthiest counties in New York, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, working with data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranked Nassau the second-healthiest of the state’s 62 counties this year. When that data is broken down into individual ZIP codes, however, a disturbing pattern is made clear in communities of color, Hackett said: Babies there are significantly more likely to die during or shortly after birth than in predominantly white communities.


County officials identified nine communities of color and communities with large minority populations — Elmont, Freeport, Glen Cove, Hempstead, Inwood, Long Beach, Roosevelt, Uniondale and Westbury — with measurably greater health concerns than nearby white communities.


Nassau is the 13th-wealthiest county in the U.S., with an average annual household income of around $93,000, according to census data. “The affluence of the county as a whole masks the needs of these severely underserved selected communities,” the county’s report states.


Taken as a whole, the infant mortality rate in these communities is “nearly double that of the rest of the county,” the report continues.


The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the discrepancy on a discrete factor like income level, according to Hackett: Women with fewer financial resources are unable to afford the same level of care that women of greater means can. But statistics tell a more complicated story.


How, for example, does one explain Elmont, a solidly middle-class community of color with an annual average household income of $94,353, above the county average? It has the second-highest infant mortality rate in Nassau.


Access to health care alone “is not sufficient” to explain the disparities in health outcomes, Hackett said. Bias and systemic racism also play their parts, she believes.


Clearly, issues of implicit bias, and at times outright racism, come into play, even in the medical field. It’s time that the federal government study and address them so all of us can better understand the psycho-social complexities of the doctor-patient relationship that can determine maternal health outcomes. 


February is Black History Month. Historically, there is a great deal of mistrust in Black communities of the medical field because of past wrongs, not the least of which was the infamous “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” from 1932 to 1972, when Black sharecroppers with the venereal disease were left untreated to see what would happen, even after penicillin, a cure for syphilis, was widely available after 1945.


The only way to build trust in Black communities is to address their issues head-on, with science-based studies and programs, as Gillibrand has proposed. Congress thus should appropriate the funds that the senator seeks.

Ask the Child Guidance Experts

Ask the Child Guidance Experts

Is it more than the winter blues?

In this monthly column, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center answer your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email communications@northshorechildguidance.org.

Question: My daughter is a mostly happy teen. Like all kids, she gets down sometimes, especially during the pandemic. But what I’ve noticed is that her mood seems to change dramatically in the winter. She becomes lethargic, unmotivated and sad. It’s a very noticeable difference from other times of the year. Is this a common thing with teens? What can I do to help her?

  • Feeling Blue for My Girl

Dear Feeling Blue: It sounds like your daughter may be one of the six percent of the population who experiences SAD, which stands for seasonal affective disorder. While some level of winter blues isn’t uncommon, for some people, the shorter, darker and colder days that characterize this time of year cause clinical depression.

While SAD typically begins in a person’s early 20s, older children and teens can develop the condition.  More than simply the “winter blues,” SAD is characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness nearly every day. People with SAD are unable to enjoy the activities that typically make them happy; they have difficulty concentrating and are often tired and/or agitated.

Two chemicals in the brain—melatonin and serotonin—are responsible for regulating energy, sleep cycles and mood. During winter’s darkness, melatonin levels increase, causing sleepiness and fatigue. Serotonin, which is sometimes referred to as the feel-good chemical, is produced in greater amounts with exposure to sunlight, and we naturally get less light in the long, cold days of winter.

Some people suffer from a lesser form of SAD, whose symptoms include low energy, weight gain, craving carbohydrates and social withdrawal.

Some other facts: Females are about four times more likely to develop SAD than their male counterparts. People with a history of depression are more prone to experiencing symptoms of SAD.

Here are some strategies that you can share with your daughter, whether she experiences full-blown SAD or the milder winter blues (and most of these are useful tips for everyone year-round!):

  • Get as much direct exposure to sunlight as possible.
  • Since being out in the sun can be difficult this time of year, either due to cold temperatures or long days inside, consider purchasing artificial “sunbox” lights. Their special fluorescent tubes mimic the sun’s beneficial rays (plain lights don’t have the same effect).
  • Keep or start an exercise routine. If it’s not too cold out and it’s a sunny day, try to walk outside to reap the benefits of being in natural sunshine—but even if you work out indoors, it will have a positive impact on your mood.
  • Turn up the heat (between 64 and 70 degrees) and drink hot beverages.
  • Eat healthy foods, with a focus on fruits and vegetables. That’s good advice any time of year, but especially important in winter when your cravings for sugar and carbohydrates tend to increase.
  • Don’t give in to the urge to isolate. Seeing friends and attending social functions are crucial to putting a damper on the blues.
  • Keep active by engaging your creative side, whether it be taking up a new hobby or reintroducing a former favorite pastime. Encourage your child to participate in after-school clubs and other activities.
  • Take up meditation and other mindfulness-based practices. You can find literally thousands of guided meditations on a free app called Insight Timer.

Finally, keep in mind that if your daughter’s depression is impacting her ability to function, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional—regardless of the season.

During the pandemic, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is seeing clients both in person and remotely via telehealth platform. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971 or email intake@northshorechildguidance.org.

Gillibrand Seeks Funds to Reduce Deaths among Pregnant  Women

Gillibrand Seeks Funds to Reduce Deaths among Pregnant Women

By Robert Brodsky, Newsday, January 24, 2022

Black women in Nassau County and across the country are facing a “mortality crisis” that has left women of color three times more likely to die during labor or in the first year after giving birth compared to white women, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said at a news conference Monday in Roosevelt.

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote this week to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee, calling for the fiscal 2022 funding bills to include $7 million for evidence-based training programs to reduce bias in maternal health and for $25 million to establish a program that delivers integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers.

“This is a crisis and it is a result of long-standing inequities in our health care system that we must address,” Gillibrand said outside of the Roosevelt Family Health Center. “We can’t accept the idea that black families and children losing their mothers is business as usual. We have to do more to support black women.”

The United States, experts said Monday, has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world — approximately 700 pregnancy-related deaths each year — with the numbers driven largely by high death rates among Black mothers. CDC studies have found that two-thirds of those deaths were preventable.

Meanwhile, the overall maternal mortality rate in New York State is 10% higher than the national average, with the risks growing even higher during the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials said.

In Nassau, the highest maternal mortality rate is in Roosevelt, followed by Hempstead and Westbury, said Dr. Nellie Taylor Walthrust, co-founder of the Westbury-based Birth Justice Warriors, a group that advocates for pregnant women.

Experts Monday attributed the disparity among Black mothers to a lack of affordable housing, proper health care and nutrition, along with discrepancies in medical care for women of color.

“Whether you analyze the research or listen to the experiences of black women, you’ll find a strong pattern of unequal treatment by health care providers during pregnancy and labor,” said Dr. Martine Hackett, the other co-founder of Birth Justice Warriors.

Gillibrand’s letter called for the allocation of $25 million to establish a Pregnancy Medical Home Demonstration Program that would deliver health care services to pregnant women and new mothers. She also supports adding $7 million for Implicit Bias Training Grants for medical and nursing school students to reduce bias and errors in judgment or behavior.

Dr. Tarika James, chief medical officer of the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Center, said comprehensive improvements are needed in the care of Black mothers, including standardization of care, improved patient education, and addressing “social barriers that prevent patients from getting much-needed services in a timely way. All of those things … can make a big difference in our community.”

Robert Brodsky is a breaking news reporter who has worked at Newsday since 2011. He is a Queens College and American University alum.

When Parents Have No Place to Turn

When Parents Have No Place to Turn

By Paul Danilack, Published in Anton Media, January 20, 2022

Growing up, Timmy appeared to be a little bit different than other children his age. He would cry often and have frequent temper tantrums. His parents brought him to see an early intervention therapist, and his symptoms lessened for a few years. But in middle school, his frustration returned in the form of anger, both verbal and physical. Typical back talk turned into confrontations.  Timmy would throw objects and began to attack his parents. They eventually reached their limit and started giving into his behaviors to stop the fighting.

Timmy’s parents felt alone and helpless. They didn’t know where to turn to get their child the care he so desperately needed until a school guidance counselor suggested they call North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center and ask about the Family Advocate Program.

Through this innovative program, parents who are overwhelmed trying to navigate the maze of services available for their child are paired with one of the Guidance Center’s Family Advocates. These credentialed professionals aren’t therapists; rather, they are parents of their own children with special needs and are trained to educate, teach, guide and empower other parents to better understand their children and their needs.

With an individualized, family-driven approach, the Guidance Center’s Family Advocates meet with the parents to learn about their child’s particular issues. Some children have serious behavioral problems, acting out verbally or even physically. Some refuse to go to school. Some struggle with severe anxiety or depression. Many of the problems children are living with have been exacerbated by the stresses caused by the pandemic.

Family Advocates provide a wide range of information and support, attending evaluations with parents; going to CSE (Committee on Special Education) meetings; helping build skills within the family to manage difficult behaviors; finding residential placement when indicated; and seeking inpatient hospitalization if needed. In addition, while Family Advocates don’t provide therapy, they can help parents and their children access those services.

Family Advocates work with parents and the child’s therapist to help design a plan to modify their youngster’s negative behavior. For example, Family Advocates help parents create behavioral charts to develop a uniform approach of rewards and consequences. These strategies help motivate children to listen more carefully and respond in appropriate ways. Moreover, Family Advocates can act as a bridge to many services, such as the school, individual counseling, case management and more, so everyone involved in the child’s life are on the same page when it comes to addressing his or her needs.

Families with children who have developmental disabilities often feel secluded and without support. The Guidance Center’s Family Advocates are well informed about New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities as well as the process to become eligible for those services, which include respite counselors, community habilitation workers and housing availabilities, among others.

Another important feature of the Family Advocate Program is a weekly support group (now mostly virtual, though in person once a month), where parents share their challenges and successes, bouncing ideas off each other, talking about what worked and what didn’t, and building a social support network with others who are experiencing similar challenges. They learn that they are not alone, and they develop close, caring relationships with their parent peers. 

In summary, Family Advocates work to empower each family with a personalized approach, with recommendations and assistance based on what’s best for each client. They care deeply about every family as demonstrated by their compassion toward and knowledge of what can be a very difficult situation. 

Bio: Paul Danilack is the Supervisor of High-End Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading children’s mental health organization. To learn more about the Family Advocate Program, contact him by phone at 516-626-1971, ext. 303 or email pdanilack@northshorechildguidance.org.

These Long Islanders go over-the-top on indoor holiday décor, and admit it, Published in Newsday, December 20, 2021

These Long Islanders go over-the-top on indoor holiday décor, and admit it, Published in Newsday, December 20, 2021

Decorating for the holidays is a national pastime and a drive around Long Island this time of year is a brilliantly lit eyeful. But what goes on outside homes — the lights, the sleighs, the reindeer — sometimes pales compared to holiday decorating inside. It’s individualistic, often meaningful and occasionally over-the-top.

Why do people do it? “I think a lot of holiday decorating is born of nostalgia … because it recalls memories of childhood and family,” says Hadley Keller, the digital director of House Beautiful. “Plus,” she adds, “for the past few years, I think we’ve all been driven to find more joy in our surroundings at home, leading to an upped ante with holiday decorating — a phenomenon we dubbed ‘Christmaximalism.’ “

Walter Dworkin, 77, of Westbury, is a major holiday decorator himself and an expert on vintage holiday collectibles who has written a book on the subject. “Tradition is a key word,” he says. People do it, “for the enjoyment of passing on traditions from one holiday to the next. It’s an escape from our busy, hectic lives and an inviting way to share nice memories and happiness.”

Speaking of inviting and sharing, three Long Islanders welcomed us into their homes to see their takes on going a-l-l out for the holiday and told us their stories. Fa-la-la-la indeed.

The staircase at the home of Jo-Ellen and Ira Hazan is always sweeping and dramatic, but come the Christmas holiday, well, it’s nuts … as in nutcrackers. For about two decades, Jo-Ellen has been collecting nutcrackers of every variety, and size: Statues of Liberty, “Wizard of Oz” characters, a ballerina, golfers, a fisherman and even a Hanukkah nutcracker, (both for her husband — an avid fisherman who is Jewish). She says, “When I see a nutcracker, I say to myself, ‘No I don’t need one more,’ but then I get it. Nutcrackers are like a magnet for me.”

The set up: Each season, Jo-Ellen carefully unwraps her nutcrackers which have been packed away in the attic. “I’m like ‘oh yeah’ I remember this one’ and I’m glad to see them. It brings back the feeling of when my kids were little,” she says of her two adult sons. “I place them and then I sit at the bottom and look up the stairs and move them around a lot. I try to mix them up by size — a big one first, a small one next.”

Why she does it: “I’m obsessed with holiday decorating, but it’s a good obsession,” she says. When people visit, “it puts a smile on their face. They say, “Oh my God, how long has it taken you to collect these? I feel accomplished, happy and joyful.” And she explains, “My mother always said to keep tradition and have stopgaps otherwise life can just roll one day to the next. I’ve taken that to the nth level.”

The Pandemic’s Unsung Heroes, By Bruce Kaufstein

The Pandemic’s Unsung Heroes, By Bruce Kaufstein

All of us – no matter where we live, where we work or whether we consider ourselves left or right or somewhere in the middle – share at least one thing: We are eternally grateful for the dedication of the doctors, nurses, EMTs and other frontline responders who have worked tirelessly, even when tired-to-the-bone, throughout the pandemic.

In the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, we all remember how residents of New York City took to the streets or their balconies each night at 7 p.m. to bang on pots to show their appreciation for the work of these healthcare heroes. It was a moving sight amid so much tragedy.

But there is another group of heroes that have rarely been given the credit they deserve during these challenging times: parents.

Although children and teens sometimes forget that their parents are real people with real struggles of their own, mothers and fathers have had to deal with enormous stresses as a result of the pandemic. They’ve had to deal with social isolation, job insecurity, financial hardships, family health crises, loss of loved ones and more. Through it all, they’ve needed to be there for their kids, reassuring them that normal life would return.

Parents had an enormous amount to deal with. Young people who already dealt with various mental health issues found their symptoms heightened, while many others experienced those challenges for the first time. Depression and anxiety were (and continue to be) widespread, but many kids exhibited an increase in anger, aggressiveness and impulsivity as they attempted to manage remote schooling, the loss of social connections and activities, and the lack of privacy and space that came with 24/7 togetherness with family.

And, as kids and teens tend to do, they often took out their frustrations on their parents.

At North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, we recognized early on that the pandemic would put a strain not only on kids but also on their families. We started a series of free, virtual Pandemic Parent Support Groups where mothers, fathers and other caregivers could express their own frustrations and learn from others that they were not alone.

With the guidance of one of our therapists, they shared ideas for helping children structure their time. They spoke of the struggles of remote schooling and learned coping strategies. They learned how to be a “container,” or a kind of safety valve, for their children’s feelings. And they were given a safe space to express their own fears.

Today, in what is often called “the new normal,” most of us are in a different place when it comes to the pandemic. Kids are back in school; the vaccine has provided a level of comfort that didn’t exist in the early days of the virus; and we are able to be out and about in the world once again, albeit with precautions and wariness.

Still, the challenges for kids and parents alike are far from over. We are just beginning to realize how the pandemic has impacted our children’s feelings of security and wellbeing, while still dealing with our own fears. Uncertainty remains about what will happen in the future.

But one thing gives me comfort: After witnessing the courage, steadfastness and love parents displayed during these last 19 months, I am certain that they will rise to the challenge.

If you are a parent or caregiver, give yourself credit for all you’ve done for your family. Be sure to engage in self-care while you continue to care for your kids and your community. The usual coping skills apply: support from friends, exercise, time in nature, meditation—whatever helps you take a deep breath and feeds your spirit.

Finally, reach out for professional support if you are feeling overwhelmed or if your children are struggling. Real heroes know that going it alone—especially as we enter the hectic holiday season—doesn’t make you brave. We are all navigating uncharted waters, and sharing our thoughts, expectations, successes and frustrations with other parents can strengthen our confidence and help steer us on a course that enhances performance, achievement and fulfilment.

Bruce Kaufstein, LCSW, is the Director of Clinical Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading children’s mental health agency, (516) 626-1971. He will be retiring from the Guidance Center at the end of this year after 37 years of dedicated service.

Helene Fortunoff, retail jewelry trailblazer, dies at 88

Helene Fortunoff, retail jewelry trailblazer, dies at 88

Newsday, By Tory N. Parrish, November 9, 2021

Helene Fortunoff believed in the value of hard work, at any age.

In the 1950s, the retail trailblazer established the fine jewelry division in what was then a small group of Brooklyn housewares and home furnishings stores called Fortunoff, which later became a Long Island institution.

The former president of Fortunoff Fine Jewelry and Silverware Inc., Helene Fortunoff felt it was important to expose her six children to what it took to run a growing family business.

“I took my children to work as soon as they were able to crawl on the floor,” Newsday quoted Helene Fortunoff saying in March 2010, when she was a panelist at a Hofstra University roundtable discussion on running family-owned companies.

“They worked in storerooms. At about age 12 they would be out on the floor. We put a suit” on one of the Fortunoff sons, she said. “People would come up and say, ‘There are child labor laws.’ I guess you could say I dragged them, but it was a worthwhile experience.”

Helene Fortunoff died Monday in Miami Beach of a respiratory illness, her family said. She was 88 years old.

She was a retail pioneer, at a time when women serving in business leadership positions was rare, said her daughter Esther Fortunoff-Greene, of Old Westbury.

“She was a groundbreaking woman who shared her knowledge with other women to help make all women able to succeed in the working world. And, of course, she did say you could have it all because she had six children and she worked full time,” Fortunoff-Greene said.

Fortunoff was born Helene Finke on March 2, 1933, to Samuel and Tillie Finke in Paterson, New Jersey. She had one sibling, a brother named Leon.

A high-achieving student, she graduated from New York University cum laude with a degree in business administration in the early 1950s, Fortunoff-Greene said.

In 1953, she married Alan Fortunoff, whose parents, Max and Clara Fortunoff, had started the Fortunoff business in Brooklyn in 1922.

Helene Fortunoff established the jewelry division at Fortunoff in 1957.

In 1964, the company moved its eight Brooklyn stores to Long Island, consolidating them into a 150,000-square-foot superstore with three levels in Westbury, which became the flagship of the business.

Alan and Helene and their children, which then numbered four, moved from Brooklyn to Old Westbury in 1965.

By 2003, there were six Fortunoff stores in New York and New Jersey, including a store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan that was the flagship of the jewelry division.

Fortunoff’s annual revenues were more than $400 million, according to a Newsday article published in June 2002.

The high-end jewelry business flourished, and had its own manufacturing division, Fortunoff-Greene said.

Jewelry sales eventually accounted for about one-third of Fortunoff’s revenues, she said. Much of that was due to Helene Fortunoff’s foresight in sourcing unique products globally, she said.

“She traveled the whole world and brought back great products for the stores. … She took our team to Thailand, India, Hong Kong. [We went to] Italy twice a year,” she said.

With Helene Fortunoff at the helm of the jewelry division, Fortunoff was “recognized by National Jeweler in 2003 as the 24th-largest jewelry retailer in the United States with just five jewelry departments,” the Fortunoff family said in a statement.

Helene Fortunoff was also a self-taught jewelry designer.

Newsday featured her in a Jan. 3, 1970, article about her design process.

“The attractive 37-year-old wife of Alan Fortunoff, head of the stores of that name, never had any formal design training until she tried a hit-or-miss approach to creating jewelry about 12 years ago,” Newsday reported.

Helene Fortunoff believed “in natural obsolescence like the garment industry,” she said in the article.

“A woman buys a $200 coat and gives it up in one or two years. Why not the same with jewelry?” she said.

After Alan Fortunoff died in 2000, Helene Fortunoff succeeded him as president.

She retired after the business was sold in 2005.

Fred Reffsin became acquainted with the Fortunoffs during the 1990s, when he was president of high-end watch company TAG Heuer.

“They were big customers of the brand,” said Reffsin, 64, of Norwood, New Jersey.

Helene Fortunoff’s impact on the retail industry through her position with Fortunoff, an iconic company, was significant, he said.

“She was a real, authentic, tough business person, but fair. Always was warm and welcoming … smart, very smart, and a great merchant,” said Reffsin, who also worked for the Fortunoff company as a watch consultant after the business was sold.

Helene Fortunoff married Robert Grossman in 2006, and they moved to Miami Beach about 10 years ago, Fortunoff-Greene said.

The Fortunoff business filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 and 2009, the year it closed.

Helene Fortunoff’s volunteer work included serving as a past trustee of the North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center and a past chairman of Hofstra University’s board of trustees.

She is survived by her husband, Robert. In addition to Fortunoff-Greene, Helene Fortunoff’s surviving children are Andrea Fortunoff, Rhonda Hampton, Ruth Fortunoff-Cooper and David Fortunoff. Her son Louis Fortunoff died in 2012.

She is also survived by nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her brother Leon Finke predeceased her.

The funeral will be at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Temple Sinai of Roslyn, 425 Roslyn Rd. (vaccination and mask required). To livestream, go to venue.streamspot.com/2f55cc72.

Donations in Helene Fortunoff’s memory can be made to the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, the North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center or the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.