Organization Provides A “Safe Space” For City Children
The New Yorkers of the Week are the people behind an organization that works to keep kids safe and to support families in order to help them help themselves. NY1’s Sandra Endo filed the following report.
“Our predominant mission is basically to keep children and families safe and safety is a really important concept for us,” said Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, president and chief executive officer of Safe Space.
That’s why they call it Safe Space — an organization that serves underprivileged youth and families in Manhattan and Queens. The group works to meet the changing and varying needs of each individual it serves through Children and Family Services, Young Adult Services, and Community Health Services.
“Safe Space as a whole is amazing,” said Safe Space youth specialist Clara Varlese. “There are many services for families, for children, for adults, for parents that maybe need some extra help and need some extra services to stay together and to provide for their children.”
In operation for 87 years, it was formerly known as the Queensboro Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and was later called the Center for Children and Families, until it was given the name Safe Space in 2000.
Even though its name has changed, the overall goals have remained the same: to protect kids, to keep them safe, and to allow them grow.
“It keeps you out of trouble, for one, like probably like if you were in the street, well if the program wasn’t here, you would be in the street doing negative stuff,” said Jordan Harell, a young adult services participant. “They keep you in there working, doing positive things with your life.”
From teen drop-in centers to parenting classes and counseling sessions, each Safe Space program is designed to educate, build coping skills, promote personal growth, and to strengthen families. These are preventative measures designed to cut back on unnecessary foster care placement and to promote self sufficiency.
“It is up to us to basically stabilize them, be there for them, and tell them that we are there to work with them so they can not only keep their children but they can survive as a family,” said Barrios-Paoli.
This working partnership is beneficial not only for those who receive services, but also for those who provide them as well.
“Working with the families has been very, very rewarding,” said Julissa Vallenas, an intern in the Safe Space preventive program. “I feel that I can make a difference in some of these people lives, hopefully.”
And so for providing so many children and families with a place where they can get the skills they need to reach their full potential, the people behind Safe Space are the New Yorkers of the week.