JAFCO Child Services Agency celebrates local growth with annual fundraiser

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One decade is a benchmark period of ten years that shows growth or productivity trends in a business or other organization. In the case of JAFCO, a unique, Florida-based child services agency, one decade reflects a great increase of awareness and support on Long Island and in the New York area.

A not-for-profit organization, JAFCO, which stands for Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options, serves abused and neglected children as well as those with developmental disabilities. Last year, JAFCO celebrated an impressive 25 years as a social service organization. From its beginnings as a small foster care and adoption agency with a mission to fill an unmet need in the Jewish community, JAFCO has grown steadily in size and scope. JAFCO leaders view it as their privilege to help all children and families in need, regardless of faith or heritage.

JAFCO’s local “friends” group has worked diligently over the past 10 years to establish a viable presence in the New York area. Next month, JAFCO will hold its 10th annual Long Island fundraising event, known as “Fun in the Sun,” from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 5 at the Glen Head Country Club in Glen Head.

When Old Westbury resident Pearl Halegua learned about JAFCO’s work a number of years ago, she organized small afternoon get-togethers to show friends what benefits this organization could offer children in need. Within a few years, Halegua’s informal gatherings outgrew the space in her home. “Fun in the Sun” then turned into a yearly event, with Halegua as the local JAFCO chapter president.

Based in south Florida, JAFCO currently is housed on two campuses. At the first location, its exemplary Children’s Village, the group serves abused and neglected children through its Family Preservation, Foster Care, Adoption and Mentoring programs.

JAFCO’s newer location is its Children’s Abilities Center. Now in its fifth year, the center is the first of its type in the United States to offer family support, therapy, child enrichment and respite, all under one roof. In the words of JAFCO executive director Sarah Franco, this facility fills important needs, as “one of six children born today has developmental disabilities.”

JAFCO professionals continue to introduce programs both at its Children’s Abilities Center and the Children’s Village. A unique offering of the Abilities Center is its Respite Program. While children with developmental needs enjoy themselves in a fully supervised, state-of-the-art setting, their parents can enjoy a much-needed break by spending time on their own. In fact, if parents attend a wedding or another late-night event, it is possible for children who are ready for the extended respite to stay in the center’s private, six-room guest house. During an overnight, each child has a private bedroom and bathroom, with at least two staff supervisors.

News about JAFCO has migrated northward, as Long Island “snowbirds” who reside in Florida during the winter and who live in New York for the summer have learned. They report that they are pleased to see an active JAFCO chapter has evolved and grown on Long Island.

All of JAFCO’s finely tuned programs require ongoing support to continue to serve the needs of children and families, and one means of reaching that goal is to commit to becoming a JAFCO “Godparent,” according to Halegua. More information will be available at JAFCO’s local August event.

The JAFCO Long Island/New York board, which worked with Halegua to plan this year’s event, helps educate others about the organization’s mission to strengthen families. Board members include Deborah Agulnick, Nori Elson, Joan Feldman, Kim Floam, Jeanne Goldman, Joan Grant, Susan Katz, Lisa Levine, Amy Levy, Wendy Maurer, Linda Moskowitz, Ronna Niederman, Harriet Rosen, Rose Schecter, Stacey Spitalnick, Susan Tashlik, Jocelyn Wasserman and Dorine Wulwick.

For more information, or to attend this year’s “Fun in the Sun” day, contact Pearl Halegua at phalegua@gmail.com.

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