Contact: Sunny Mindel/Matthew Higgins (212) 788-2958
The Adopt-A-School pilot program is designed to reduce the number of young people victimized by physical and emotional abuse in a relationship; foster healthy relationships among young people; and prevent a carryover of domestic violence to the next generation. Beginning in five City high schools, local domestic violence organizations will "adopt" a school and assign full-time domestic violence counselors to integrate teen relationship abuse services throughout the school.
Joining the Mayor for the announcements were Anthony P. Coles, Senior Advisor to the Mayor; Steven Fishner, Criminal Justice Coordinator; Rhea Mallett, Executive Director of the Mayor's Commission to Combat Family Violence; Mark Hoover, First Deputy Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration; and hundreds of representatives of organizations from the domestic violence and not-for-profit community.
"A critical component of New York City's domestic violence prevention strategy is to break the cycle of violence where it often begins -- with teenagers," the Mayor said. "Unfortunately, staggering numbers of teenagers are trapped in abusive relationships, but are reluctant to come forward and seek help. Instead of waiting for teenagers to come forward and report relationship abuse, New York City is taking the innovative step of introducing domestic violence services where they can have the greatest impact -- in our public schools."
The Mayor continued, "The Adopt-A-School program builds upon the success of New York City's Teen Relationship Abuse campaign, which first began in 1997 with a comprehensive public education effort. By helping to end abusive teen relationships and stopping new ones before they begin, the Adopt-A-School program will become a national model for reducing domestic violence among future generations of adults."
Schools Chancellor Rudolph F. Crew said, "This initiative benefits students in abusive relationships by providing additional outreach services to reduce domestic violence. With our schools and local community-based organizations working together, our teens and their families have opportunities to foster a healthy environment at home."
Anthony P. Coles, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, said, "In the past six years, under the Mayor's leadership, New York City has created a comprehensive domestic violence strategy. Our expanded focus on teenagers in public schools adds a new dimension to our multifaceted approach, which already includes enhanced public education, better law enforcement response and additional services and outreach for victims."
Rhea Mallett, Executive Director of the Mayor's Commission to Combat Family Violence, said, "Despite increased national attention to domestic violence, teen relationship abuse remains widely under reported. The Adopt-A-School program will not only serve young people already in abusive relationships and inform others on how to avoid abusive relationships, but it will increase awareness of the issue among educators and parents. It is critical that parents, in particular, realize the prevalence of teen relationship abuse, learn how to identify the signs, and know how to get help for their children."
The Adopt-A-School program is starting in five New York City public high schools in the Bronx: Lehman, Stevenson, Truman, Roosevelt, and South Bronx High Schools. The program was designed by the Mayor's Commission to Combat Family Violence with the collaboration of over 50 individuals from 30 different public and private agencies and organizations, including the Board of Education; the Human Resources Administration; the Police Department; and private organizations, including non-profit domestic violence and youth organizations. Three domestic violence organizations have been contracted to provide services through the Adopt-A-School program for the 1999-2000 school year: Victim Services, Inc.; Center for the Elimination of Violence in the Family; and Steps to End Family Violence.
Each participating school will have assigned to it a full-time teen relationship abuse counselor, called the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator, who will oversee the program and offer services necessary to carry out the Adopt-A-School program's four main goals of prevention, intervention, professional development and community outreach/parent education. Students will have access to in-school counseling, and teachers will integrate teen relationship abuse issues into classroom discussion. Teachers and administrators will receive training and parents will receive information on how to identify and deal with teen relationship abuse.
Since New York City's Teen Relationship Abuse public education campaign began in 1997, the City has trained nearly 12,000 service providers who work with young people, 10,000 of whom are City employees. Thousands of posters and over two hundred thousand brochures have been distributed, as well as resource directories and other materials. In the last two years, calls by teenagers to New York City's domestic violence hotline have increased by almost 50 percent. In Fiscal Year 1999, the hotline received approximately 4,500 calls from teenagers.
The Mayor outlined the Adopt-A-School program at the third annual Domestic Violence breakfast at Gracie Mansion, which also honored three outstanding New Yorkers for their efforts to end domestic violence with the 'Outstanding Leadership in Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence' award.
"Over the last several years, New York City has made great strides in bringing the problem of domestic violence out from behind closed doors, in large measure due to the selfless dedication of the many people who have brought this issue to the forefront," the Mayor said. "Their work has helped reinforce the message that domestic violence is a crime, that victims are not alone, and that offenders will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. New Yorkers owe them a debt of gratitude for making our City a national leader in the fight to end domestic violence."
The "Outstanding Leadership in Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence" awards honor New Yorkers who have made exceptional contributions to the City's strategy in breaking the cycle of domestic violence. This year's award recipients are:
Police Officer Barbara O. Blackman-Betegon: A 22 year veteran of the force, Officer Blackman-Betegon has been instrumental in developing the Police Department's domestic violence policies and training curricula. Since her assignment to the Domestic Violence Unit in 1995, Officer Blackman-Betegon has provided domestic violence training to nearly 18,000 police officers, law enforcement personnel and civilians.
Dorchen Leidholdt: As Director of the Center for Battered Women's Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families, Ms. Leidholdt oversees a staff of attorneys and volunteers who provide legal services and advocacy to victims of domestic violence. Under her leadership, the Center has expanded its services into all five boroughs and works closely with organizations that provide services to battered women in immigrant communities. The Center has received numerous awards, including the 1997 New York State Governor's Community Service Award.