Ms. Boyer came to Children’s Aid from a position as executive director of the $1 billion Robertson Foundation. She spent more than a decade at that organization, founded by Julian Robertson and his family to take a targeted approach to supporting critical national issues, including education reform. She also served for 12 years as the executive director of another Julian Robertson-founded nonprofit, the Tiger Foundation, which works to break the cycle of poverty in New York City. Ms. Boyer raised more than $200 million to support the foundation’s work.
She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and is currently an inaugural member of the Pahara Aspen Education Fellowship. She also serves on the board of her alma mater, Weslyan University.
Ms. Boyer took time to speak to the Brunswick Review about the ongoing mission of Children’s Aid. In the COVID-19 pandemic, its longstanding mission of community service is being challenged once more—and once more, the organization is adapting in order to provide necessary leadership.
What does Children’s Aid do?
Our job is to ensure that children living in poverty succeed and thrive. We focus on education, social and emotional development, health and wellness, and family support, believing those are the four domains that matter the most for any kid. That hasn’t changed in 167 years.
We provide a holistic set of services for all the ages and stages of a young person. In our early childhood programs, we have kids who are with us through an extended day and extended year. We don’t just provide all their learning, but also 80 percent of the calories they consume each day.
We run a charter school and a very large child welfare program. We run programs for teenagers helping them with college and career and their pathway to adulthood. We provide a lot of academic supports inside schools. We run two community clinics and six school-based clinics.
We have a homemakers program, started by Eleanor Roosevelt, which helps parents who may have health issues take care of their kids, to prevent them from entering the foster-care system, and a prevention program that supports families most at risk of having children taken away.
We have a little over 700 kids in foster homes with us, where we have recruited and trained the foster parents, and programs for kids aging out of foster care. We also have one of the largest programs for medically fragile children.
The virus comes along, what’s the impact?
All the vulnerabilities have been exacerbated. We often say that potential exists on every New York City block, but opportunity does not. The COVID maps are a really good overlay of where opportunity is not. The Bronx, for example, has one of the highest infection rates. COVID-19 has exposed the systemic problems of poor healthcare, underlying health issues, the stresses and strains of poverty.
Many of our families were already marginalized, vulnerable to hunger, homelessness and job insecurity. Those with jobs were living paycheck to paycheck, without health insurance or sick days.
Paycheck to paycheck has become no income. You lose wages, you lose housing. If you have any immigration issues, you have landlords threatening to throw you out or call ICE. Social distancing is difficult because multiple families are often sharing one apartment. Families who were already isolated are now even more so. If the only way you are connecting with anyone outside your door is your cellphone and you can’t pay that bill, you’ve lost all connection.