Medical Services and Advocacy at Children’s Aid and Family Services

January 26, 2016

Anne Armstrong-Coben, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University, leads Children’s Aid and Family Services’ Medical Services & Advocacy Center.
Anne Armstrong-Coben, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University, leads the agency’s Medical Services & Advocacy Center.

Founded in 1899 with a focus on child protection and adoption, nonprofit Children’s Aid and Family Services has placed more than 11,000 children with loving families.

While helping children find families is still a core part of its mission, the northern NJ-based agency has evolved to meet ever-changing community needs.

Today, the organization provides a wide range of professional services that enable children who have suffered unimaginable abuse and trauma to heal from their wounds and learn to live in a family. It’s among the reasons Children’s Aid and Family Services has become popular among CFNJ fundholders.

“Typically, a child arrives in our care with just the clothes on his or her back, often sick, with gaps in education and having experienced multiple foster care placements,” says Jerry Binney, President & CEO. “We are committed to providing the quality and intensity of services these children need to learn to trust and gain confidence, as well as the tools to help them build productive futures.”

The agency’s Medical Services & Advocacy Center, the only program of its type in New Jersey, provides medical screenings, coordinates chronic condition care, and works to ensure diagnoses are correct.

Most of the children it supports have experienced six to ten foster care placements. As a result, they generally have little available medical history, have been to multiple providers, and often have chronic medical conditions. Many of these children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which can further complicate a diagnosis.


The Center’s staff works closely with the agency’s clinical team to solve incorrect diagnoses. This approach made a world of difference in Eric’s life. The 12-year-old boy came to the agency diagnosed with asthma. He would often feel as if he couldn’t breathe and would reach for his inhaler. The Center’s staff took the time to examine him, talk to him and consult with his therapists. They learned he was not asthmatic and was actually suffering from anxiety attacks. By working as a team, they were able to treat his condition and get him off unnecessary medication that could have harmful side effects as well as increase his anxiety.

Children’s Aid and Family Services is committed to helping the children in its care overcome their educational challenges. The agency has an Educational Specialist with a background in Special Education that advocates for their educational needs and oversees a tutoring program.Children’s Aid and Family Services offers a unique program to address the educational challenges faced by children in foster care whose schooling has been constantly disrupted.

Most of the children come to Children’s Aid and Family Services at least two grade levels behind in school. An educational specialist, with a background in special education, advocates for their educational needs and oversees professional tutors that work with the children weekly.

The impact of tutoring has been remarkable: since 2009, 100 percent of teenagers in the agency’s care have graduated high school. The national average for children in foster care is less than 50 percent.


Before coming to the agency, Miles missed 78 days of school. He used to get so frustrated by assignments he’d tear up his papers. After nine months of tutoring, his grades in math and language arts improved and he made honor roll.

Children’s Aid and Family Services continues to care about the educational needs of its foster children, even when they “age out” of care, typically at age 18. The organization helps foster children who attend college or vocational school with educational expenses and also provides emergency funding.

Children’s Aid and Family Services also provides programs for young families and the working poor; children and adults with developmental disabilities and children and families at risk of harm from alcohol and drugs. Philanthropy is vital to the agency’s ability to provide such services.

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