Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ReServe At Work with New Alternatives For Children

“All children, including those who are chronically ill or physically challenged, have the right to live in safe, loving, and permanent family homes. [Our] mission is to provide innovative, high quality services in support of birth, foster, and adoptive families who are caring for children with special medical needs at home. Working primarily with children whose birth families live in poverty, NAC seeks to enable them to remain in, or return to, their homes whenever possible, or to be adopted by loving families when necessary.”
--from the New Alternatives for Children (NAC) mission statement

Former ReServist Steve Walton (pictured below, left) sits in his small, well-lit office. He is explaining the work he does with NAC.
“I came in to design the client tracking database we needed,” Steve says, “but never had.”

Chris Strnad (pictured here sitting beside Steve), NAC’s Director of Evaluation and Research, describes the impact Steve’s involvement has had on the lives of the children and families NAC assists:
“Prior to Steve coming, the agency had no integrated database that could track information centrally on all the families with whom we’re working—nor, crucially, the progression of families through the different programs we offer.”

NAC provides five major programs, including in-house medical and mental health clinics. Their offices fill three floors of a major building in midtown Manhattan.

“Last week our Executive Director called Steve up and said ‘Can you give me a list of all of our clients’ siblings, and where they are?’ It took him maybe 10 minutes. His work has changed how we are able to manage our programs, how we are able to target services. We’re just able to track information much more completely and much more quickly.

“Although it had its moments of technical achievement, my previous work,” as a freelance software designer, “was entirely business-oriented. One client for many years was a major advertising agency. Others did consulting work involving chemical companies and refineries. They had their moments technically, but it’s not quite the same as being able to contribute to the benefit of these kids and their families.

“And that’s a welcome opportunity for me too, because I have no kids of my own, and very little experience of being up close to kids. So this is really the best way for me to do something for them. And I’m very glad of it.”

Steve leans back in his chair and smiles. “And actually, for background music while you’re working, kids playing isn’t bad!”

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