by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
For over 55 years, the Astor Home for Children has been providing topnotch care for children and families, both in New York City and Upstate New York communities. It is sponsored by the and in the past has been guided by the administrative abilities of The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent DePaul. It is a nonsectarian institution. The current CEO is Dr. James McGuirk.
In 1953, Astor Home became the first residential treatment center for severely emotionally disturbed children in the United States. These are children who have frequently suffered from abuse, violence, or other trauma during the first few years of life. Since its founding, Astor has provided these children a safe haven to live in while at the same time working to strengthen the family that they would return to, or to develop options such as adoption or foster care. In the residence, the children receive therapeutic special education, various therapies that can include psychological, speech and language, and/or occupational therapy, and the families they come from receive intensive casework or family services. There is a board-certified child psychiatrist who is medical director. The goal is to bring the children back to a safe environment that will be long-lasting.
In 1963, Astor Home became one of the first Child Clinical Psychology internships accredited by the American Psychological Association and they have kept this status current ever since. There are many other training internships in different fields for those who are working toward certification or licensing. There is ongoing research as well. All of this means that Astor is an environment in which questions are always being asked about the best way to help children entrusted to its care, and by working as a team to come up with creative and practical approaches. Some of the best aspiring young professionals are drawn to Astor because of its reputation and ongoing work.
The success of the residence led to many other programs being developed over the years, including Head Start, Child Guidance Centers, Day Treatment Centers, In-school Outpatient Clinics, and other innovative programs as well.
Astor Home has always provided intensive psychological care. Years ago, this meant psychodynamic treatment, which included as many as three individual therapy sessions per week. Currently, David Crenshaw and John Murdock are two psychologists whose work with these children has received national attention.
The Astor mission is one of those specially chosen by the American Mental Health Foundation to help children with special needs.
If I seem partial to Astor Home, it is because I have been able to participate and observe its find work as an intern, psychologist, administrator, board member, and community friend. This agency is a model for those seeking to establish a similar program or to develop the mission of an existing program that serves children and their families.
To see the web site for Astor: