News

Monthly Child Tax Credit Deposits Start July 15, 2021

The federal government funds for the Child Tax Credit are being deposited to over 35 million families’ accounts starting July, 15th, 2021. The ongoing monthly deposits will take place until December 2021.

Most families with children under 17 years old are eligible and you do not need to apply to receive the funds if you filed taxes in 2019 or in 2020. If you applied for the U.S. stimulus check you are also automatically eligible to receive the Child Tax Credit payments. Please be sure to check with your banking institutions to see the status of your deposit.

If you have any questions about whether you qualified for the Child Tax Credit, or to get information on next steps for applying to receive it, please click on the link below for the list of FAQ that our community partner the Zero to Three Network has put together:

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/4135-child-tax-credit-your-questions-answered

Para información en español:

https://www.getctc.org/es

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Free Doughnuts Aren’t Going to Boost Vaccination Rates

While our communities continue to disproportionately carry the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, the toll is compounded by the gap in vaccination rates between our neighborhoods and others in New York City. Lower rates of vaccination in Black and Brown communities highlight the complex relationship between neighborhoods living with the impacts of racist and abusive systems and public health campaigns promoting vaccinations in an attempt to curb the rise of the virus, particularly as the new Delta variant spreads more quickly throughout the city. As our Executive Director and co-founder Erasma Beras-Monticciolo shared recently with the New York Times, there are still measures that the city can take to effectively respond to the specific concerns of our communities and to begin to build trust with families.

Read more on The New York Times by following this link.

Image by Bess Alder, The New York Times

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Ecological Predictors of Parental Beliefs about Infant Crying in a Randomized Clinical Trial of ABC

“Ecological Predictors of Parental Beliefs about Infant Crying in a Randomized Clinical Trial of ABC,” a research study supported by Power of Two and authored by lead researcher Daneele Thorpe, along with Jamilah Silver; Laura Perrone; Nicole DeSantis; Allison Dash; Melanie Rodriguez; Erasma Beras-Monticciolo; and Dr. Kristin Bernard, was published on May 26, 2021 in the “Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.”

The  goals of the study were to examine the associations between microsystem factors—including family, peers and sociodemographic—and exosystem factors—such as community and neighborhoods—on how parents frame their beliefs about infant crying. The study also assessed the effectiveness of Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC), an attachment-based intervention, in changing parents’ beliefs about infant crying and explored how both the microsystem factors and neighborhood crime affected ABC’s effectiveness. 

Previous studies have found that several microsystem factors interfere with responsive parenting behaviors and are associated with decreased parental nurturance and involvement. Many of these microsystem factors increased burden and caused psychological distress in parents that limited sensitive caregiving. Further, greater psychological distress and depressive symptomatology were associated with more negative parenting behaviors such as intrusive and controlling behaviors, negative expressions, and aggressive and punishing behaviors.

Other studies have found that parents who express more maladaptive parent-centered beliefs about infant crying tend to respond less promptly and sensitively to their infants than parents who express more infant-centered beliefs. In a diverse sample of parents, greater maladaptive beliefs predicted lower responsiveness to infant distress, suggesting that more maladaptive beliefs about infant crying are associated with decreased behavioral responsiveness to the needs of their infants. 

Attachment theory suggests that parent responsiveness to infant distress predicts secure parent–child attachment and subsequent healthy child development. Specifically, increased maternal responsiveness to infant distress is associated with greater social competence, adaptive emotional regulation, and reduced behavioral problems in children. Parenting interventions such as ABC support parents to provide the care expected to facilitate secure attachment, positive socioemotional development, and positive child development. 

While much is known about how microsystem factors affect responsive caregiving, very little research exists that investigates how exosystem factors, such as neighborhood crime, affect parenting—especially during infancy and early childhood. This study addresses this research gap by examining the effect of neighborhood crime on caregivers’ parenting beliefs during their child’s infanthood. This is the first study to not only investigate how exposure to neighborhood crime is associated with parent-centered beliefs versus infant-centered beliefs about infant crying but is also the first study to examine the extent to which ABC leads to improvements in parental beliefs about infant crying and distress. 

The study observed a sample of 200 diverse caregivers and their 5 to 21 month-old infants, recruited by Power of Two between January 2016 and December 2017. It utilized data from a randomized clinical trial of ABC to assess whether microsystem factors such as single-parent status; low income; housing instability; young parenthood; parental psychopathology; and a parent’s own history of early adversity along with neighborhood crime density were associated with their beliefs about infant crying. Parents who confirmed their interest in the study were screened to determine their eligibility. Inclusion criteria included parents who were at least 16 years old and currently had custody of a child between 6 and 20 months of age. All study participants completed baseline assessments during a home visit, which included completion of questionnaires and a video-recorded parent–child interaction.

Parental beliefs about infant crying were measured using the Infant Crying Questionnaire (ICQ). To assess parent beliefs about infant crying, parents completed the questionnaire at the start of the program and at follow-up after completing the program. The questionnaire determines parental beliefs and categorizes those beliefs into two principal categories: (1) infant-centered beliefs that place priority on the infant’s needs and well-being such as “I want my child to be safe” and (2) parent-centered beliefs that place priority on the parent’s needs such as “I want my  child to stop crying because it bothers me.”

The study determined that microsystem factors and increased crime density were significant predictors of more maladaptive, parent-centered beliefs about infant crying and, more significantly,  that ABC positively impacted those  beliefs. These results suggest that contextual factors outside the household are associated with and affect parenting beliefs and practices, and that participation in ABC  was effective in reducing maladaptive beliefs. The findings of this study are consistent with previous research suggesting that community violence affects parenting beliefs and practices. 

Given that parenting dynamics are affected by family-level, neighborhood-level and the community-level factors, investigating factors  outside of the house along with those within the home may better inform approaches to child wellbeing. The study also has significant implications for legislative policy initiatives to promote positive child development and community healing. 

About Daneele Thorpe, Lead Researcher

Daneele was born in Jamaica and migrated to Brooklyn, NY at age 10, where she attended elementary, middle, and high school. She attended college at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA with the support of a full tuition scholarship from the Posse Foundation. In college, Daneele majored in Psychology and Public Health/Public Policy. She is currently in her fourth year of the clinical psychology doctoral program at Stony Brook University. Her current research focuses on factors at the family, neighborhood, and systemic levels that affect children.

You can access the full research study, originally published in the “Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology” here.

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Powering Up With Power of Two: What Does Defunding The Police Mean?

Primer for Powering Up With Power of Two (1)

The term “Defund the Police” is one that incorporates into its formation many intersecting issues in our city and in our nation’s history. In order to lay out the framework for understanding the issues underlying this call to action, it is useful to look at the larger systemic issues that have led to the overpolicing of BIPOC communities, often with lethal consequences. To do so, Power of Two has put together the following reference source that also includes information from our community partner, VOCAL NEW YORK’s “Caring and Compassionate New Deal for New York City. (CCND)”. (https://www.vocal-ny.org/publications/ccnewdeal)

To begin, the CCND looks at the call to defund the police as a reallocation of the funds currently given to the law enforcement and carceral systems and, instead, as funds that should rightfully be allocated instead into initiatives and programs that deal with the housing and mental health/substance abuse that are currently policed instead of addressed. As noted by the CCND, “increased policing has proven itself, time and again, to be an ineffective and dangerous way to address issues of homelessness, mental health needs and substance abuse. We need a massive investment of resources and a restructuring of government agencies to tackle homelessness, mental illness and high-risk drug use. These are the intersecting issues – along with systemic racism – that underpin our criminal legal system, disproportionately burden low-income communities of color, and entrench the marginalization of hundreds of thousands of our fellow New Yorkers.” 

Currently, $14 billion in New York’s tax dollars are used to prop up the city’s law enforcement, courts and corrections systems. $11 billion for the NYPD, $456 million for the five district attorneys and the citywide Special Narcotics Prosecutor and $2,6 billion for corrections. The NYPD operating budget “is more than the city spends on health, homeless services, youth development and workforce development combined. Currently, for every dollar allocated to the NYPD and city corrections, 29 cents are given towards the department of Health, 19 cents towards Housing Preservation and Development and a penny towards workforce development.

Despite the massive operating budgets of these law enforcement and carceral systems “the continued existence of mass homelessness and record-high rates of fatal overdoses – after decades of criminalization- shows the inability of police, courts and jails to solve these issues. The vast majority of police hours are spent doing things that a growing majority of people believe should be done by another profession. Across the country just 4 percent of police hours are spent addressing “violent crime”. Responding to mental health calls, homelessness and drug use should not be the purview of the police. The police, with unlimited resources have failed to end these social ills. 

As an entity steeped in a racist beginning, the police forces of the country have continued the work of racial oppression by targeting the most marginalized communities for punitive actions that have caused trauma, tangible harm and death within these same communities, aided by the outsized financial might of their operating budgets. A reallocation of funding must begin immediately. 

The criminalization of BIPOC communities is one that has several intersecting players aiding in this mission, including the NYPD, the Media and the War on Drugs along with systemic racism and its ensuing issues of poverty and disenfranchisement.

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A Message to the Power of Two Community

Power of Two is grateful to the men and women of the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial who found officer Chauvin guilty on all charges in the murder of George Floyd. As your partner in community, we know the long standing legacy of police brutality and lethal use of force that is experienced by the members of our communities.

While we are grateful that Derek Chauvin was held accountable for his actions, we also know that the outcome would very likely have been different if not for the extraordinary confluence of factors that made a conviction a possibility, yet far from guaranteed. Were it not for the technology that made recording the murder possible and the courage of Darnella Frazier who at 17 years old had the presence of mind to record the craven disregard for human life that we all witnessed in the video, Derek Chauvin would very likely be a free man today.

Through our partnership with families we know that justice is not and can not truly be done until BIPOC people are no longer targets of the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police. Addressing the systemic racism of an institution that is meant to protect us, but too often targets us instead, means that we must confront the systems of oppression and white supremacy that leads to the deaths of so many BIPOC people at the hands of law enforcement. These systems of oppression are enabled by the exalted nature that law enforcement enjoys and abuses in our country. Police officers know that their use of lethal force will be deemed innocent unless proven guilty, and to prove guilt there must be an abundance of irrefutable evidence and, too often, the unassailable character of its victims. The continued narrative of an infallible police force has an ever escalating death toll even as convictions for these deaths remain the exception and not the norm.

Heartbreakingly, even as we stood in short-lived gratitude for Chauvin’s conviction, our hearts were seized in pain and horror once again as we heard the news of the lethal shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant. She lost her life at the same time that the verdict was being read and her name is now added to the long list of BIPOC children, men and women whose lives were extinguished by those meant and paid to protect and serve. We see and experience firsthand the historical, intergenerational trauma that police interactions have left within our communities. Each new murder reignites that trauma and reminds us that there is still so much work to be done. We were hopeful that this conviction of Chauvin by a jury of his peers would be a line of demarcation that paves the way for a more just society, one in which the police forces around the country no longer have the ability to kill with impunity. However, we know that our work must continue for all past BIPOC victims of deadly police interactions.

Darnella is right. It’s not about what she should’ve done in that moment. It was what Derek Chauvin should’ve done. He should have valued George Floyd’s life just as much as his own. That is the work that lies ahead of us. For law enforcement and other systems in the United States to also value the inherent humanity of BIPOC people and for the perception of infallibility by law enforcement coupled with the systemic racism that rots at the core of policing to be extinguished. But as Fred Hampton said in his speech in 1969 we must work together. “We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity.”

In Solidarity,

Erasma Beras-Monticciolo
Co-Founder and Executive Director

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2020 Reflections

A few days ago, I read about Beyonce’s New Year’s gift to her “girls”–her closest friends. The gift is a diamond-encrusted necklace which has “2020” in the shape of a hand giving the middle finger.* My first reaction was to yell “YASS, Sis” in agreement that 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year. But, as I meditated on all that we lost in 2020, I also had to acknowledge all that we have gained, particularly the awareness that we are all interconnected. It’s through those connections that we learn, we grow, and we thrive. That is exactly what Power of Two is all about and 2020 brought that fact into even sharper focus.    

Like many nonprofit organizations, the pandemic threatened to throw us into a tailspin. But, thanks to our deep roots in community; the fervent belief in the power of relationships; and support from a legion of allies (I see you and thank you)–we were able to pivot our in-person programming to a digital platform. To support that digital platform we provided our families access to broadband and mini-ipads and we were able to successfully engage and support a total of 1,246 families in 2020. While that in and of itself is cause for celebration, what was most rewarding was seeing how 80% of parents increased in sensitivity to their children’s behavioral and emotional cues after taking part in our program. In a year of unprecedented uncertainty, instability and stress, this positive increase is yet another profound example of our families’ remarkable dedication to their children’s healthy development. 

                     

This year, we also grew into our role as a connector for families as we tapped into our expertise in asset mapping and relationship-building. Thanks to this expertise we connected families to groceries; baby essentials; health care; rental assistance; public benefits; and mental health services. We also partnered with local Community Boards to develop accessible messaging regarding COVID, safety protocols, and testing. 

                     

As summer arrived and the national consciousness shifted towards police brutality and oppressive, punitive policies targeting communities of color — a reality all too familiar for our communities–Power of Two doubled down on its efforts to support those most affected. As an organization led by a woman of color and serving families of color–81% of whom have direct or indirect experience with law enforcement and the criminal justice system through a parent, partner or other relative–we knew that we needed to actively engage in conversations that imagined a new reality for our communities. To do so, we partnered with 30 grassroots organizations in Brownsville to create the Ocean Hill Brownsville Equity Coalition (OBEC) that seeks to identify and dismantle anti-Black racist policies and practices that have perpetuated cycles of trauma in our community. In July, OHBEC made substantive recommendations on police reform that have been shared with local, state and national elected officials and is currently finalizing its recommendations for health equity in Ocean Hill Brownsville.

                 

In addition to participating in OHBEC, we expanded our Community Ambassador initiative which provides graduates of our parent coaching program with opportunities to receive training in community history; critical race theory; child development; early childhood; social determinants of health; policy development; and advocacy practices.  This effort responds to our graduates’ desire to continue to engage with Power of Two. It is also indicative of their interest in expanding their knowledge of the policies and practices that affect their families and in being empowered with the means to drive the change they want to see in their communities.  

This year we once again hosted our Annual Winter Wonderland in Brownsville and while it couldn’t be held in person, we tapped into our culture of resourcefulness to create a fantastic virtual holiday extravaganza for close to 400 children and their families. Additionally, families also received–delivered directly to their door–holiday boxes full of gifts for the children, custom made masks with HEPA filters, and bundles of groceries. We are so grateful to our partners, donors and volunteers for their willingness to help and for their generosity this holiday season. 

                

None of these accomplishments this year would have been possible without our remarkable team that leaned into the work of supporting our communities even while navigating the challenges in their own lives. Their commitment was both humbling and energizing and reminded me of the importance of prioritizing compassion to ourselves.  To support our team, we implemented a host of practices and dedicated resources to tackling the effects of toxic stress and racial trauma on our professional and personal well-being. 

This important work is also happening in conjunction with the implementation of our five-year strategic plan- launched with support from The Sirus Fund and facilitated by Community Resource Exchange (CRE). Our strategic plan focuses on the exploration of 4 key strategies: Growing Our Organizational Impact, Increasing Our Visibility and Influence, Ensuring Our Financial Sustainability, and Improving Administrative Infrastructure. To learn more about our Five-Year Strategic Plan click Here

While I agree with Beyonce that 2020 wasn’t easy and the losses that we endured have been great, I will nevertheless opt to conclude the year celebrating the gems that we amassed: our interconnectedness, our shared sense of purpose, and our communities’ resourcefulness and strength. And as we forge forward together into 2021, those gems will continue to serve as our beacon, come what may.

With Gratitude,

Erasma Beras-Monticciolo
Executive Director

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Can People be Saved from a Terrible Childhood?

 

Lauren Zanolli writes for The Guardian of how US researchers have found early intervention can help prevent negative experiences in infancy turning into long-term health risks.

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