BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
For nearly a century, the Queens nonprofit Safe Space has been committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of age, gender and race, can live in a secure and safe environment free of violence, abuse and neglect.
Safe Space, formerly known as the Queensboro Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was founded in 1919 with the single focus of rescuing vulnerable children from abusive situations.
“Even though it’s been around for nearly a century and even though it’s had a couple of names, the purpose of Safe Space has remained the same and consistent,” said Darla Pasteur, vice president of strategic development. “And that is to keep young people, children and youth, safe and to assist them in achieving success.”
Although the Queens-based nonprofit has expanded programming to Manhattan, in 2010, Safe Space began an organizational initiative to return to its roots and focus on the high-need neighborhoods in Southeast Queens. The nonprofit currently operates three newly renovated and conveniently located hubs in Jamaica, Richmond Hill and Far Rockaway.
“There is definitely a need for this, especially in Southeast Queens,” Pasteur said. “Southeast Queens has one of the highest incidents of child abuse, one of the highest incidents of family violence and one of the highest incidents of gang violence and crime – there is obviously generational poverty.”
Safe Space helps upwards of 900 families and 2,000 children in their facilities annually. All three centers provide easy access to the comprehensive range of health and wellness, maternal/child health, school-based and youth services – at no cost.
“Our goal is to make sure that families have the resources that they need and have the ability to come and seek services that will help them keep their families together and strengthen their families because we really believe in preserving the family unit,” Pasteur said. “That is the key way to make sure children get what they need.”
Safe Space is Queens’ largest provider of preventative services through NYC Administration for Children’s Services contracts. Its General Preventative services offer trained counselors to work with the entire family to prevent the removal of children into foster care, dealing with issues ranging from basic survival needs, such as housing immigration and healthcare, to developing better parenting and conflict resolution skills.
The nonprofit also offers a number of Family Treatment Rehabilitation services that feature certified alcohol and substance abuse counselors that are able to provide both individual and group counseling in addition to case management.
When asked what she finds most rewarding about her job, Pasteur, who has been with Safe Space for three years, touted the youth services geared towards helping teens in Southeast Queens.
“As much as I love working with the little kids and seeing them in our after school programs, I love watching the teenagers discover that there is this whole world outside of Southeast Queens,” she said.
To learn more about Safe Space and its free programs or to donate, visit www.safespacenyc.org or call (718) 526-2400.
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.