Action for Individuals, Communities, and Policy
The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF) celebrates its 25th year in service to others offering educational and health programs for kids and adults, as well as policy advocacy work at the local, state, and national levels. This New York based agency works with individuals to enhance their self-sufficiency, with family groups to enrich the home environment, and with community leaders to eliminate social service disparities pervading many local institutions. Sandra Duque, age 30 and Policy Analyst, says there is never a dull moment at CHCF; from direct service programs to legislative endeavors, the staff here are client focused at all times and full of a relentless energy to continually do more. Read on about The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Sandra’s role in its development, and plans to launch itself into future ventures in this week’s The LatinConnect.
Name of Non-Profit
The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF)
Brooklyn, New York
Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice
Master of Science in Criminal Justice
The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.
2005 to Present
The Vera Institute of Justice
Assistant Residence Director
The Law Firm of Kevin Moore
Bilingual Legal Assistant
What is the mission?
The mission of The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF) is to improve the quality of life for Latino children and their families. Believing that the most effective way to serve Latino families is by building upon their existing strengths and fostering self-sufficiency, CHCF provides a number of programs and services to the community in the areas of Youth Development, Child Care Services, and Family Health Education. Grounded in its direct services, CHCF is active in the local, state and national policy arenas around issues of child welfare and the well-being of Latino children.
Tell us a bit about the non-profit
Founded in 1982, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF) is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Latino children and their families. Believing that the most effective way to serve Latino families is to build upon their strengths and foster self sufficiency. CHCF has developed a range of direct service, in three areas: Child Care Services, Youth Development and Family Health Education.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
My responsibilities vary depending on the current legislation affecting the Latino community. Most recently, my work has focused on enhancing the availability of culturally and linguistically appropriate services provided by the child welfare system for Latino families. This includes working on a recent publication that critically examines the needs of Latino families, the current gaps in the continuum of child welfare services, and the glaring funding inequities that often leave Latino families under-served. The report was the result of a city-wide survey, demographic analysis and other child welfare data.
Other responsibilities include participating in city agency coalitions, work groups and committees in order to ensure the concerns of the Latino community are represented. This includes advocating for systems to be more culturally and linguistically competent, offering recommendations on how to improve services for Latino families and/or provide input on materials, curricula or campaigns targeted to the Latino community.
Most notable milestones
During my time here, I have helped the organization achieve many significant accomplishments. Most notable would be the recent publication of “Bridging the Cultural Divide: Building a Continuum of Support Services for Latino Families” which set a platform to educate New York City’s elected officials and Administration about the lack of resources and funding inequities affecting the Latino community. Prior to this, I organized the first Summit on Latino Families which brought together over a 100 advocates, city officials, families, scholars and service providers to discuss issues relevant to the Latino community. Through joint advocacy efforts, we succeeded in having the NY City Council allocate $4.2 million to reduce the caseloads of community based organizations serving families involved in the child welfare system.
I have also presented my work at national, state and local conferences. This has been a great way to share and educate fellow advocates on the strengths and needs of Latino families in the United States.
What’s the niche? How does it help the Latino Community?
At CHCF we work for the Latino community by developing programs and advocacy efforts around their needs. In the area of policy, the social changes we advocate do not often produce immediate results, but once the change is in progress, it is usually long-lasting. For example advocates helped pass a City Council allocation of $4.2 million to reduce social workers caseload. This in turn allows for social workers to dedicate and provide quality care for their families.
The staff at CHCF is culturally competent and come from all backgrounds which give them the ability to specialize in unique areas. We have a strong ability to communicate, reach out and connect with the Latino community which in turn gives the community a place they can trust.
What’s the biggest challenge?
While we face many challenges in advocating for Latino families, one of the biggest is the lack of adequate resources, both financial and personnel, to represent all the advocacy arenas affecting Latino families. Although Latinos are often classified as one group with one set of needs, the truth is that Latinos face varies challenges, including legal documentation, lack of educational opportunities, high teen pregnancy and drop-out rates, English proficiency, and poverty stressors that trigger many other obstacles.
In addition, developing initiatives that focus on strengthening this community is, at times, difficult to accomplish with the current stigma the nation has attached to Latino immigrants.
What’s in store for the future?
At CHCF, we are working to encourage our elected officials to pass legislation that enforces policies focused on increasing the availability of culturally and linguistically competent services. Furthermore, we are advocating for increased funding and resources for community based organizations serving Latino communities. CHCF is planning to host the second Annual Summit on Latino Families and present a Report Card evaluating the progress of the city’s child welfare system in various areas.
What is the best way to keep a competitive edge?
Nowadays to keep a competitive edge, you must have more than just academic achievements; you must have sharp skills in capacity building, networking, and develop a keen sense of discipline to your work in order to enhance your skill set.
It’s also important to have knowledge of other worldly topics such as social and economic developments, business growth, and politics. Be aware of your surrounding, be observant, and learn everything even when you don’t think you’ll need it. Be open to industries and experiences that are not your first choice and always protect your intellectual property.
What is your guiding principle in life?
I was raised by a family that placed an emphasis on respecting and cherishing your life as a gift that comes to you everyday your alive. While life is a roller coaster with highs and lows, life is truly for you to live. It’s a series of events where you choose to either explore life or observe life, laugh or stay quiet, love or not feel. But I always tell myself and others, life is a story that you’re able to tell when you’re 80 years old, what will you story sound like?
I have learned that people own behaviors and lifestyles that I often believe are either fabricated or produced from a lack of connection they have with themselves. There are so many saying that encourage us all to “be who you are,” but I feel that’s easier said than done. I always remember that the word “individual” means that there is only one of you, and that “individual” has unique traits, qualities, abilities and ultimately an individual life so that youcan live it, just make sure your story a good one.
Yardstick of success
Finishing what I set myself out to do is success. When you do everything with grace, respect and true commitment, you succeed. It is not whether you did it right or great, it’s about completing. When I was young, I set many goals for myself and I can happily say that I have accomplished many of those goals.
Success is not about seeing a group of children pass a math test you helped tutor them with, it’s about having been there day in and day out to help them succeed. Success is sticking through it until the end.
Tell us about a goal yet to be achieved
There are so many, but there are two that I have my mind on accomplishing in time. First is to attain a certificate to teach the English language and move to Colombia or another Latin American country and teach. My ultimate goal is to be a college professor and I know I will accomplish that one day, but right now I’m still learning.
Best practical advice that you could give our readers
I have to say the best practical advice I can give is to learn how to manage different personalities in both your life and professional career. It’s important to learn how others functions so that you can always know your limits with them. The worst thing to do is to hurt a friend or create tension in your workplace. Finally, the last small piece of advice I must give is to always read and work on improving your writing skills. It’s the one general skill that will take you far in your professional career.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
I have always been told the basics. Always be kind, do what makes you happy and always be yourself. But I believe there are other supportive words to live by. A friend once told me that in order to learn and move forward from any bump in the road, I must learn to love my pains and when you do, you are able to grow without carrying the baggage.
But I have to say that the most supportive words I have received actually have been by watching my parents live. Through them I have learned what hard work and loyalty means, what the value of commitment is and the key to having a healthy and loving family. I work harder because of them and I live happier because of them.
The most important mentor I have is my mother and I share this not because she’s my mother, but because I have been able to learn how important she is to others. I have learned to watch her as an outsider and not as her daughter and I truly have to say she has taught me the meaning of what it is to be a graceful woman.
Through my professional career, I have had the opportunity to learn and be guided by so many. From the receptionist to the Executive Director, and everyone in between, they have all been great mentors.
Although I admire and respect my mentors, I must clarify that my mentors have not only taught me things that I want to be but I have also learned from them what I hope to never be and that is what makes my relationship with them genuine.
What motivated you to get started?
I think I was born with a passion to help others. Everyone around me always helped each other, taught each other and supported each other. I believe that my motivation stems from being able to pay attention to myself and others around me. There has always been something within me that has driven me to explore my curiosities and challenge my fears and through this; I have developed abilities and skills to really do anything I set myself out to do.
Like best about what you do?
Being able to sit at the table of decision-makers and speak out on a reality that does not exist for many people. Everyone fights the system in different ways, some of us organize protest, others sign petitions, but I demand to be at the table where decisions are being made about the communities I advocate for. When you’re able to be that voice, whether you succeed in your message or not, you are there trying and fighting for your people and that is the best part of what I do.
Like least about what you do?
I really enjoy what I do, but there is always something you least like in a job and for myself, it’s not having enough contact with the community. Unfortunately, I do not provide a direct service. Therefore, I have limited contact with the community.
What truly gets you up in the morning and ready for work?
The fact that I have an obligation to myself, my family and to the community I came from.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At 10, I wanted to be an anchor woman and report the news. However, I changed my mind quickly and I dreamed about being a child psychologist for the rest of my youth.
What was your first job?
My mother had a small day care in her home, I helped her and also took care of other children in my neighborhood. I then worked at a jewelry store which was the first time I was on a payroll.
Biggest pastime outside of work? favorite hobby?
I don’t have much family in the U.S. and none in New York, but I have an amazing circle of friends I have known for years here and spend much of my time with them. However, I also enjoy doing lots of thing on my own including hiking, walking all around the city, cooking, summer concerts, finding new restaurants and shops. I also love to dance and listen to live music.
Person most interested in meeting?
If this person was alive, Ms. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. What a woman, I truly find her to have an interesting life and have always wished I could have visited with her.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
I don’t have an answer to this. However, I guess I would like to meet the CEO of an Advertisement Firm focused on the Latino market.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I was born in a house in a small town in Colombia by a 13-year-old midwife.
- I collect corks.
- I can write backwards.
Three characteristics that describe you
- Explorative, love to travel
- Social and Personable
Three greatest passions
- To help people feel a sense of empowerment over their lives and choices.
- To travel to many places and learn about people, their lives and their environments.
- To conserve the values, culture/traditions and respect the life my family has.
Favorite book? show? movie? song? (choose 1 or more)
I have two favorite books: A” La Orilla del Rio Piedra Me Sente y Llore” by Paolo Coelho and “Rain of Gold” by Victor Villaseñor.
My favorite movie is “Pan’s Labyrinth” and can’t say I have a favorite song but I love boleros.
Persons and organizations dedicated to fighting against genocide and poverty.
If you could work any where else, what would you be doing?
I would like to be a consultant specializing in economic development in foreign countries.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
I would like to be contacted by some of our funders. There are so many wonderful programs out there and it would be a pleasure to have foundations come out and see the great work our staff does in serving our community. I believe it would be a treat for funders to see the amazing benefits their support and contributions make to our families.
Interview by Alexander Grant
Introduction by Sara Ortega
Edited by Valerie Enriquez