Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fresh Start Program Receives $75,000 Grant from HELP USA

Dr. Peter Fraenkel
Dr. Peter Fraenkel, Director of
Ackerman's Center for Work and Family
The Fresh Start for Families Program has received a $75,000 grant from HELP USA, the organization that operates the homeless shelter where Fresh Start is provided.

Fresh Start for Families is a program developed by the Ackerman Institute’s Center for Work and Family. The Center provides programs for families living in homeless shelters, including families surviving domestic abuse and recent immigrant families. The Director of the Center is Dr. Peter Fraenkel. "Fresh Start helps poor mothers cope more successfully with the challenges of homelessness, life in homeless shelters and making the transition from welfare to work," Dr. Fraenkel explained. The program is offered at HELP Harbor, a domestic violence shelter in Manhattan, administered by HELP USA, well-known as one of the primary providers of housing and support services for the homeless in the United States.

In the Ackerman Institute – HELP USA partnership, HELP operates the homeless shelter and its employment, social service support and housing placement programs, while the Center for Work and Family provides the family support program and research evaluation. The partnership was initiated after HELP USA discovered that parent-child relationship difficulties often impede the ability of mothers in shelters to take full advantage of housing and employment services. Distracted by difficulties managing their own and their children's behavioral and emotional problems, the women often did not complete job readiness courses, job training or placements, missed crucial meetings with social service staff and did not follow through with housing appointments. Fresh Start was designed to fill a critical need for family emotional support and parent guidance.

"Our program is unique because most shelter programs focus on education or job training, and almost none address mental health issues from a family systems perspective,” Dr. Fraenkel said. “Fresh Start at HELP Harbor uses a variety of activities to help the families examine the emotions they experience and explores ways that they can manage difficult emotions, individually and as a family. The Program helps increase mothers’ awareness of their children’s emotions, expand the children’s ability to express themselves, and enhance the entire family’s ability to cope with stress."

"We are very pleased that HELP USA continues to partner with Ackerman at HELP Harbor," Lois Braverman, President of the Ackerman Institute, said. "The Institute has been involved in community programs for many years and the Fresh Start program allows us to work with some of New York City’s most vulnerable families. Most traditional programs dealing with domestic violence are expert-driven models in which therapists teach parenting and coping skills. The drop-out rate from such programs can be high, as the women involved often feel they are being ‘talked down to’ and being taught skills that they already know. Fresh Start makes use of a collaborative and respectful stance that discovers and supports women’s hidden strengths, and allows them to teach and support each other. As a result, women simultaneously learn new skills and regain their sense of competence and pride."

In addition to helping families, Fresh Start provides a unique opportunity to train the next generation of mental health professionals in community-based work with underserved families. During its 12 years, the program has been staffed by more than 100 Ackerman students and alumni, and graduate students in counseling and clinical psychology at The City College of New York, where Dr. Fraenkel is an associate professor. An upcoming article in the American Family Therapy Monographs by Dr. Fraenkel and his staff describes how students learn important skills and develop greater appreciation of the challenges and strengths of highly stressed families.

"This project has produced several outstanding dissertations and Masters theses," Dr. Fraenkel said, "but more importantly, it’s inspired many young professionals to dedicate their careers to work with families in poverty."

If you would like to support the Fresh Start program, click here, and select Center for Work and Family from the drop down box on the Donations Page.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Robert Ruckh Joins Ackerman Board

Robert Ruckh joined the Ackerman Institute Board of Directors in December 2009.

Mr. Ruckh brings major, significant financial experience to the Board. With more than 27 years of experience in the field, he is one of the more experienced Transaction Advisory Services partners in Ernst & Young’s New York office. He joined Ernst & Young in 2002 after almost 20 years at Arthur Andersen in audit and transactions practices.

Mr. Ruckh's primary private equity clients include Lindsay Goldberg, CCMP Capital, Cerberus and Onex. His corporate clients include General Electric. Mr. Ruckh's transaction specific experience includes work in industrial and consumer products and services, distribution businesses, healthcare, service businesses and technology. In addition to direct platform investments made by private equity clients, Mr. Ruckh has also worked with the management teams of many portfolio companies. He has participated in diligence projects in more than 15 countries, and has extensive experience with SEC securities offerings and 144A private placements of both US and non-US companies.

Before joining Ernst & Young, Mr. Ruckh helped start Arthur Andersen's Transaction Advisory Services practice. Prior to that, he worked in Andersen's audit practice for 12 years, serving a number of Global 1000 and other multinational clients.

Mr. Ruckh is a 1982 graduate of Fordham University and a former Member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Fordham University Schools of Business.

He lives in Pound Ridge, New York with his wife Shari and daughter Amelia.

"We are thrilled to have Robert Ruckh join the Ackerman Board," Lois Braverman, President of the Ackerman Institute, commented. "His interest in our work is very strong, and his expertise in finance helps strengthen the Board significantly."

Meet Our Board: Paul H. Rich

Pual H. Rich
New Board Member Paul H. Rich
The ideal Board of Directors of a non-profit organization includes individuals with expertise and experience in a variety of fields, including law, finance and real estate. Paul H. Rich, who joined the Ackerman Institute Board of Directors in 2007, is a seasoned consultant who has worked for many years with family-owned and closely-held businesses. As a co-managing principal of the Rothstein Kass Business Consulting Group, Mr. Rich provides a wide range of strategic business counseling services. He is an expert in succession planning, structuring and negotiating mergers and acquisitions, facilitating as an executive coach for business owners and high net worth individuals. In addition, he has extensive experience securing bank and private financing and rendering IPO and private placement advisory services. Mr. Rich’s success is the result of a passion for his clients, clarity of mind, an appreciation of service, and, most importantly, empathy that he combines with his technical expertise. These traits also serve Mr. Rich well in his role as a member of the Ackerman Institute Board of Directors.

Mr. Rich recalled that he first heard about the Ackerman Institute from his wife Diane, a social worker, and her colleagues.

"They all knew about the work of the Institute and thought very highly of it," Mr. Rich explained. "Then Judith Stern Peck told me about her involvement and the great respect she had for the Institute. Eventually, I met Peter Steinglass and Lois Braverman and learned more."

"I've always been interested in psychology," Mr. Rich said, "and I found the Institute’s work very meaningful. My interest only increased as I learned how much the Institute helps the community."

Mr. Rich’s enthusiasm for the Ackerman Institute grew as he enrolled in the core Foundations course.

"I took the course for one year as a learning and growth experience," he said. "The teaching was amazing and the open thinking and depth was mind expanding. I fell in love with the level of education as well as with the value of the community work."

A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Mr. Rich is a graduate of New York University. He also enrolled in graduate courses at Pace University. Mr. Rich’s family had a business, which he was involved in for a time, where he gained valuable business knowledge as well as insight into some of the emotional issues endemic to family businesses. After he liquidated that business he became a certified public accountant, eventually becoming co-senior equity partner of a large regional accounting firm which was the result of a merger of a medium-size CPA firm that he co-founded. He also co-founded a successful management consulting firm, which now operates as Rothstein Kass' Business Consulting Group.

"In accounting, many of the issues you face, even though they are business issues, have psychological underpinnings," Mr. Rich said. "I am very interested in the psychology of business, how decisions that appear rational on the surface often come from a deep emotional place."

As a Board member, Mr. Rich focuses on financial concerns, but he also is very involved with planning.

"The most fun is being part of the long-range planning committee," he remarked. "We are trying to answer questions such as, where is the future of Ackerman? How can we help the community? How can we grow? I believe Ackerman needs to grow because it offers so much to the community and can really benefit so many families."

Jane Phillips Donaldson Receives 2009 Arthur Maslow Distinguished Service Award

Jane Phillips Donaldson
Jane Phillips Donaldson (pictured here with Lois Braverman), the recipient of the Arthur Maslow Distinguished Service Award, joined Ackerman’s Board of Directors in 2000 and served as Chair from 2003 to 2008. During her tenure as Chair, she successfully guided the Institute in succession planning, steered it through the current economic downturn, expanded its international presence and helped attract vibrant new Board members to help Ackerman meet the challenges of the future.

Ms. Donaldson is the founder of Phillips Oppenheim, a nationally recognized search firm that identifies and recruits staff, particularly minorities, for large foundations and other nonprofit organizations.

S. Alexander Haverstick II Receives 2009 Ackerman Corporate Award

Alec Haverstick
Alec Haverstick with
Ackerman CEO Lois Braverman
S. Alexander Haverstick II, this year’s recipient of the Ackerman Corporate Award, began his career as a Trusts & Estates attorney and later worked in financial services on Wall Street. He was, successively, a Managing Director at Kidder Peabody, Prudential Securities, Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Bank, and served as President of Morgan Stanley Trust Company.

Mr. Haverstick founded Boxwood Wealth Management in 2007 and refocused the company as Boxwood Strategic Advisors LLC in 2008. Mr. Haverstick’s approach to business encompasses the idea that individuals’ financial decisions are not made independent of family dynamics.

His ability to "think outside the box" gives him great insight into the communication and relationship issues Ackerman sees in families everywhere. Mr. Haverstick has extended himself to the Institute in countless ways, becoming a great and valued friend to Ackerman.

Tribute to Families Raises More than $495,000 in Support of the Ackerman Institute


Thanks to the generosity of its friends and supporters, the Ackerman Institute for the Family’s third annual Tribute to Families Gala raised more than $495,000 in support of the Institute’s programs and services. More than 230 guests attended the October 20th event, held at Guastavino’s. The Gala was co-chaired by Ackerman Board members Diana Benzaquen and Alan Quasha. Ackerman Board Chair Greg Rogers and his wife, Dana, were the Honorary Chairs. Law and Order star Sam Waterston was the evening’s emcee and Broadway and cabaret actress and singer Christine Andreas performed.

This year’s honorees were Jane Phillips Donaldson, former chair of the Ackerman Board, who received the Arthur Maslow Distinguished Service Award, and S. Alexander Haverstick II, Chief Executive Officer of Boxwood Strategic Advisors LLC, who received the Ackerman Corporate Partner Award.

After welcoming the guests to the Gala, Ms. Benzaquen described the work of the Ackerman Institute.

“I’ve seen the work they do at Ackerman,” she commented, “and the results are phenomenal. Ackerman helps give families the strength to communicate with each other in a way where everyone can feel connected… children to parents, sibling to sibling, wife to husband, partner to partner. It’s often hard to talk to the people we’re closest to about the things that trouble us most deeply, but Ackerman therapists have the ability to help people feel safe to open up about things they could never have told their family members before.”

The Tribute this year included a silent and a live auction. In addition, the evening featured a reverse auction, the proceeds of which benefitted the Ackerman Clinic. In his remarks, Mr. Waterston described the work of the Ackerman Institute Clinic.

“Here in New York, the Clinic is open 12 to 13 hours a day during the work week and eight hours on Saturdays, to make services available for families no matter what their schedule. On any given day, therapists may be working with a couple on the verge of divorce, a family torn apart by incest or abuse, a teenager who suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts or a child who is failing in school,” Mr. Waterston said. “The ripple effect is enormous because the repercussions of family problems echo well beyond the family circle. We bring them with us into all our relationships, into the school, the workplace, government, commercial centers, sports… into every aspect of our lives. Strong families mean strong communities… and that’s what Ackerman helps create.”

Lois Braverman, President of the Ackerman Institute, presented several video vignettes that illustrated the work undertaken with families and children at the Clinic and spoke about the value of family therapy.

“We find that when we get all family members involved in the process, whatever the problem, it gets resolved faster and family members feel more connected to one another,” she explained.

“The Ackerman Institute is very privileged to have so many generous and caring friends,” Ms. Braverman, said. “The work we do at Ackerman is vitally important and we absolutely could not do it without the support of our Board and our friends.”

Click here to view photos of the Tribute to Families.