New York Life Foundation’s Grief Work for Children

Grief is one of the most difficult emotions for adults to work through. For children, the process can be even more confusing and overwhelming.

Let’s take a typical scenario: a 9-year-old, who we’ll call Mandy, loses her grandfather to cancer. Mandy’s grandfather was one of her main caregivers, and about a month after his death, she starts having behavior problems at school, getting into fights with peers and not doing her school work.

But with the help of a local grief support group, where Mandy meets peers who are also dealing with loss, she finds a safe place to talk about her feelings, and has opportunities to honor her grandfather and talk about memories, as well as understand and process the different stages of grief.  Mandy’s family also feels more supported as they watch Mandy experience self-understanding and new relationships with friends she meets through the support group.Eye_home_2

These are the kind of trauma-mitigating supports that are provided by The New York Life Foundation and other funders dedicating resources to bereavement work for children. The New York Life Foundation is one of the few funders concentrating heavily on this issue, and recently made a $1.25 million commitment to 42 bereavement organizations serving grieving children across the country. Given out over a two-year period, these grants range from $10,000 to $100,000.

This is the fifth year of New York Life Foundation’s partnership with the National Alliance for Grieving Children on the Grief Reach program, collaborating to provide support for grief providers on the ground across the U.S., with a particular goal of increasing their capacity to reach disadvantaged youth who have limited access to bereavement services. This population is especially important to target in grief work, since problems related to grief could land an already disadvantaged youth in more trouble educationally and socially.

“We have expanded the application parameters and increased the financial support so that youth across the country can receive the help they need to heal and grow,” said Maria Collins, vice president of New York Life Foundation, in a press release on the new funding. Collins said the foundation’s goals are not only to help providers broaden their reach, but also to help them develop and improve their organizations internally.

“In addition to providing the means to make services available to diverse communities, this partnership has also provided the context for bereavement programs across the United States to meet with one another, share ideas, and plan for effective service delivery among diverse populations,” said Andy McNiel, CEO of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, which administers the grant-making.

As one of the oldest mutual life insurance companies in the country, New York Life has worked with many families in the period following a loss. The agents who work with families to pay out life insurance claims often get a firsthand glimpse of the pain and hardship caused by the death of a loved one.

The New York Life Foundation’s interest in grief and bereavement support is longstanding, but it took on new prominence in 2008 with further expansion into the area of childhood bereavement support. Since then, the foundation has invested over $25 million for childhood bereavement programs nationwide, and has conducted research and created informational resources online about childhood grief.

It is also pioneering establishment of best practices for grief camps with a 2014 grant of $950,000 to the Moyer Foundation for the purpose of fostering national leadership and increasing community engagement around the issue of childhood bereavement, “including the creation and implementation of standards and best practices for the bereavement camp field.”

With a particular focus on camps where kids can go to work through grief, the foundation made a $1 million commitment in 2012 to support Camp Erin, a project of the Moyer Foundation. Camp Erin is the country’s largest network of free bereavement camps specifically designed for children ages 6 to 17 who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

More recently, the foundation made a commitment to further expand grief services for underserved youth. In 2013, the Grief Reach program made 20 grants totaling $750,000, with grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. These grants are handled by the National Alliance for Grieving Children. For organizational development and effectiveness, the Grief Reach program provides grants through its Capacity Building category. Its Community Expansion grants are for bringing support services to youth not currently served by existing bereavement programs. If you are a grant seeker, you can go here to start that process.

The Grief Reach program was created to help providers overcome barriers to bringing grief support services to youth not served by existing bereavement programs. The latest $1.25 million fund will be distributed to 48 organizations doing grief work with children. The list of grantees is here, and includes programs from all over the country, including several hospice programs that work with children.

Across the country, many of the smaller grants for child bereavement work come from local community foundations. Some examples:

  •  In 2013, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta gave Kates Club $112,000 for the purpose of supporting child bereavement programming.
  • As $20,000 donation in 2013 from the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne to Erins House for Grieving Children.
  • In 2015, the Richard King Mellon Foundation also gave the Moyer Foundation $25,000 to fund a weekend bereavement camp in Pittsburgh.

A few other national foundations besides New York Life make grants in this arena. In 2013, the Newman’s Own Foundation gave Calvary Hospital in The Bronx, New York $100,000 for the expansion of bereavement services. The Annenberg Foundation has also been active in funding bereavement providers at the community level, giving $45,000 to Our House in Los Angeles, California in 2013 for the purpose of grief support for children and youth.

One other major funder worth noting in this arena is the Highmark Foundation, a foundation created by Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pennsylvania, which gave a total of $17,185,780 between 2007 and 2011 to create Highmark Caring Place, a center for grieving children and their families with locations throughout the state.

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About Kiersten Marek 22 Articles
Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, and a Senior Editor for Los Angeles-based Inside Philanthropy, where she writes about economic and social philanthropy. Kiersten is also the author of Know Thyself: A Kid's Guide to the Archetypes, an identity development workbook.

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