While working for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and Bronx Family Court, Attorney Lynne Echenberg became acutely aware of the challenges faced by youth aging out of the foster care system. Primarily, they needed much more help than what the legal system was set up to provide. So when she was asked by The Children’s Aid Society to develop a program to help teens transition to independent living, Echenberg eagerly signed on to head The Next Generation Center (NGC).
Echenberg is an alumna of both Harvard University and Stanford Law School. While working for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society as a Skadden fellow, she authored a definitive manual explaining the laws regarding adolescents in foster care. She is widely considered an authority on the subject, having conducted numerous training sessions for attorneys, social workers and paralegals.
Q: What services are available for youth at The Next Generation Center?
The Next Generation Center works with young people ages 14 to 24 who are “disconnected” or at risk of becoming “disconnected”, meaning neither in school nor working, and lack the social supports they need to transition safely to adulthood. We provide everything from educational guidance, tutoring and advocacy to job readiness training, job placement services, technology instruction, legal services, housing assistance, counseling, youth leadership training and a full suite of arts and recreational programming.
Q: How are teens referred to The Next Generation Center?
We serve anyone in the community who comes in our doors. But we also specifically target system-involved youth, such as kids who are in foster care, who have aged out of foster care or who have been discharged from juvenile justice facilities. Overall, we serve more than 1,000 members at the Next Generation Center
Q: How do you know your hard work matters?
Because they keep coming back. Because they refer their friends. Because they tell us that we’re their family. Because they know that when they have nowhere else to turn, they can come here. Life is a challenge even for those of us who come from a supportive environment. Staff at NGC let members know that they can make something of themselves, that is okay to make mistakes, and then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. I think that’s the power of the work we do.