It’s hard to think of a more important job than the Childcare Coordinators at our homeless family residences. It is a job predicated on caring for the well-being of children and families living presently through intense hardship. And while their work with each family is transitional by nature, our coordinators care about both the short-term and long-term success of each child. Dominga Florentino is the Childcare Coordinator at the Willow Avenue Family Residence, and it’s that unending care for the children and families living at Willow that motivates her.
Dominga was born in the Dominican Republic and came with her family to the United States when she was eight years old. She grew up in the Bronx with her four brothers and five sisters. Dominga interned at the Nelson Avenue Family Residence while she was completing her Associate’s Degree at Bronx Community College. She took a full-time position in 2007 at Willow Avenue as a Teacher’s Aide, which motivated her to return to school at Boricua College earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Education.
I wanted to do more for the kids. I saw that some of them needed a lot of help, so I decided to go back to school. I wanted to do more for the program.”
Since earning her degree, Dominga became the Childcare Coordinator at Willow. As the Coordinator, she is more involved with families and the case management side of the services. Dominga helped manage early intervention programs for children with special or different needs. She works with New York Therapy Placement Services and Ability Building for Children (ABC) to connect families to professional resources.
Dominga and her colleagues at Nelson and Jackson Avenue Family Residences plan all of the recreational activities for the children, including the summer programming. They are responsible for creating a safe and nurturing space for children who have undergone challenges and traumas that many of us have not. They work with the parents and guardians to ensure the children’s needs are met and they are receiving the resources they need to thrive.
I had my kids young and I know how much I struggled having to learn everything as a single mom. I know how these parents have to struggle even more with their housing situation, and I feel like my experiences can help them too.”
At the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, in-person activities at the shelters were paused. Dominga did everything she could to stay connected with the families. She printed activities and slipped them under the doors for children to work on. She set up video calls. She made sure every child had a book to read at all times. She helped distribute laptops and devices so students could attend remote school. “It was extremely hard because we couldn’t be in direct contact with the kids,” Dominga said. Toward the end of last summer, in-person activities began to resume and now this summer they’re back in full swing.
Outside of work, Dominga spends her free time with her family. She has three adult children as well as two grandchildren and they spend every Sunday at her father’s house where the whole family comes together.