Who We Are: Making a Difference
in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS
Since the first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981, HIV infection has grown to pandemic proportions affecting millions of people. In the mid-1980’s, large numbers of children with HIV/AIDS were abandoned, orphaned, or removed from their parents because of drug use, neglect or abuse. The foster care system was unable to find foster parents willing to care for all of these children. As a result, these “boarder babies,” who had nowhere else to live, languished for months, even years on New York City’s hospital wards.
In response to the needs of these children, Incarnation Children’s Center (ICC) was created. In 1988, a four-story, red brick, former convent in upper Manhattan was converted into a homelike residence for twenty-four HIV positive children. ICC was dubbed “the Ellis Island” for homeless children with AIDS. During the program’s first three years, two-thirds of New York City’s AIDS boarder babies were discharged from hospital wards to the home-like environment of ICC. By 1991, there was a surplus of foster parents for all but the sickest children. New York City’s “AIDS boarder baby crisis” had ended and ICC had played a pivotal role in this success story.
ICC then turned it’s attention to the plight of those children with AIDS who were too sick to live at home, but not sick enough to require hospitalization. Having learned that very ill children often improved dramatically with proper nurturing and high-quality medical and nursing care, ICC pioneered the concept of comprehensive care for them by attending to psychosocial and mental health needs in addition to superb medical and nursing care. Many children, presumed terminally ill, improved clinically and returned to a home setting. For other children, ICC remained a sanctuary full of love.
In 2000, ICC became licensed by the New York State Department of Health as a Skilled Nursing Facility. Now, the current greatest need amongst our referrals of school age children and teenagers is for assistance in adhering to life-giving but chronic multi-dose medication regimens. Average length of stay varies according to the complexity of medical issues and psychosocial needs, with discharge to a home or residential/community setting as the ultimate goal. The residents range in age from birth to twenty-one years of age and come from all five boroughs of New York City and surrounding counties.