Monday, February 5, 2007

New Yorker's For Children

Susan Burden and Susan Magazine of New Yorker's For Children.
by Valerie Gladstone

2/6/07 - When Susan Burden got a call in June 1996 from Nicholas Scoppetta, who was then New York City’s Commissioner for the Administration of Children’s Services, asking her to help establish a not for profit organization to provide resources to support the child welfare community, it was only six months after her husband, Carter Burden, a New York City Councilman, had died at age 54. “I was still coping with the loss” she says, looking elegant in a gray sweater and pants, her straight blond hair loose around her pretty face. “I didn’t see how I could do it.”

Susan and Susan.
But Burden, who already had a history of achieving in many fields, notably as a family therapist, couldn’t resist the challenge for long. “I knew the system needed help,” she says, “and I adored Nick, who already had done so much for the city and kids.” Scoppetta, who became Fire Commissioner in 2001, is now President of New Yorkers For Children.

In a conversation held recently in the headquarters of NYFC high above Park Avenue, she recalls a lunch with Oscar de la Renta and Scoppetta, where Scoppetta talked about having grown up a foster child in a New York shelter and the shame he had felt about it.  He told her that he was going to make as sure as possible that other kids did not feel the same way. “That’s what has always made him such an advocate for children,” she says. “How could I not help him?”

Burden went to work, asking her influential friends to become involved in raising money and contributing on whatever level they could.  She worked on galas, chaired by de la Renta and Anna Wintour, and many others. “We particularly needed people with expertise in finance,” she says. Now Vice-President of the organization, she says, “It was terrific when we found Susan Magazine, who was appointed Executive Director in 2003.”

Stylish, dark-haired and as enthusiastic as Burden, Magazine, who has devoted most of her career to the issues of adoption, foster care and welfare, joined the conversation. “When NYFC began,” she says, “there were 43,000 children in foster care. Today, there are 17,000. That’s because so much money has been put into preventive measures to hold families together, and insure they get the support they need. We provide services for over 30,000 children who live in at-risk families in New York City.”
Clockwise from top left: Nicholas Scoppetta and Susan Burden; Susan Magazine, Susan Burden, and Kelly Sugarman; Susan Magazine and Nicholas Scoppetta; Oscar de la Renta, Susan Magazine, and Susan Burden; Susan and Susan.
The two Susans biggest campaign right now is find resources to help the children who are growing out of foster care. “They need to be given the skills to function on their own,” says Burden, “without the backup of family.” Both mothers, they acknowledge how difficult it is even for kids with families to deal with adulthood. “We work very well here as a team,” Magazine says. “We share the same values and concerns.”

The two Susans with Larry Harris.
Both women are also widows, Magazine’s husband died in the twin towers on September 11. And like Burden, she did not let tragedy ruin her life. Within a month of his death, she was working for Scoppetta, then Fire Commissioner, developing and coordinating services for fire department families who had losses in the line of duty in 2001. Knowing their dedication and their persistence should make all New Yorkers confident that if they have their way, no New York child will lack for care.

To make a financial contribution or donation of stock please call Susan Magazine at (212) 294-3580 or send your contribution to:

New Yorkers For Children
200 Park Avenue, Suite 4501
New York, New York 10166-4193

Please visit for more information on how you can get involved.