the child advocate
Nancy Woodruff Ment
Photo by Stefan Radtke
Over the past 25 years at Andrus, which was founded in 1928 as a small orphanage, President and CEO Nancy Woodruff Ment has taken the once secluded facility in northwest Yonkers and grown it from its $2 million budget to a $30-million-a-year operation serving 50 times the number of Westchester children it originally served. Today, under her stewardship, the full-service residential center provides a slew of services, treatments, and educational opportunities for disadvantaged children.
When she first joined Andrus in 1987 (as director of clinical services; she became CEO in 2003), the orphanage was providing support to 57 children in long-term care. But Ment implemented two key mergers—with the Center for Preventive Psychiatry and Family & Community Services, Inc.—and Andrus, which has expanded its mission and is no longer simply an orphanage, now serves more than 2,500 children and their families in Westchester.
“To make an impact, we needed to influence the whole system instead of one child at a time,” she says. Ment linked up with the Department of Education and others in the child-services community in Westchester to expand the institution’s reach, enabling it to provide “services where, and how, they are needed.” She also created a nationally recognized special education school on-site, which today teaches 152 children in kindergarten through 9th grade from Yonkers and the Greater New York City area. The center also provides a wealth of community services and training programs for parents and professionals. In addition, Ment has spread its offices beyond its home base in Yonkers to additional locations in Eastchester, White Plains, Peekskill, and New Rochelle.
She also initiated the Sanctuary Institute at Andrus, which offers training and consulting to other human-service organizations. It has provided training to 200 agencies throughout the United States as well as Mexico, Ecuador, Scotland, Canada, Northern Ireland, Australia, and Singapore. Regrettably, Ment found herself the beneficiary of her own work: After her son died in an accident while vacationing in Costa Rica, she was in need of the same support from her extended Andrus family that she had instituted for the children in their care. “They lifted me and carried me,” Ment says. “If people can do that for me, someone with a family, a home, just think of the possibilities of what we can do for others. It brought a whole new meaning for me.”