Position Description and Candidate Qualifications

Friends of Karen provides emotional, financial and advocacy support for children with a life-threatening illness and their families to help keep them stable, functioning and able to cope. This help, provided at no cost to families, can last many months or years. At any one time, 300+ families living in the New York tristate area are receiving support from a dedicated and experienced team of social workers, child life specialists, and creative arts therapists. Since our founding in 1978, Friends of Karen has helped more than 17,000 ill children, their siblings and families, by providing:

  • Individualized support and personal advocacy by a team of professionals who provide practical assistance and on-going help to all family members throughout a child’s illness;
  • Connections for families to other agencies or government programs to ensure they receive all available care and help;
  • Palliative and bereavement support;
  • Financial assistance to qualified families to ease the enormous costs of a devastating diagnosis and a loss of income as a consequence of the illness. For further information, please visit our website: www.friendsofkaren.org


The position of Social Worker will work closely with and report to Rhonda Ryan, LMSW, Friends of Karen’s Director of Family Support. She/he/they has responsibility to provide financial, psychosocial and advocacy support to families of children in treatment for a life-threatening illness. Using a multicultural approach, our support is tailored to the need of the individual family.

In this role she/he/they will perform assessments to determine the psychosocial and financial impact the child’s illness is having on the entire family. Providing anticipatory guidance and psychoeducation is an essential part of this job. Using a blend of psychosocial and financial support has proven to be an effective intervention in supporting families of children with a life threatening illness.


Friends of Karen’s family support model of visiting a child and family at their home and at the hospitals where the child is being treated has changed in response to the Covid- 19 pandemic. Currently our social workers are working remotely, offering support virtually and by telephone. When the CDC guidelines indicate it is safe to resume visiting families in person, and when the hospitals allow social work visits again, the organization will determine a date when we will resume in-person social work visits. We may consider implementing a hybrid family support model that combines home and hospital visits with virtual and telephone sessions in the future.

This social work position will support families primarily living in the five boroughs of New York City.


Direct Family Support – Psychosocial Support:

  • Maintain ongoing home and hospital visits throughout treatment when able to resume in-person visits; virtual for the foreseeable future.
  • Assess psychosocial needs of parents and/or guardian as it relates to the child’s illness.
  • Assess for psychosocial needs for all children in the family.
  • Provide psychosocial support to all members of the family throughout treatment.
  • Collaborate with Friends of Karen’s Sibling Support Specialist to provide consistent support to the parents and children in the family.
  • Provide end of life psychosocial support.
  • Collaborate with the medical team and hospital social worker to bridge the gap between home and hospital and identify illness-related needs of the family.
  • Provide follow-up support though home visits and/or phone calls after the death of a child to screen for needs of all members of the family. Make referrals for counseling or bereavement groups as needed.
  • Provide educational and supportive literature to all members of the family as it relates to the child’s illness.

Direct Family Support – Financial Support:

  • Review completed financial application for eligibility to receive Friends of Karen’s financial support. Identify financial needs as it relates to the child’s illness.
  • Provide financial assistance based on Friends of Karen’s guidelines and the family’s needs.
  • Make referrals to other organizations or government programs for additional services as needed.
  • Advocate for additional services to address the impact of the illness on the family.
  • Assist with funeral planning when requested by the family.

Indirect Family Support:

  • Maintain consistent and professional documentation for each case according to Friends of Karen standards of practice.
  • Coordinate additional financial and psychosocial support when appropriate.
  • Review and submit all bills submitted by families for reimbursement and payment to third parties.
  • Negotiate payments for medical bills with hospital billing departments.
  • Coordinate families’ participation in Friends of Karen’s holiday and gift programs.
  • Assist in the planning and implementation of social work programs and procedures within the Family Support Program.
  • Attend and assist with the Annual Memorial Candlelight ceremony.
  • Collaborate with our development department by providing information and photos related to family support activities requested from time to time for fundraising and marketing purposes.


  • Master’s degree in Social Work (LMSW required or eligible to take exam).
  • Strong commitment to the mission, policies and goals of Friends of Karen.
  • Good verbal and written skills. * Excellent organizational skills.
  • Ability to set priorities, meet deadlines and work under pressure.
  • Ability to work independently and as a team member.
  • Proficient in basic computer skills including Word, Excel and Email.
  • Proficiency in Spanish (or other language) is a plus but not required.


Send cover letter and resume or to request further information, please contact:

Rhonda Ryan Director, Family Support Friends of Karen rhondaryan@friendsofkaren.org

Friends of Karen’s goal is to be a diverse workforce that is representative, at all job levels, of the communities we serve. Friends of Karen is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer. All applicants will be considered for employment without attention to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, veteran or disability status or any other status protected under federal, state, or local law. 09/21