CDTC Sets Goal of 800 Backpacks for Special Needs Children Heading Back to School

CDTC Sets Goal of 800 Backpacks for Special Needs Children Heading Back to School

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) is hosting its annual Back to School Drive, benefitting hundreds of special needs kids in its care. With a goal of collecting more than 800 filled backpacks by August 6, CDTC is calling on the community to donate to the cause and volunteer.

The format of the new school year may still be in question due to COVID-19, but CDTC is pushing ahead with the drive and distribution. Getting ready for a new school year can be a big chore for parents, consuming valuable time and costing on average more than $100 for school supplies. Eighty-five percent of the families at CDTC were living at or below the poverty level before the pandemic stuck and are among the hardest hit financially.

“Our children will still need basic supplies whether they are in the classroom or learning at home,” said Director of Development Jessica Vones. “The gift of a new backpack lightens the burden on our families and prepares our kids for successful learning.”
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Early Steps Offering Free Virtual Evaluations and Telehealth Therapy

Early Steps Offering Free Virtual Evaluations and Telehealth Therapy

Parents of Infants and Toddlers Encouraged to Monitor Developmental Milestones and Seek Treatment After Referrals Dropped 65% Due to the Pandemic

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (June 1, 2020) – One of the many vital services Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) offers Broward County families is Early Steps, a free intervention and comprehensive services program for children from birth to 36 months old who are experiencing developmental disabilities or delays.

The first three years of a child’s life are critical for development as brains grow faster during this brief period than in any point in a person’s life.

Most parents seek the services of Early Steps on the advice of a pediatrician, specialist or pre-school teacher. The pandemic has had a negative impact on CDTC’s new referrals, which had a 65 percent decline in April 2020.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention. The sooner it starts, the greater the gains,” said Ana Calderon Randazzo, Ph.D., executive director of the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center. “Our virtual Early Steps program can strengthen a child’s motor or speech skills just as well as it could in person. CDTC’s social workers and trained Early Steps therapists educate caregivers and provide them with easy to follow strategies they can use at home during their daily routines.” Continue reading

Meet Kathy London, LCSW

Broward Health: 30 years

CDTC: 18 years

Currently: Medical Care Coordinator, Comprehensive Family AIDS Program

Why are you passionate about social work?

I feel that social workers make a difference in people’s lives. I also really enjoy the medical aspect as well as working with the mental health and substance use population. No two days are the same!

Why did you decide to become a social worker?

I wanted to be in a human services field. Working with people is rewarding. Becoming an LCSW seemed like the best fit for me.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

There are so many parts that are rewarding. Helping to improve a client’s motivation to make healthier choices,  providing services in times of crisis, and being that person that the client trusts to share their issues.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in social work?

I would say do what you love and the rest will fall into place. Also, to keep in mind that there are so many different areas of social work to pursue, so find the one that makes you excited to be doing it!

Is there anything you wish more people knew about social workers?

I think social workers are often generalized as all doing the same kind of thing, when in reality there are many different roles for social workers, from clinical to administrative and non-profit to corporate.

Welcoming a New ECHO Manager

Congratulations to Alana O’Connor on her promotion to ECHO Manager.

Alana O’Connor graduated from Florida International University with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  She has been with CDTC since 2004 and has extensive experience in her years of service in case management and the supervision of staff.  She began her career as an Early Steps Service Coordinator where she supported and coordinated services for families and children who have been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, hearing and vision disability and/or medical complex needs.

Alana was promoted to a supervisor in the Early Steps program in 2009. In this role, she ensured her team followed the Early Steps Federal and State guidelines to provide guidance and support for Service Coordinators to ensure the delivery of early intervention services to children from birth to three years old with developmental delays or disabilities. She continued her passion for working with the children on the Autism Spectrum, hearing and vision diagnosis as well as medically complex children as she oversaw the Specialty team of service coordinators working with these populations.

In her new role as the ECHO (Extraordinary Children Health Outcomes) Program Manager, she will oversee the grant funded program which offers care coordination, nutrition, health education, and developmental services and will ensure high quality care is provided to the most vulnerable medically complex children at CDTC.



As Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) prepares to participate in the SMART Ride for the ninth consecutive year, there is an excitement and determination in the air. For the Medical Care Coordinators of CDTC’s Comprehensive Family AIDS Program (CFAP), funds from the annual cycling event help them save lives every day.

In April, CFAP took seven HIV positive clients to Camp Key. The annual 3-day retreat isn’t a reward, but a motivational and inspirational activity shown to help patients do better in care and remain undetectable longer. This year, the staff invited women over 50 years-old who were struggling to stay healthy due to extra challenges in their life.  

Activities with Medical Care Coordinators, Physicians and Clients began Friday night with a fireside “Letting Go” ceremony where everyone was encouraged to write down whatever is blocking them from being their best self and let it go into the fire.

The rest of the weekend’s activities encouraged each to try new things like canoeing and hiking – and success brought out a new confidence in each of them. One client who had suffered two strokes accomplished a mile long walk alongside CDTC Physician Dr. Vanessa Rojas. The normally shy group of women were outgoing and full of laughter by the talent show Saturday night.

“These women are usually overshadowed with stigma. It’s a huge part of their lives. They feel trapped and can’t share their status with the people closest to them,” shares Dr. Vanessa Rojas. “Camp helps free them of the burden of stigma, giving them a renewed sense of empowerment to go forth living healthy lives that anyone can attain.”

 Unique services and support like Camp Key are only possible through support by the SMART Ride presented by CAN Community Health. The Center was selected in January as one of seven beneficiaries for the ninth consecutive year. Over the years, the ride has contributed close to $1M to CDTC’s program dedicated to serving women and children living with HIV and AIDS. 

Every dollar received from SMART Ride provides a life-changing direct service to HIV positive women and children. Beyond activities like Camp Key, clients also receive HIV testing, medical care and medications when insurance is not available or does not cover costs. Transportation, support groups, emergency assistance and HIV education are all also available using the annual donations from the Ride.

 “The SMART Ride has impacted the lives of each of our clients in our Comprehensive Family AIDS Program,” shares Ana E. Calderon Randazzo, Ph.D., Executive Director of CDTC. “The dedication and support of the SMART Ride and its participants are inspiring and crucial as we battle the growing epidemic of HIV diagnosis in South Florida.”

One of the most unique features of the Ride is its 100% guarantee that every dollar raised by riders and crew is donated to one of their chosen agencies, not used to produce the massive event. In addition, agencies benefiting are carefully chosen to ensure that funds are used only for direct services to clients in need, not overhead and administrative costs. The process ensures, every dollar donated goes where it can help the most.

SMART Ride 16 begins at the University of Miami on November 15th & 16th. This year’s ride benefits Broward House and Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center serving Broward County; Metro Inclusive Health serving Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties; Pridelines serving Miami-Dade County; AIDS Help serving Monroe County; Miracle of Love serving Central Florida; and Compass Community Center serving Palm Beach County.

Registration for riders and crew members is now open. Participants need not be a professional rider; riders range in age and experience and all have a goal of raising awareness and funds.

Interested riders and volunteers are welcome to attend any scheduled Information Session in Broward County to learn more about the ride. Training rides are also offered several times a month. For a schedule of events visit the SMART Ride at or on Facebook.