World Trade Center

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Our quick response on 9/11 was a natural extension of our mission to help New York City’s children and families in need.

First Responder

The Children's Aid Society was one of the first community agencies to provide emergency assistance and create a World Trade Center Relief team following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Our quick response on 9/11 was a natural extension of our 150-year-old mission to help New York City’s children and families in need.

In the days and months following the attack, more than 5,000 individuals and families turned to the agency for emergency cash assistance, mental health and grief counseling, benefits enrollment, legal assistance, healthcare referrals and more. Children's Aid was a lifeline for children and families, providing as much as $5 million in cash assistance to over 1,400 individuals in crisis during the first year.

In addition to serving families who came to us initially from our own community centers and schools, via referrals from the Red Cross and other helping agencies and through word-of-mouth, Children's Aid formed partnerships with four unions that represented service workers at the World Trade Center and environs: Local 32 BJ, which represents janitors, office cleaners, elevator starters, etc., Local 6 of the New York Hotel Trades Council, and Locals 100 and 37 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. Both Local 32BJ and Local 100 lost members in the attacks; all of the unions have lost significant numbers of jobs. Children’s Aid provided assistance to union members with cash assistance, health insurance enrollment and ongoing counseling.

As an agency long dedicated to the emotional well being of children and families, Children’s Aid was concerned about the trauma and distress that would undoubtedly result from the events of 9/11. We quickly developed brochures for parents and teachers with age-appropriate suggestions about talking with children affected by the 9/11 attacks, as well as detecting signs of anxiety, fear or sadness.

Longer Term Assistance

During the years following 9/11, Children's Aid has worked with victims and their families, as well as displaced workers and their families, to help them make the transition from emergency relief to long-term psychological and economic stability. The three major areas of emphasis for long-term relief efforts have been childcare, scholarship assistance and job re-training. However, a broad range of services continued to be offered to these families, including counseling, benefits enrollment assistance, mental health counseling, childcare and legal referrals, community health services, case management and job placement assistance.

As a long-term support, Children's Aid joined with several leading scholarship providers and associated organizations to form the “September 11th Scholarship Alliance” to coordinate the distribution of what would exceed $100 million in scholarship funds. The goal was to provide a “one-stop shop” to simplify the scholarship application process for all children and spouses of those who died or were permanently disabled on 9/11.

Donor Support

An unprecedented outpouring of unsolicited 9/11 support from across the nation and overseas resulted in an opportunity for The Children's Aid Society to serve New York City’s children and families in an entirely new way. Donations to Children’s Aid for the benefit of WTC victims exceeded $24 million within the 10 months after the attacks, and reached more than $26.5 million by the fifth anniversary in 2006.

In addition to the huge generosity of donors through the New York Times 9/11 Neediest Cases Fund, we are exceedingly grateful for donations of $1 million or more from ExxonMobil Corporation, Computer Associates International, Inc., Chicago Remembers Fund, Freddie Mac Foundation, UBS Humanitarian Relief Fund, Bank One Foundation and Symbol Technologies, Inc. More than 9,400 donors contributed to WTC relief, of which more than 90% were first-time donors. Additional supporters are listed in our 2002 and 2003 Annual Reports.

Several external projects created after 9/11 benefited The Children's Aid Society. Perhaps the most noteworthy was the Here is New York photo exhibit, which grew out of a desire to help heal the city's pain by exhibiting the photos of 9/11 that had been taken by amateurs and professionals alike. A documentary film about the exhibit, “Witnessing”, was also made to benefit Children’s Aid.

Ongoing Impact

The most enduring element of our relief work is our “Hope Initiative,” which has evolved into the Hope Leadership Academy.

The program was designed to assist youth in our programs who were not directly affected by the attack cope with the damage done to their sense of security. Many of the youth in our centers and schools have been traumatized by the tragedy and violence in their communities, and exhibit a fatalistic attitude about the future. They became increasingly apathetic and indifferent after 9/11. Some saw the WTC tragedy as a warning of future dangers; for others, it reinforced their lack of confidence in their futures.

The Hope Leadership Academy seeks to head off these negative attitudes through a series of violence prevention, victim assistance and prejudice reduction initiatives that help young people learn to accept and celebrate diversity, address their experiences with violence and help them enhance their resiliency. Youth learn leadership techniques that empower them to become helpers and responders, instead of being fearful and victimized.

Photo by Derek Jensen, 2004-September-11