The Children's Aid Blog

The Joy of Adoption

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As a child, Margarita Merced always wanted to make a difference in the world. Today, she’s doing that as a foster mother.

Margarita learned about becoming a foster parent from other tenants in her building who fostered children. She admired what they were doing to provide children with a safe and secure home. She wasn’t sure if this was something that she could do, knowing that many of these children come from families that have truly struggled, but she really wanted to help.

Margarita met with her family to gauge their support, and they approved. She then contacted Children’s Aid and started on the path to becoming a licensed foster mother with the Medical Foster Care Program. Margarita first fostered a girl, Ived, who was diagnosed with advanced leukemia. With love and support from the agency, Ived is beating cancer and has been in remission for more than three years. Most recently, on November 5, Margarita adopted Ived. It was a joyous moment for all, including Children’s Aid staff. Margarita is thrilled that her daughter is flourishing. And she truly understands the importance of providing consistency and love, and getting support from the agency. Margarita says to all those thinking about becoming a foster parent, “Keep an open mind, never judge, love is the cure.”

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A Night for Promise

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Some things do get better as they age. One of those things is the Children’s Aid Keeping the Promise Gala.

Last week, more than 400 guests gathered at event space 583 Park Avenue for the 5th Annual Keeping the Promise Gala, celebrating the work of Children’s Aid and at the same time investing in its future success. The event raised more than $1.3 million that will sustain our efforts to knock down the barriers to learning that children living in poverty face every day.

The night could not have started with more energy. The Curtis High School Jazz Warriors unleashed 10 minutes of soulful, thumping music (“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars). We were lucky to have three incredible young people—current or recent members of Children’s Aid programs—on hand to guide the night.

Naseem Haamid, 16, is a junior at Fannie Lou Freedom High School and he helped Children’s Aid Trustee Richard Edelman present our Corporate Leadership Award to Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder, CEO, and chairman of Chobani.

Tashana Victor is a freshman at the New York City College of Technology and an alumni of the Hope Leadership Academy. She stood with Children’s Aid Board of Trustees Chair Iris Abrons in presenting the Promise Award to Harold “Terry” McGraw, the chairman emeritus of McGraw Hill Financial.

Alexander Pereyra, who attends the Borough of Manhattan Community College, was the voice behind the scenes, introducing many of the speakers, including our own leader, Phoebe Boyer. She made a stirring and unimpeachable case for why Children’s Aid is so critical to tens of thousands of young people and their families: “We are the bridge that endures—unquestionable in its strength, unmatched in its ability to get people where they need to be. We are the beating heart of this city.”

It was from top to bottom an incredible night, and we thank all of those who came out to support Children’s Aid and the futures of so many youth in New York City. Please take a look at the photo gallery if you have some time. 


And the award goes to...

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Today, New York Nonprofit Media honored 40 Under 40, the rising stars of the nonprofit world who are having a dramatic impact on New York City. We are thrilled to announce that Moria Cappio, our vice president of the Early Childhood Division, was one of the honorees. She leads a loyal team of hundreds of educators, family workers, and other staff. Together, they are looked upon as city leaders in getting children ready for kindergarten and success beyond.

Moria's parents came into the city from New Jersey and with a representative team from Children's Aid celebrated this great award, both for Moria and Children's Aid. Way to go, Moria!


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Recognizing a Force for Good

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This past weekend, Amy Hyman, the director at the Frederick Douglass Center in Harlem, received the International Humanitarian Award from the National Council of Women in the United States. The organization—founded in 1888, with Susan B. Anthony as its first vice president—evaluates public policy and monitors the United Nations and reports on current issues and activities, including conventions and treaties, that affect women and children.

Amy received the award for her work at Frederick Douglass Center and in the surrounding community. She first started working at “Fred Doug” in 2007, as the part-time lead teacher of the Magerman and Simon Program for Academic Success. This was a program that used project-based learning to strengthen academic skills of young people in grades 5-7. She came to work at Children’s Aid full-time in 2011 as the community school director of the High School for Excellence and Innovation before becoming director of Frederick Douglass Center. Since she’s been there, she has created a center culture that exhibits the values of School Age throughout all divisions and programs while strengthening our after-school programming to include more academic enrichment and a focus on graduating from college.

Congratulations to Amy and thanks for representing Children’s Aid so well.

The Other Side of Sports

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Many young people dream of becoming athletes, but few dream of becoming the journalists who cover them. Purpose2Play, sponsored by the T.J. Ward Foundation, is hoping to change that. Kim Constantinesco founded the organization in 2013 to shed light on the positive side of sports, and Purpose2Play partnered with the Milbank center this past October to introduce students to sports journalism.

Constantinesco guided students through Purpose2Play’s On Deck program, where they learned how to research interview subjects, conduct interviews, and write stories that matter. The students used their newfound skills to interview professional athletes Matt Long (marathoner), Rachel Breton (Sky Blue FC), and John Sciarretta (obstacle course racer) about the challenges and triumphs in their lives. For Constantinesco, her goal for the students was achieved: they learned that they could contribute to sports in a meaningful way, without stepping onto a court or field.

“They realized that they could willingly carry the burden of telling somebody else's story and make an impact in the way that they will tell it,” Constantinesco said.

Tina Cervasio, FOX 5 sports anchor and former Knicks sideline reporter, and MLB,com producer Dani Wexelman also stopped by Milbank to provide writing tips and career advice. And during On Deck’s final session, nine-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Jeremy Schapp advised students that “the most important thing to do in journalism is to ask tough questions.”

Thank you Purpose2Play, for broadening our students’ understanding of the sports world and teaching them that they can make a difference by sharing someone else’s story. 

FYSA Shadow Day

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If you spend time with youth in foster care, you will often find that they have a strong desire to change the system so that the kids that come behind them don’t have the same experiences. This is always a good starting point for advocacy.

Last Thursday, 15 young adults in or recently aged out of foster care got the chance to see New York City Council up close through the Foster Youth Shadow Day. They had the chance to tell a number of council members about  what life is really like for a youth in foster care, the many challenges they face with adapting to living within a “system,” and trying to navigate normal life events such as graduating from high school.  

Council Member Stephen Levin of Brooklyn was one of the lead sponsors of day. As chair of the General Welfare committee, he was a very interested participant. “We have a collective responsibility to make tomorrow better,” said Council Member Levin. “There's opportunity here in New York City for you.”

A number of other council members also took active part in the event, including Dr. Mathieu Eugene, chair of the Committee on Youth Services; Andy King; and many others. Youth participants were able to spend time with members during one-on-one meetings, participate in a roundtable discussion on foster care policy, and assist the members in leading the City Council’s stated meeting.

At the end of the day, the City Council issued a proclamation promising to do more on behalf of the 11,000 children and youth currently in foster care.

The consensus among the youth is that it was an amazing day, both to understand how City Council works and to use their voice to make a difference for tomorrow’s youth in foster care. 

Pfizer Celebrates Halloween at Milbank

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The Pfizer Global Oncology group visited the Dunlevy Milbank Center on Tuesday, October 27. They provided 50 children, in preschool through second grade, with the Halloween costume of their choice. Elsa from Frozen and Batman were big favorites at the center. Pfizer volunteers brought along Halloween treats in addition to the costumes and also played some games with the children.

Thank you, Pfizer, for bringing some more fun to Milbank.

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Putting Domestic Violence in the Light

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October is nearly on its way out, and it was an exceptional month for raising awareness about domestic violence. The Family Wellness Program took part in several events, and the capper was this past Monday with the Shine the Light in Harlem march. A number of Children’s Aid staff walked behind one of our banners, and Manny Yonko, Director of Family Wellness Program, spoke out against domestic violence on behalf of the agency.

The month of awareness may be over, but Family Wellness will continue to play an instrumental role in helping families rise above the effects of domestic violence and prevent it from happening in the future. It’s a huge problem—in New York City alone there were nearly 300,000 reported incidents of domestic violence in 2014, and experts agree that there are exponentially more that never get reported at all.

The work that Family Wellness will continue to do is hugely important to mitigating this problem.

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Keep the Lights On

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As everyone in the Children’s Aid family knows, the lights are always on after school at our sites across New York City. That’s why Children’s Aid has been a staunch supporter of the Afterschool Alliance’s Lights on Afterschool advocacy event for all 16 years of its existence.

Last Thursday, more than a million people—community and business leaders, policymakers, educators, and especially children and parents—rallied for after-school programming nationwide, including more than a thousand through Children’s Aid. The purpose of the event is to signal to lawmakers at every level of government that after-school programming is a critical component of supporting children and families.

So what happened? On Staten Island, at Goodhue, kids picked pumpkins off the front lawn as parents signed a petition in support of after-school programming. P.S. 50 in the Bronx held a march throughout the neighborhood. And parents in Harlem could attend an open house at Milbank to see the plethora of activities available there.

We can’t take after-school programming for granted. Thanks to everyone who demonstrated last week just how important it is to have a place to go once the school bell has rung.


Inventing the Future, Through Community Schools

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In 1997, educators, nonprofit and civic leaders, policymakers, and funders who were early adopters of the community school strategy convened to talk about how to make schools better. It was the very first community schools practicum.

At the time, Jane Quinn worked for a foundation that was investing in this type of work. Today, she’s the director of the National Center for Community Schools and the driving force behind the latest Community Schools Practicum, from October 14-16.

The theme was “Leading Community Schools: Assessing the Past, Inventing the Future.” And the enthusiasm and attendance was a powerful testament to the work. More than 150 participants traveled to Morningside Heights to share ideas and hash through issues at this invitation-only event. They came from 22 states, 38 cities, and two countries.

NCCS was very excited to have Chris Caruso, executive director of New York City’s Office of Community Schools (and an alum of Children’s Aid) talk about community school expansion, and John S. Rogers, the country’s leading historian of community schools. In addition to Chris there were so many other leaders in this field who made the two-day conference, as well as the site visits on the first day, a dynamic experience for everyone involved.

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