The Children's Aid Blog

An Amazing Trip to the White House

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Several days ago, we reported about a very special trip taken by a girl, Jayda Collazo, who goes to our Milbank Dunlevy Center to participate in the Boys & Girls Club. She’s part of a program called Do-it-Yourself STEM. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, and it’s an increasingly important part of education to prepare young people for successful careers. And Jayda has embraced STEM as a path to her goal of becoming a pediatrician.

Her work in STEM, as well as her goals and aspirations, earned her a trip to the White House. And we’re thankful that she was willing to tell us what it was like:

My trip to Washington DC was exciting. One reason why it was exciting was because of the transportation. Riding in a jet was probably the scariest thing I have experienced so far in my life, but also one of the most exciting things. At first I was concentrating on landing safely. I was glad to be there with someone who supported me to make it to this trip—Casper Lassiter, director of Dunlevy Milbank Center. I was also prepared on what to say to reporters and other people by my D.I.Y STEM trainer, Déjà Flynn, computer teacher at Dunlevy Milbank Center. So I felt confident on what to do on my trip to the White House.

My trip was also exciting because I received a chance to meet girls that had struggles like I did in the science field. People doubted them, or people didn't support them on their trip to the White House Science Fair. I was very inspired by these girls because of the hard work they had put into their projects which led to their opportunity to show their work to the President. Hearing their stories, I had to support them as well on their presentations that they would give to the President. Also on my trip, I learned how to avoid distractions that would affect my career in the future.

I also made a friend before the trip to the White House, Eddie Cuba from the Boys & Girls Club in New Jersey. I was happy to have someone there with me in case I would get nervous.

Meeting President Obama was the best part on the trip. Shaking his hand on national television was overwhelming because I was on TV. Not only was I on TV, but as I watched him saying his speech I was also up there with him with a few other young adults. The trip to Washington, D.C., was the best trip I had ever been on because it was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

Watch the video.

An Evening with Acclaimed Author Regina Calcaterra

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Please join us for a night of inspiration and education. New York Times bestselling author Regina Calcaterra will discuss her critically acclaimed book Etched in Sand, a powerful memoir about her struggles and survival as a child in foster care on Long Island. Her book is available at most public libraries and from booksellers.

She will be followed by an educational panel (moderated by Mary Keane from You Gotta Believe, an organization that finds homes for older foster care youth) addressing the unique challenges that foster youth face and the many ways that the system can be improved. The panel will feature a teen in foster care, foster parents and staff from The Children’s Aid Society foster care program.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or an advocate for foster youth, or you simply want to hear an amazing story, we encourage you to come to this special event.

Thursday, June 12
6 to 8 p.m.
Dunlevy Milbank Center
32 West 118th Street, New York, NY
(Between Lenox and 5th Avenues)

To register for this free event, click here.

A Battle for Children's Health

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Today, a number of our allies are at the New York State Court of Appeals making the case for a cap on the portion size of sodas and other sugary drinks to 16 ounces. This regulation was the work of the Bloomberg administration. While it generated lots of questions and a fair bit of controversy, one thing is certain: high-calorie sugary drinks have had a serious impact on the health of obese children across the city.

Last fall, the former CEO of Children’s Aid made a strong case for the cap. You can read it right here.

May is Foster Care Month: Hilda Nunez Opens Her Heart and Home to Teens

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Hilda Nunez, a case manager for a nonprofit that serves the elderly, has been a foster parent for almost a decade, but it might never have happened if she hadn’t talked to her neighbor one day.

That neighbor, in Hunts Point in the Bronx, saw how Hilda was around children, and she suggested that Hilda become a foster parent.

But Hilda’s reaction was unusual. “I said, ‘I want teenagers,’” and not younger children, like many foster parents. “They’ve always been around me,” she said, mentioning her kids, and later her grandchildren.

The young people who have found their way to Hilda’s home have been fortunate. “Almost all of them have graduated from high school,” she said. “Two are going to college.”

Today, Hilda has opened her home to four children, three of whom have been with her for two or more years. “Every day is a challenge,” she said. “Teenagers are teenagers. But I like knowing that they’re going to be somebody.”

They don’t all come to Hilda with a can-do attitude, but she does her best to instill it. “I tell them, ‘Don’t say you can’t do it, because you can,’” said Hilda. “‘ I don’t care what anyone else tells you.’”

This is exactly what so many teens in foster care need. Thanks, Hilda.

The Children's Aid Society serves more than 300 children in its foster care programs, including specialized services such as Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care and services for teens aging out of foster care.

Consider opening up your heart and home to ensure a brighter future for a youth in foster care that may otherwise become neglected and disconnected. 

  • Applicants must be over the age of 21 and can be single, married or in a domestic partnership.
  • Applicant must be self-sufficient. Applicant’s income can be from employment, pension, or social security.
  • Applicant must complete a state screening/background check.
  • Applicant must complete 30 hours of Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training, basic training for all foster parent applicants.
  • Applicants must be in good physical and mental health and have completed physical exams for every household member. Applicant must be the lease holder to his or her own apartment or home.
  • Applicant must identify an emergency child care person.

Learn more about how you can become a foster care parent or please call us at 212-949-4962.

NYBGCA Youth of Year Competition

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Last week, The Children’s Aid Society was represented by Ciarra Leocadio in the New York State Youth of the Year competition. Ciarra, who is part of the Boys & Girls Club out of the Hope Leadership Academy, traveled to Albany on Sunday, May 18, with Angela Sharpe. On Monday, she interviewed before a panel of judges as part of the program, and while she didn’t win the competition, she represented Children’s Aid extremely well. The judges commented specifically about her poise and presence.

On Tuesday, Ciarra took a tour of the New York State Capitol and met with a number of elected officials, including Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.

This won’t be the end of Ciarra’s travels. After graduating from Midwood High School, in Brooklyn, Ciarra will attend prestigious Vanderbilt University in the fall, as a Posse Foundation scholarship recipient. She has her sights set on a career as an obstetrician-gynecologist.

She had to write two essays for the competition, and one of them, on the Hope Leadership Academy and its Boys & Girls Club, demonstrates how important her experiences with Children’s Aid have been:

The Club is so important to me because it allows students to get away from the negativity in life and keeps them on the right track. The Club is a safe haven and it’s truly invaluable.

Congratulations to Ciarra, on the competition and on a great high school career!

New York Knicks Player J.R. Smith Visits Fred Doug

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On Tuesday, New York Knicks player J.R. Smith dropped by The Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center to hang out with our kids and their families. As soon as he entered the gymnasium at Fred Doug, the adoring fans ran up to him as he happily signed dozens of shirts, basketballs and other paraphernalia. J.R. then spent some quality time shooting hoops with our youth, and hosted a Q&A about life in the pros.

Thank you to the New York Knicks and to J.R. Smith for visiting our kids! To view pictures from the evening, please click here.

May is Foster Care Month: Geraldine Williams does not like a quiet home

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Several years ago, that was what she came back to each night after work. The youngest of her four children had moved out. Her husband had recently passed away. She was missing something.

“I needed some kids in the house,” said Geraldine.

So she called The Children’s Aid Society to learn about foster care. “I wanted one little girl,” she said. Not too long after she had gone through the classes and gotten state approval to become a foster parent, she received a call. “They had a baby girl, and I was so happy.”

She started to make preparations. Geraldine had retired after a 25-year career working at a bank, and she was then working as a home health attendant. But that would soon change.

“My caseworker called me and said that there were siblings,” said Geraldine. “I said, ‘How many?’ Four. And I thought, ‘Wow.’ I didn’t want to break them up.”

Geraldine wasn’t sure what to expect when these children showed up, but she did think they’d be quiet and reserved at first. She was wrong. “They were so full of joy, they were bubbling,” she said. “These kids came with stories.”

They also came with their own ideas about how this would work, but Geraldine had rules and she didn’t waste much time before sitting them all down to get everything straight. And that’s really what they were looking for.

A day later, they were calling her Mom.

They’ve been with her for two and a half years, and they’re doing great. Aged 2, 9, 10 and 13, the kids are doing well in school and they have solid relationships with both their birth parents. “They lift me up every day,” said Geraldine. “We’re learning from each other. We have good days and we have bad, but the good outweigh the bad.”

And you don’t need a quiet home to expand your family. “I encourage everyone,” said Geraldine. “These kids bring joy into your life. You bring a child into your home and that child can blossom into what he’s supposed to be.”

The Children's Aid Society serves more than 300 children in its foster care programs, including specialized services such as Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care and services for teens aging out of foster care.

Consider opening up your heart and home to ensure a brighter future for a youth in foster care that may otherwise become neglected and disconnected. 

  • Applicants must be over the age of 21 and can be single, married or in a domestic partnership.
  • Applicant must be self-sufficient. Applicant’s income can be from employment, pension, or social security.
  • Applicant must complete a state screening/background check.
  • Applicant must complete 30 hours of Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training, basic training for all foster parent applicants.
  • Applicants must be in good physical and mental health and have completed physical exams for every household member. Applicant must be the lease holder to his or her own apartment or home.
  • Applicant must identify an emergency child care person.

Learn more about how you can become a foster care parent or please call us at 212-949-4962.

Fannie Lou Holds Peace Block Fair

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On May 15, Children’s Aid community high school Fannie Lou Hamer held its fourth annual Peace Block Fair, a tradition that started in 2010 to commemorate young victims of violence and to promote a message of neighborhood peace.  

In the fair this year, students were broken up into groups and listened to some uplifting speakers from notable VIPs: urban revitalization strategist and public radio host Majora Carter; ‎Community Organizing Coordinator at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice Tiffany Cotto; New York State Assembly Member Marcos Crespo; and Professor of Psychology and Urban Education at the City University of New York Dr. Debroah Vietze. The speakers encouraged the youth to tap into their passions and pursue their dreams in college, and shed light on how they can take advantage of the community improvements that the Bronx has seen in recent years.

After listening to the speakers, students were treated to a musical performance and an outdoor fair. There were different activities like foosball, Double Dutch and button making, and the student-made peace quilt was on display. Various tables hosted information on how to get involved with different initiatives, such as a Gay Straight Alliance or PTA-led efforts in the school community.

At the end, students gathered with white and green balloons to memorialize the victims, and released them into the air to spread their message.

To view pictures from the event, please click here.

 

Proud Parents Graduate, Better Equipped for Their Families and Community

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On Saturday May 17, the Seventh Annual Ercilia Pepin Parent Leadership Institute (EPPLI) Graduation ceremony took place. Close to 200 mothers, fathers, grandparents and others from Children's Aid community schools in Washington Heights and Harlem gathered at the Mirabal Sisters Campus to celebrate their accomplishments.

The Children’s Aid Society’s Parent Leadership Institute offers parents and caretakers educational and personal enrichment of their own, including GED, literacy, technology and child care licensing classes, as well as courses in television production, upholstery, fashion design, wood and fabric painting, and culinary arts. Many of the parents’ finished pieces were on display in the school cafeteria after the ceremony.

EPPLI was designed to help immigrant families overcome the social, cultural, financial and linguistic challenges that they face while building a solid bridge between the school, its parents and the surrounding community.

Decorated with beautiful handmade jewelry, home decor, bags and curtains, the exhibit showcased the hard work these parents had accomplished all year long. The day’s event exuded pride not only of the successes achieved by these graduates but of the entire Washington Heights and Harlem communities.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

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The Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) Program’s Just Ask Me (JAM) Peer Educators hosted the “This or That: The Choice Is Yours!” event  on May 7 at the Next Generation Center. The JAM Peer Educators are high school students who educate other youth about sexual reproductive health, life skills that help them navigate difficult decisions, healthy relationships and the reproductive health rights of adolescents in New York State.  The event, held on the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, included discussions about teen pregnancy through a skit developed by the JAM Peers, interactive and informative games and table information highlighting the Health and Wellness Division’s teen clinic nights at the Bronx and Harlem centers.  Many of the 57 attendees participated in the social media campaign started by the organization Bronx Knows to raise awareness about the lax regulation of enforcing the sexual health education mandate by the NYC Department of Education.  This campaign can be found on Instagram by searching for hashtags #tellDOE and #enforcethemandate.

Written by Pascale Saintonge