The Children's Aid Blog

Foster Friday: Meet Juana Fabre

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Juana Fabre experienced what many parents feel when their children go to college: empty nest syndrome. A neighbor was a foster parent, and Juana saw how happy the child was. This motivated Juana to welcome a child into her home in 2011. “My life has never been the same since,” said Juana. “It’s a better life, and I’m a happier person.”

Interested in becoming a foster parent? Click here to learn more.

East Harlem Center Hosts #KnowYourRightsNYC

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On January 31, the East Harlem Center Keystone Club hosted the #KnowYourRightsNYC forum, an opportunity for teens to come together to help build stronger community relations with the police while also learning about their rights if they have personal interactions with police officers.

As part of the Boys & Girls Club Million Members Million Hours of Service, the teen club members were encouraged to find opportunities to implement service projects that would benefit their local community. Four months ago, before the local and national protests over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner court decisions, the club decided that having a discussion about police-community relations would be interesting to other teens.

Keystone Club members decided to survey community members on the issues and found that a high percentage of local teens were not only unaware of their legal rights, but also wanted to improve their relationship with local police. Under the guidance of Midge Caparosa, the arts and leadership coordinator at East Harlem, the club decided an event focused on educating their peers could be a step in the right direction.

New York Civil Liberties Union trained the organizers on appropriate behaviors for interacting with police and was also present at the forum to offer advice to approximately 40 attendees, such as the importance of carrying forms of identification and how to calmly communicate in the event that they are stopped by a police officer.

The teens also facilitated conversation during breakout groups, where Children’s Aid participants and teen participants in NYPD Law Enforcement Explorers program at the local 23rd precinct discussed sources of distrust and possible ways to make their neighborhoods safer and healthier communities. #KnowYourRightsNYC greatly reflected the maturity and passion of its young organizers and reified the importance of community based service.

Associates Council members join 50 students in Study Now, Play Later

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On January 17, Associates Council volunteers gathered at the Dunlevy Milbank Community Center in Harlem to support Study Now, Play Later, a signature Children’s Aid program where students (grades K-5) spend their Saturday reinforcing concepts learned in school, specifically math and reading. In order to complement classroom activities, students end their day in the gym where instructors lead dance aerobics, team-building games, and sports.

“Study Now, Play Later is a safe environment that provides students with an opportunity to prepare for the week ahead at school,” said Eddie Britt, Saturday Program Director. “Studies show that young students benefit from ongoing educational reinforcement outside of traditional school hours and this program ensures that our students are positioned for success, especially after a weekend away from school.”

While the program emphasizes education, the scheduled activities promote relationship-building and emotional development. Students are greeted by staff and their peers, and are expected to contribute in a positive and meaningful manner by not only completing their assignments but by expressing themselves in an appropriate manner.

Following a tour of the Dunlevy Milbank Community Center, AC members joined students in each of the classrooms and worked with individual students on assignments. From there, everyone went to the gym where AC volunteers were challenged in a dodge ball-style game of “Sharks and Fishes.” Even though this was the first time many AC members had participated in Study Now, Play Later, they were all impressed by the morning’s activities and left excited about the other volunteer projects that are being planned this year.

Next month, the Associates Council will host a book fair for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Participants will play literary games and select books to take home so they can begin building their personal libraries.

To join the Associates Council, contact maliap@childrensaidsociety.org.

For updates on upcoming volunteer activities and events, follow the Associates Council on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Children's Aid Celebrates National Mentoring Month

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Last week, The Children’s Aid Society hosted 20 volunteers from Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City and the Manhattan borough president at our Frederick Douglass and Dunlevy Milbank centers in Harlem in honor of National Mentoring Month. Each center hosted Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers who played games, participated in activities, and read books with children in the after-school programs. Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer joined in at the Frederick Douglass Center to read the inspiring book Thank you, Mr. Falker,  a true story written by a woman who was helped to read by a special teacher.

Youth in Foster Care Need a Lifeline

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It’s fair to say that there are some things that the community at large doesn’t know or understand about older youth in foster care. So on Wednesday, January 14, a group of young women and men gathered at the Next Generation Center in the Bronx to tell their stories and shed some light on what it’s like to be an older member of the foster care system. The event, called Face to Face with Youth in Care, brought together dozens of youngsters, people interested in becoming foster parents, representatives of Children’s Aid and its board of trustees, and many more.

For starters, most people are likely unaware that one-third of youth in foster care are teens. And the former teens in attendance felt the need to set the record straight that they had all the potential in the world. Ashley Rivera spent 11 years in foster care but will soon move to Washington, DC, to pursue a career at the Department of State. Cordale Manning, who works at our East Harlem Center, plans on becoming an audio engineer. And Jarel Melendez is just a semester away from his M.B.A. at Baruch.   

Second important point: youth in foster care have an awful lot to give. Represent Magazine and the Possibility Project were on hand to talk about the journalistic and artistic endeavors that have given many teens purpose. And, of course, the teens who make Next Generation Center a second home have so many outlets through which they demonstrate their skills and talents. Next Generation Catering proved to be a prime example, by preparing the night’s food.

Michael Wagner, the director of permanency at Children’s Aid, delivered the night’s third key message most eloquently in making a pitch to potential foster parents. “Too many people think of foster care as a lifeboat for teens” to keep them afloat until they become adults, he said. “What they need is a lifeline, someone they’ll be able to count on forever, whenever they need help.”

The people in attendance certainly got the message.

Dunlevy Milbank Center Hosts Community Town Hall

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Community members of all ages braved the frigid weather to attend the Town Hall Meeting at our Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. Milbank staff organized the event to promote open and honest conversation within the climate of strained relations between police members and communities of color. The meeting featured a panel of local leaders, elected officials, and current and retired members of the New York Police Department. Key figures in attendance included Harlem City Council Member Inez Dickens and NYPD Deputy Chief Rodney Harrison. Khalil Scott, a Children’s Aid parent, facilitated the discussion.

Milbank director Casper Lassiter opened up the meeting with the hope that “we can begin to better understand each other’s realities.” His comments framed the dialogue around the sharing of individual experiences. Youth in attendance—a mix of students from Milbank and the Hope Leadership Academy—detailed negative encounters with law enforcement. Officers tried to demystify community policing while also explaining some of the anxieties that come with the job.

Councilmember Dickens spoke about bridging the gap between law enforcement and community members. She encouraged the audience to vote, citing it as a way for local citizens to enact change. “We want you to survive and rise up,” she said to the youth in the audience.

While the evening did not end with a consensus on solutions, everyone seemed satisfied with the ability to air their concerns and eager to see community relations improve, and soon. Angel Jackson, a former Milbank participant and current Hope Leadership student, wanted to make sure NYPD representatives were clear on one thing: “Kids are not a threat to you.”

Three Kings Day in East Harlem

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On Tuesday, January 6, El Museo Del Barrio hosted its 37th Annual Three Kings Parade. For the past eight years, children from our East Harlem Early Head Start and Head Start programs have participated in the event. Approximately 20 children and their parent’s marched in the parade, displaying their handmade crowns and maracas that they created especially for the day. Despite the cold and snowy weather everyone had a great time! 

 

Fun and Philanthropy

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Here at Children’s Aid, we have a lot to be thankful for throughout the holiday season. We learned of yet another thing about which to be grateful.

For seven years, the Pig Brooch Theatre Company has been staging a word-for-word performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” mimicking to perfection every movement of the animated characters. Presented at the Brooklyn Lyceum, the event has become a well-known family tradition.

Less well known is that Pig Brooch chooses a charity every year and donates the net proceeds (after expenses). This year, the theater company chose Children’s Aid. All of us want to thank Pig Brooch for their generosity. The cast and crew include some actors but lots of people from all walks of life who do this simply because they love it. The play is probably seen by approximately 1,000 people across eight performances.

So thank you, Pig Brooch. And if you’re in search of holiday cheer next year, look for the eight season of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

An Evening with The Nutcracker

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Earlier this month, Lincoln Center launched the Family-Linc program, designed to introduce and encourage children and families from high-poverty areas to attend dance, theater, orchestral music, and opera performances on a regular basis.

On Sunday, December 14, more than 200 people and 55 families from Children’s Aid sites and programs from the South Bronx were invited to attend a performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. All attendees were treated to prime orchestra-level seating. Prior to the performance, parents and their children participated in art activities, dance lessons, and a primer on the story of The Nutcracker. To ensure all families had an enriched experience, Spanish-speaking families were paired with families that could offer assistance translating the lessons of the day.

Thank you to Lincoln Center and our Family Success Program and School Age Division for making this event possible for our kids and their families.

A Toy for Every Child

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Future Proof is Dentsu Aegis Network’s approach to corporate social responsibility.  Through this initiative, employees from Dentsu Aegis Network have been sponsoring holiday gifts for the East Harlem Center for the last seven years. This year, on December 16th, the group brought along a very jolly friend. Santa Claus and Dentsu Aegis elves visited our Head Start classrooms to spread some holiday cheer.

Each child received a wrapped gift, which brought wide smiles to all the young faces. Denstu Aegis also collected toys for participants in the early childhood programs, which will be distributed later.

Thank you again to our friends at Dentsu Aegis Network for their continued partnership with Children’s Aid and for becoming part of our family at the East Harlem Center!