The Children's Aid Blog

The Children’s Aid Society 17th Annual Golf Classic

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On Monday, May 16, The Children’s Aid Society hosted their 17th Annual Golf Classic at the renowned Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ. Considered one of the country’s premier private golf clubs, Baltusrol adds yet another notch to its belt this year as host to the 2016 PGA Championship.

The 17th Annual Golf Classic kicked off with a hearty breakfast in the historic Grill Room designed by architect Edward C. Epple. Golfers then took to the putting greens and driving range to warm up for their 18 holes on the Upper Course—typically the members’ favorite. Though the golfers were met with a slight chill in the morning and some pesky winds, the sun was shining and temperatures warmed as the day progressed.

Following a spirited round of golf, guests ended the day with a cocktail reception, awards ceremony, and remarks by both Phoebe Boyer, president and CEO of Children’s Aid, and Taylor Whitaker, a Children’s Aid student who had successfully completed her first year of college. Both Phoebe and Taylor thanked sponsors and participants for the impact they have made. The crowd was also privileged to hear a few remarks from golf legend and club pro Doug Steffen during the awards ceremony emceed by Brad Gruby, member of the Golf Classic host committee. Guest auctioneer and lead sports anchor for WNBC-TV Bruce Beck then charmed the crowd via the live auction. Following the auction, Bruce invited golfers to open their hearts and wallets to provide college scholarships for our Path to College Success students.  Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the first $15,000 in donations were matched 1:1.

Raising more than $250,000, the Golf Classic was a huge success and would not have been possible without the loyal support and continued sponsorship from Accenture, our Founding Sponsor, and the Mediterranean Shipping Company, our Hospitality Sponsor. 

We would also like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Golf Classic host committee who made this an unforgettable and meaningful day. 

And finally, thank you to our foursome supporters, guests, and other donors who made this event what it was. See you next year!

Below you will find a complete list of our contest and tournament winners. Congratulations!

  • Closest to the Pin Hole #3 Winner:  Arjun Bedi
  • Closest to the Pin Hole #7 Winner:  Todd Caruso
  • Closest to the Pin Hole #10 Winner: Steve Hatch
  • Closest to the Pin Hole #15 Winner: Dominic Lenz
  • 4th Place Net Winners:  Todd Egan, Neil Bhargava, Rich Sosanie, Michael Kulberg
  • 3rd Place Net Winners: Scott Nepereny, Peter Fourie, Jim Topor, Matt Mehalick
  • 2nd Place Net Winners: Graham Hone, Paul Mackey, Steve Duval, Adam Gehlmeyer
  • 1st Place Net Winners:  John Cowles, Dave Minning, Ray Laggan, Russ Moody
  • 1st Place Gross Winners:  Michael Costonis, Daniel Swinford, Richard Miller, John Cusano

Click here to view a photo gallery of the 2016 Golf Classic.

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Bronx Teens Keep the Peace

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Last week, students at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School hosted their 6th Annual Peace Block Party. The event has become a well-recognized tradition at the South Bronx high school, after the students saw many of their friends fall victim to senseless acts of violence in their community in 2010. Refusing to accept that tragedy should be a part of their everyday life, they decided to take action. They organized the Peace Block Party to promote a student led anti-drug and anti-violence movement.

This year the student organizers are continuing the school tradition, with an added opportunity for their peers—amidst exams and extracurricular activities—to just have fun. The event at the Children’s Aid community school featured face painting, basketball contests, double-dutch, and button-making activities.

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Showing Great Appreciation for Our Educators - Part Four

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Lester Feuerstein’s personal mission is to make sure his students stand a chance. As an after-school coordinator at I.S. 61 on the north shore of Staten Island, he aims to provide kids with well-rounded experiences that engage them academically, physically, and socially.

Lester has worked at Children’s Aid for 13 years, but the flesh of his career as an educator comes from the 25 years he spent as a special needs teacher and supervisor. He found that in each role, advocating for a student’s well-being was front and center.

“You are always fighting for kids to be part of what is going on in the school,” he said.

As a former softball coach and basketball referee, Lester is a believer in the benefits of athletics but he knows that they have to be balanced out with academics. He always emphasizes that with his students and their parents throughout the school year. He hopes that his middle schoolers will be intrigued by programs like filmmaking or robotics that will provide them with added opportunities for personal growth.

“If we can get a couple of kids to try new things, well maybe they will find something they really enjoy,” he said.

Lester and his after-school team at I.S. 61 also make concentrated efforts to prepare students for high school. They work with seventh graders to introduce them to the specialized high school entrance test. After-school test prep continues through the eighth grade, until students take the exam in November. Lester holds high expectations for kids in his programs because he knows what they are capable of accomplishing.

“The goal is to see kids achieving the highest level of education possible and achieving careers,” said Lester. “Our students can rise to the occasion.”

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National Foster Care Month - Part Two

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Mariama Kora’s life changed when she watched a mother get frustrated with an emotionally upset boy and then ignored him.

“Why are you mad, and why are you not attending to him?” she thought at the time. Mariama found out that the boy was in the foster care system, and she knew she could do better.

Mariama is originally from Gambia, immigrating to the U.S. in 1994. And she has always had a big heart. She has given birth to three children, one of whom was born with multiple congenital abnormalities. The doctors said he would be a “vegetable,” but Mariama refused to accept that. Her boy continues to exceed doctors’ expectations.

At a certain point, she realized there might be another boy who needs a good home because of similar medical problems, and that he could be a friend to her son. “I’m very sympathetic to everyone I see,” said Mariama. “I want to make a difference.”

After getting trained by Children’s Aid, she soon received a call about a 9-year-old boy in our medical foster care program who needed a home for two weeks while his foster mother went on vacation. At the end of the two weeks, the boy who would become her adopted son refused to leave. “He wrapped his entire body around my legs,” said Mariama. “At that point, he had so many difficulties that they had to restrain him to calm down. Today, he’s doing perfect.”

She has brought more kids into her Mount Vernon home. She’s currently fostering a 6-year-old and three 4-year-olds. “If I can lift up one child, then maybe I’m making a difference,” she said. 

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Children’s Aid Celebrates Bronx Week

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Last week, we hosted our annual Bronx Week event at the Children’s Aid Bronx Family Center. Organized by our Office of Public Policy in collaboration with our Child Welfare and Family Services Division, the event took place during the borough’s official Bronx Week. The event marks the 16th year Children’s Aid services have operated in the borough.

Activities included face painting, a bouncy house, and raffles that were complimented by sweet and healthy treats. A representative from Marcos Crespo’s office also stopped by to help raffle off some prizes to children in attendance.  Our Bronx Week event was a fun way to engage our families and to let the community know about our range of services present in the area. Children’s Aid operates 12 community schools in the borough, offers early childhood classes, runs a youth center and health clinic, has foster care and adoption services, and a variety of nutrition programs. 

Click here to view our Bronx Week photo gallery.

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Showing Great Appreciation for Our Educators - Part Three

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As a program coordinator and educator for our food justice after-school programs, Natalie Greaves-Peters, works diligently to empower middle and high school students to explore how food and social justice intersect in their communities.

Her work starts with building understanding around access to healthy foods, labor rights, and environmental sustainability. Some topics are a bit sophisticated for middle schoolers—and even high schoolers—to grasp, but Natalie finds that “planting the seeds early on” helps them stick.

It also helps her students make healthier decisions around the foods they eat, a key goal that Natalie and the Go!Healthy program have for their participants.

“A lot their results in their day-to-day life comes from what they put in their bodies,” she said, talking about academics and attendance. “Educating kids about food ultimately helps them perform better in school.”

After students have assessed food systems in their own neighborhood, they come up with projects that draw attention to the food injustice present in their communities.

 “These kids are making connections between what they learn in the program and real life,” said Natalie. “Seeing that understanding grow in front of your eyes—it’s a really rewarding experience.”

Most recently, she has connected middle schoolers in her afterschool program at the Children’s Aid East Harlem Center to Lunch 4 Learning, a city-wide campaign advocating for universal free school lunch. Her students have tweeted and emailed the mayor about the issue, and two of her students will go before the City Council Finance Committee to make their case this month.

“We are teaching them communication skills, presentation skills, and debate skills,” said Natalie. “I try to foster a very open space for learning. I want my students to be curious and ask questions.”

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The Power in Prevention

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According to the Center for Disease Control, teen pregnancy rates are at a historic low in the United States. Educating teens on safe sexual practices, sexually transmitted infections, and the importance of abstinence are key ways to reducing teen pregnancy. And we have found that when that information comes from other teens, it is all the more effective.

In honor of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, the Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) program’s Just Ask Me (JAM) teen peer educators hosted a “Prevention is Power” event at the Next Generation Center. More than 40 young people from the surrounding South Bronx community attended the annual event, where JAM peers quizzed and educated attendees on topics such as contraception and the realities of young parenthood. The evening included food, raffles, and dancing—all in a safe setting for the teens in attendance to have fun.

Each year our teenage educators, with the support of the CAPP staff, leave a positive impression on their peers. And every year, more teens are realizing that their power is in their choices.

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Showing Great Appreciation for Our Educators - Part Two

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Jen Ocampo is tasked with an important part of building students’ wellbeing. As a Carrera Family Life and Sexuality Education educator, she navigates 9th and 11thgraders through some of the important topics they come across in their teen and young adult years like reproductive health, contraception, and STIs.

“We get to cover a lot of stuff that we don’t get to talk about anywhere else,” she said.

Jen and her students discuss these topics both in a classroom setting and in one-on-one counseling. In both spaces, she finds that her students shy away from conversations around sexual health. However, Jen uses their apprehension to generate transparent and honest dialogue around healthy behaviors. She feels rewarded when she sees her students continue these conversations outside of her classroom.

“It’s important to consider the emotional part of education,” said Jen. “My work focuses on how kids feel because that’s where change starts.”

The Carrera program’s long-term approach also provides Jen with the unique opportunity to see her students grow over the years. In her seven years of working with Carrera,  she has seen some of her students through the beginnings of their first romantic relationships.  She constantly reminds them that discussing their “sexuality is natural and normal.”

“How they talk about friendships, how they talk with adults—those are all parts of sexuality,” she said. In broadening her students’ understanding, Jen’s end-goal is to help them all develop healthy interactions across their lifespan.

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National Foster Care Month

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There probably aren’t a lot of people who experience the foster care system and call it a blessing in disguise.

Then again, there aren’t many people like Krystine Dykes. She’s 28 and she basically rescued two younger brothers far-from-ideal foster care situations to give them a home they could trust and feel safe in. It was also a home she filled with love.

May is National Foster Care Month, and at Children’s Aid we’re shining a light on some of the people who have opened their homes and arms to young people who desperately need a source of stability. We couldn’t start with anyone better than Krystine.

She was 8 when she went into the foster care system. And she would eventually have seven siblings, all of whom eventually landed in foster care. There large number would make it extremely difficult to keep them together.

She saw it all during her long stretch in care--foster homes, emergency shelters, group homes. “I’ve been through the change of foster care itself,” said Krystine, referring to how much reform child welfare has been through in recent decades.

Krystine left foster care when she was 22, having become estranged from her mother and having lost touch with some of her siblings. So she was surprised to find out, when she was 25, that two of her brothers still in the system were in danger of being separated. This situation was especially problematic because both brothers have disabilities; the younger, Marc, has cerebral palsy.

Krystine found out that the same lawyer that represented her when she was in foster care was overseeing her brothers’ cases. She called. “I want my brothers,” she said. “Whatever I have to do to get them, I’m going to do it.”

Soon, Marc and De’Anthony were getting used to living with the big sister they really didn’t know so well. It wasn’t easy for any of them. “There are times where I think, ‘I can’t do this,’” said Krystine. “Then Marc will come give me a hug or a kiss for no reason.”

She says the boys are such a big part of who she is now. De’Anthony is 22 and was already on his way to independence when he came to live with Krystine. Today he has a job working for a document retention and destruction firm and lives in an assisted living facility in Staten Island with several other men. Krystine and Marc visit every weekend. Marc is in high school and doing well. They have had an impact on Krystine, too, who works as a bartender at night but would like to return to the college education she started and become a social worker.

“I’m a strong woman,” she said. “I have a lot more patience than I would have if it weren’t for them. I’m a lot more calm in what I allow to bother me these.”

And she wants to foster more teenagers, perhaps girls. “Kids in foster care are scared to be themselves because they get bounced around,” said Krystine. “They’re so guarded. But they have so much potential so much talent. I would like to take a lot of girls under my wings.”

She’s an active advocate for kids in foster care as well as a recruiter of new parents. “Take a chance,” she said. “Let them know that this is not it. Just being a teen in foster care, I encourage parents to include them and make them feel on the own. Make us feel like you’re part of the family.”

 

A Champion for Children, a Champion for the Bronx

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There are few jobs as tough as those working in child welfare. And too often, the dedicated people that work in that field do so without thanks or recognition.

We’re glad, then, that Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx borough president, collaborates with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies to recognize and encourage outstanding Bronx-based child welfare agencies, caseworkers, supervisors, foster parents, adoptive parents, and staff at the Administration for Children’s Services whose work and dedication reach above and beyond when it comes to supporting and protecting children of the Bronx.

And we are thrilled that they honored Denese Kahn from Children’s Aid with the Bronx Cares Award. She joined Children’s Aid in 2006.  Since that time, Denese has worked tirelessly to provide children and families with immediate services to address safety and risk factors, de-escalate crises, improve family functioning, and increase youth school attendance and academic performance.

Thank you, Denese, for being such a shining example of the work we do at Children’s Aid and for always putting the health and well-being of the kids in your care first. You are extraordinary.

 

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