The Children's Aid Blog

Children's Aid Goes to Albany

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On Tuesday, January 26, The Children’s Aid Society president and CEO Phoebe Boyer spent the day in Albany to advocate for New York’s children and families. Phoebe was joined by colleagues from Children’s Aid in conversations with Assemblymembers Guillermo Linares, Andrew Hevesi, and Donna Lupardo, as well as staff members from the offices of Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senator John Flanagan. 
Phoebe thanked the elected officials, and particularly the Governor Cuomo, for including $1.5 million in funding for the Foster Youth Success Alliance in the executive budget. This was a huge win for college-aged young people in foster care, as well as for Children’s Aid and the FYSA coalition working on their behalf.
In addition, Phoebe advocated for school-based health centers (SBHCs), one of the most effective strategies for delivering high-quality, comprehensive, and culturally competent medical, dental, and mental health care to students, particularly hard-to-reach teens. With the upcoming Medicaid redesign, SBHCs are in grave danger of complete shutdown as each center would need to renegotiate its reimbursement rates with every new managed care provider – a nearly impossible task to complete before the July 1 deadline. Phoebe asked for an one-year extension of the deadline to complete the important work necessary to ensure seamless delivery of health care services.
Phoebe also thanked officials for continuing to fund community schools across the state, while also expressing concern about the lack of funding devoted to capacity building – a key piece of ensuring the success of the community school strategy.
Each official was receptive to Children’s Aid’s concerns and eager to learn more. Children’s Aid will continue to work with each official’s office to provide guidance and continue to advocate for the children and families in New York City and across the state. 


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Donna Chandler: Celebrating Her Many Years of Service

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Pictured from left to right: Donna Chandler and Faith Ringgold

Donna Chandler’s no nonsense attitude has always reflected her unwavering commitment to child development. As director of the Drew Hamilton Center, she is the first to walk in and the last to leave. She has made it so that the many families who have walked through its doors know of one more place to call home. Donna is an example of what it means to fight for every child, in her advocacy and love for the families she has supported over the years.

In her last week with Children’s Aid, the Early Childhood Division celebrated her seven years on staff plus many more supporting our work throughout the Harlem community. “It’s been both an honor and a hoot to have Donna on our team,” said Moria Cappio, the vice president of Early Childhood. And with a laugh, Moria said, “We’re looking forward to when she comes back to volunteer.”

Artist, writer, and activist Faith Ringgold stopped by Drew to join CAS staff and families for the celebration. Ringgold’s children’s book Tar Beach is a favorite at the center and it embodies the same imaginative spirit that is encouraged in each classroom at Drew. It was a wonderful moment to reflect on Donna’s influence and legacy.

We could not be more humbled to have worked alongside a passionate leader. We thank Donna for her tireless work and congratulate her on her retirement. 

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Partners in Safety

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The National Income Life Insurance Company has done a fine thing in the name of safety. It has created a Child Safe Kit, offered free to its customers. This kit stores a child’s pictures, fingerprints, and other information useful to law enforcement in the event that that child is reported missing. 

Knowing that Children’s Aid places the highest priority on our kids’ safety and security, National Income Life Insurance approached us as a partner, and in the process made a very generous donation to our programs. Many thanks to the company for its support.  

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A Holiday Home Run

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Major League Baseball has had a longstanding relationship with the Boys & Girls Club, which means they’ve been a great source of support for the four clubs connected with Children’s Aid. The latest measure of that support came last week. MLB asked for letters to Santa from 50 of our kids at East Harlem Center. Then they sent a bus uptown to get the kids along with some of our staff and bring them to their midtown headquarters for food and fun.

The waffle fries were nearly as plentiful as the smiles. Our kids, drew pictures, saw a magic show, met McGruff the Crime Dog, and posed with the World Series trophy. Thanks so much to our friends at MLB for their generosity and the energy they brought to this special night.      

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Stellar Service Recognized

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The members of the Keystone Club at East Harlem Center have a history of thinking big. Last year, they created an initiative called #KnowYourRights that helped educate teens about their legal rights while encouraging them to improve their relationship with local police. The project drew a lot of praise.

Recently, the club traveled to Connecticut for the Northeast Regional Keystone Conference. They spent the weekend attending various workshops with leadership topics ranging from self-esteem and healthy relationships to public speaking, staying on track in school, and fundraising for service projects. They joined several hundred club members from around the region, and the conference ended in an awards brunch on Sunday morning. The East Harlem team won an Excellence Award, coming in first place in the area of Community Service. This was in recognition for #KnowYourRights project.

And the success of that project led to a new grant award of $24,000. Current club members will design and implement service projects involving 1,600 youth—and they’ve already made sizable progress on that goal.

Congratulations to all the youth in the Keystone Club.

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Finding Success in Community

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Another fall semester of MSG classroom came to an end this past week. The latest group of students from Hope Leadership Academy and Fannie Lou Freedom High School closed out the nine-week program with MSG Networks and the Garden of Dreams Foundation, during which they learned behind the scenes work of television production and sports coverage. 

Students were taught camera work, script writing, and interviewing techniques by professionals at MSG Networks to produce their own sports news segment “And One.” Named after the basketball term when a player earns a free throw in the act of making a basket, the show’s theme aptly explored how one can achieve success, despite facing adversity.  

Many of the participants shared that through the program they developed their public speaking skills and learned that there is no such thing as asking a dumb question, as there is always an opportunity to learn. Danny Morris, assistant director in the Adolescence Division, lauded the group of students for their great teamwork and cooperation, and for the growth they showed in such a short time. He reiterated an on-going theme, shared by both MSG Classroom, and Children’s Aid: there is no success without community.

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The Knicks and MSG Transform the Holidays

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There’s no question—the holidays can be an expensive time of year. The stress and trauma of living in poverty is present year round but they can be especially acute at this time of year because all parents want to do the very same thing: make the holidays a joyful time. And children get some of that joy when they receive toys and other treats at this time of year.

The incredible people at the Garden of Dreams Foundation, representing the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, decided to transform the holidays for 12 Children’s Aid families. On Tuesday, they sent two buses to Dunlevy Milbank Center, collected the twelve families, and sent them north to Mount Kisco, not far from where the Knicks have their practice facilities. When our families got there, they found nearly the entire Knicks team in the back of the store ready to take them on a shopping spree.

Their collective generosity was almost boundless. Families were able to buy bicycles, computers, tablets, sports equipment. They stocked up on clothes, bed linens, and household goods. Someone brought home a not-quite life size storm trooper in preparation for the new Star Wars movie.

Most importantly, the parents and children left the store with mile-wide smiles. They got to meet Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez, trade bounce passes with Lance Thomas and Langston Galloway, and get monster truck advice from Kyle O’Quinn.

It was an incredibly special day for our families, and we thank everyone at the Garden of Dreams, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Knicks for making it happen.


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Youth Empowerment Summit

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Last month, our Go!Healthy Food Justice program partnered with a coalition of youth food justice organizations, including Added Value, Bushwick Campus Youth Food Policy Council, Community Food Advocates, East New York Farms!, EcoStation:NY, Friends of the High Line, New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College, and Teenergetic, to organize a Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S.!) for food justice advocacy.

The summit was held at St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan and brought together more than 100 young people from youth-led organizations from across New York City and the northeast region. The goal of the summit was to promote collaboration and discussion among these organizations in order to refine their ability to advocate for food justice issues, such as promoting equal access to healthy food and a food system that is environmentally sustainable and that treats workers fairly.

The summit created a shared-learning space for youth organizations involved in the food movement through food, environmental, and social justice work. It allowed them to connect with other youth to build strong solidarity bonds towards building a just, equitable, and fair food system for all. Through youth-led workshops, participants learned how fellow youth around the northeast region address food justice issues and create systematic change in their communities. They also learned how these individual efforts play a part in the larger movement. This in turn helps to build a stronger network of youth food leaders dedicated to establishing a just food system. Participants left inspired and motivated to create change in their communities. Children’s Aid was proud to be a part of this effort and looks forward to future partnerships.  

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A Tradition Endures

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This summer, we heard some bad news. The Hogs & Heifers Saloon in lower Manhattan closed.

For three years, this biker bar had rallied its clientele to pool together money and buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts for kids in our Preventive Services program. They would rumble up the West Side Highway and make a grand entrance at our Milbank Center and help brighten the holidays for 300 of our children.

This fall, Alirio Guerrero picked up the phone and got to work. The Hogs owner committed to supporting the event, and bikers who have participated in this ride started working their network of friends to get the funds and the support. This year, Harley-Davidson stepped in to support the event. The results, as you can see from the photo gallery, were memorable. And ran this great story on the event.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who made the fourth annual Hogs & Heifers toy event such an amazing success.  

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Jane Quinn, Lifetime Achiever

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We are long overdue in delivering congratulations to Jane Quinn, our director of the National Center for Community Schools, on an amazing recent honor. Her alma mater, the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, one of the nation’s top programs, bestowed its Edith Abbott Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Many of you know Jane is one of the leading national thinkers and advocates on community schools and has played an integral role in the expansion of community schools throughout New York City as well as nationally and internationally. She first became involved with community schools as a program director at DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund during the 1990s, where she focused on education and career development of young people. She joined Children’s Aid in 2000. Since then, we have become one of the city’s most prominent operators of community schools and a resource for both the city and the many community-based organizations that are now running community schools.

“This award is a testament to the impact Jane has had on the future of hundreds of thousands of young people, here in New York City as well as in the dozens of cities and school districts for which she and her team at the National Center for Community Schools have provided technical assistance,” said Phoebe Boyer.

Many congratulations, Jane, on this distinguished award.