The Children's Aid Blog

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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Samsung Day of Service

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On Friday, October 16, several Children’s Aid Early Childhood sites welcomed volunteers from Samsung for their corporate day of service. Approximately 50 volunteers split into groups going to Dunlevy Milbank Center, East Harlem Center, P.S. 8, Drew Hamilton Learning Center, Frederick Douglass Center, and the Taft Day Care Center. The volunteers joined in all the regular classroom activities, such as buddy reading, gym and playground, and arts and crafts, and had a great day with about 300 of our kids. They stayed through the entire day participating in lunch service while taking a break for lunch during “naptime.” Samsung also made a generous donation to our Early Childhood Division.

Shine the Light on Domestic Violence

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The Family Wellness Program would like to invite you to join us in recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  On Monday, October 26, the Upper Manhattan Domestic Violence Services Coalition will hold its annual awareness event: Walk and Speak Out.

The walk will begin at 5:30 p.m. starting 116th St. and Frederick Douglas Blvd (8th Ave.) and ending at Adam Clayton Powell  Jr. State Office Building. View Flyer.

Click here to RSVP

Domestic violence is a complex problem that affects many of the families we work with, and it can have long-lasting effects on a child’s ability to succeed and thrive.  Domestic violence—also known as relationship abuse or intimate partner abuse—is a pattern in an intimate relationship in which one person attempts to gain and maintain power and control over the other person using coercion, entitlement, physical, emotional, sexual, or financial tactics.  Domestic violence affects children and families in innumerable ways and with concerning frequency.  Some examples:

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime, and 1 in 3 teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.
  • In 2014 alone, there were 282,648 reported incidents of domestic violence in New York City 
  • 40% of all felony assault offenses in NYC were domestic violence related
  • 36% of all rape offenses in NYC are domestic violence related 
  • In 2013, there were over 18,700 child abuse investigations in which domestic violence was indicated in reports to the New York State Central Registry—two every hour.
  • Various studies have shown that children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at rates ranging from 30-60%.
  • There was a history of domestic violence in the families of  86% of children killed last year, according to the child fatality review.

In order for the children and teens we work with to succeed, we must support them and their families in finding long-term safety, stability, and healing.  Our in-house DV experts at the Family Wellness Program are always available as a resource for CAS staff. Please feel free to call us at 212-503-6842 or email for information or a case consultation, or to schedule training for your program staff on identifying and responding to domestic violence in families you work with.

Children’s Aid Celebrates Community

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On Wednesday, September 30, The Children’s Aid Society’s Family Success Network hosted more than 20 families for “Celebrate Africa Night,” a cultural evening of food, entertainment, and community building.

The celebration kicks-off the African Immigrant Engagement program, a pilot program developed by life coach Lyrica Files-Aime to support West African families at Children’s Aid community schools at C.S. 211 and Children’s Aid College Prep in the South Bronx.

The program will offer families a series of workshops on parenting strategies and immigrant rights, in addition to providing mental health and English language learning services. It also looks to connect African families within the community and to provide cultural competence trainings for Children’s Aid staff to better serve immigrant populations.

For more information about the Immigrant Engagement program, please contact Lyrica Fils-Aime  at