The Children's Aid Blog

Association of Southeast Asian Nations Visits Salomé Ureña Campus

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Twenty six members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children visited the CAS Salomé Ureña Campus on April 24. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton invited the group to visit the United States as part of U.S. support for ASEAN and its developing institutions. Before visiting CAS the group was meeting with officials, NGOs and others in Washington, DC. The Department of State recommended the visit to the CAS community schools as a way to see innovative practices around school, family and community partnerships in action.

The group included representatives from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam. They toured the school and had a panel discussion with Alma Whitford, June Barnett, Margaret Caspe, Migdalia Cortes-Torres, Roy Laird and Alirio Guerrero; Hersilia Méndez moderated the panel. According to Kate Longhurst, from the Office of Multilateral Affairs, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State, the representatives loved visiting the school and in a wrap-up session yesterday afternoon, many of them counted it as a highlight of their entire visit to the United States. They were very impressed with the depth and breadth of services provided, and that services are integrated and readily available at school. They were particularly interested in CAS' focus on the family, including continuing education for parents and early childhood programs. The group wants to continue a dialogue with CAS to see how elements of the approach can be implemented in their own countries.

Richard Buery on The Huffington Post: E.R. Visits: A Costly Band-Aid for Troubled Students

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"The Department of Education and the Department of Health must allocate more money for these mental health services in our schools."

Last week, the New York Times profiled Gabriel, a young boy who has been unnecessarily sent to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluations on multiple occasions due to behavioral outbursts in school. With the right resources, these outbursts could and should have been handled in Gabriel's school. Every year, thousands of children are sent to the ER unnecessarily, when instead they could be cared for and learning in school.

As many parents and students can attest, disruptive behaviors are a distraction to the entire class. The lesson is interrupted; students and teachers become unfocused and tense. Faced with a shortage of resources, educators are increasingly calling 911 when children act out, resulting not only in costly emergency room visits, but a failure to treat the underlying behavioral disorder.

And it's the wrong response.

Less than 3 percent of students sent to the emergency room are admitted into a hospital. Most are sent home and told to return to school the next day. Instead of receiving any sort of treatment for the root problem, the student misses a day of school. Often, parents are required to miss work, losing income and imperiling their jobs.

Continue Reading on The Huffington Post

Access a complete list of Richard Buery's Huffington Post columns

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter (@RichardBueryCAS)

Children's Aid Honors Healthy Cooking Volunteers

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For the past week, The Children’s Aid Society has been honoring volunteers who selflessly give of their time and talents to the children and families throughout our programs. Last but definitely not least, The Food & Nutrition department would like to honor five dedicated volunteers who work with Early Childhood participants in the Go!Kids cooking programs. This hands-on cooking and nutrition curriculum teaches children basic cooking skills to prepare nutritious meals. The following talented and dedicated volunteers not only help these children learn lifetime skills but they also serve as models of the benefits of healthy eating.

Lauren Finley

Her training in teaching coupled with her experience as a pastry Chef allows Lauren to transform every classroom at the Bronx Early Childhood Center into a magical Go!Kids Cook space, where crafts, books and foods come together. She is diligent and passionate; she connects with our young students with ease and commands the classroom with finesse.  Here the kids are learning about the attributes of a humble apple before turning it into a delicious applesauce.

 

Daniele Duek

Her smile immediately makes the kids feel comfortable when she teaches at Taft Daycare Center or at the East Harlem Center.  She easily switches between English, Spanish and Portuguese, making children feel at ease while they expand their vocabulary.  She is extremely skillful in encouraging the kids to use all their senses as they explore, cook and taste new foods. And her explanations of the ingredients makes fruits and vegetables come alive right before their eyes!

 

Jenny Ecclestone

When it comes to teaching children the art of cooking, Jenny is a pro! Her strong culinary background and unwavering passion for introducing kids to healthy foods is always apparent in the classroom at our East Harlem Center, where kids learn how to use “the claw” to safely cut their veggies and fruits, and how healthy food can taste great and look beautiful. Her enthusiasm and warmth are wildly contagious—the kids are always super excited when they know Chef Jenny is coming to teach! Here they are cutting a rainbow of fruits for Granola Parfaits.

 

Linda Rosenblatt

Chef Linda is brimming with energy and very well loved! When she walks into the Frederick Douglass Center, kids immediately surround to her to ask “What are we cooking today?” She knows how to channel her spunk and the kids’ excitement into an orderly classroom environment where all the students get a rich hands-on cooking experience—measuring, cutting, mixing and creating a dish together. And she always gives each child her full individual attention. Here she works with one young Chef on math skills as he counts the layers of yogurt, fruit and granola in his delicious Parfait.

 

Julie Sanderson

Julie’s charming personality, awesome sense of humor and flexibility make a great combination when she teaches cooking to the kids at our Dunlevy Milbank Daycare Center.  She is adept at capturing the kids’ overflowing enthusiasm and nurturing in them a real passion for cooking. Not to mention that they love her cool British accent! Here she is ready to start some guacamole action!

Volunteer Spotlight: Nathaniel Soria

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As we continue to honor our volunteers for National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is shining a spotlight on Nathaniel Soria, an Executive Committee Member of the Associates Council.  Nate has volunteered in a variety of opportunities from overhauling the Associates Council image and marketing campaigns, designing a 4-paneled mural at the Dunlevy Milbank Center, to teaching an art class at The Hope Leadership Academy.  Nate is always willing and available to help out in whatever capacity we need him.  He is a valuable asset to our volunteer family!

Jennifer Gallivan, President of the Associates Council says:

“In this age of social media, constant e-mails, and constant electronic overload, the key to success is thoughtful, unique, and memorable marketing. Especially for a non-profit organization. The Associates Council has been in existence for 25+ years within Children’s Aid, and through its history the group has raised millions of dollars for Children’s Aid and certainly created awareness about its programs and advocacy issues. But, in my opinion, a consistent ‘AC brand’ didn’t exist until this year. Nate Soria, a stellar graphic designer and brilliant creator jumped on board the AC last fall and before we knew it he was brainstorming marketing plans & drafting up creative pieces, while at the same time creating murals up at Millbank and editing videos of volunteer events. Not even two months had passed before I asked Nate to consider joining our Executive Council as head of marketing for the AC and he didn’t even hesitate before accepting. His dedication, enthusiasm, flexibility, and endless energy have been so motivating and contagious. It’s really a pleasure to have him on the team!”  

Below, Nate shares his feelings on why he enjoys volunteering and what he has gained by working with the children at The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer at Children’s Aid?

Two things: my faith and my art. Only a year ago I moved to NYC in the hopes to expand as an artist and partake in its diverse culture. Taking the leap from small-city Kansas City, MO to the Big Apple takes a lot of faith, so before I made the move I committed myself to meditating more. During my time of reflection I was led to reach out to an organization that helps children who might've not had the same opportunities I've been blessed with.

I wanted to give my art to Children's Aid Society, not just because it's my profession, but also because my art centers around children, tweens and teens. For 3 years I worked at a children's marketing agency, doing design and animation. Before that I was always drawing cartoons and comics. I also learned how to do caricatures at Six Flags and now do them at various parties and events. And currently I'm writing a fantasy novel that is geared towards tweens. I'm a kid at heart and do kid art very well, so they play an important part in my life. I'm a firm believer in the idea that what our children are taught today will determine how our society grows tomorrow. Kids are very important.

What keeps you coming?

Definitely the kids, and now that I've gotten to know more of Children’s Aid employees/volunteers, the people. There are so many different people from all sorts of backgrounds coming together for a great cause, each with brilliant hearts and minds, who are a blast to work with and learn from. It makes for a fun and warm-hearted environment. 

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

I enjoy hearing and seeing how active The Children's Aid Society can be in helping children and their families grow. It's a love in action that is so influential to the young hearts and minds within the organization. The kids themselves can be much fun to be around, a lot of them so hopeful and willing to make a change in their own communities. That definitely moves me.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

Being an artist it's easy to be confined to your work-bench, out of touch with the world around you. Children's Aid has been a vehicle for me to see another side of NYC that I didn't know was there. Here there is a whole world of families and children who are struggling with little to nothing to get by. The reality of it is it's not always pretty, it can even seem bleak at times. Even so, these neighborhoods and communities have rich cultures with people who have dreams, goals, and desires just like everyone else. It's amazing to see how one city can connect us all and how we try to help one another to excel towards our dreams.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

Aside from my faith leading me to it, I also feel it's good to recognize that we are all a part of something great. Within our lives, in the places we live, the shops where we shop, the restaurants where we eat, there are connections to a great community. Without the train driver who is willing to wake up at 4 in the morning to take his shift, I couldn't get to work on time. We are all connected, especially in New York City, and I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to a city that has given me so much. We should all give back a little because we are all blessed to be here. 

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

Definitely my mother and father. My dad worked for the Federal Government, so we had to move a lot, but in each place we moved to the first thing my parents would do is connect and volunteer at a church. They would always reach out to the outcast and open our house to everyone, feeding them hardy meals made by my mom and becoming close friends with all sorts of people. Since I was a child they've helped me see the best in all people and recognize those who might need a little help.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at The Children’s Aid Society?  Please share with us!

Last Summer I was able to teach an art class at Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem. The main assignment we worked on was to create a one page comic in pen and ink. I tried to help them form their own comic style by showcasing a lot of diverse comic artists who I appreciated, especially highlighting Will Eisner's ability to capture things in NYC in a unique way. They quickly caught on and used those references to capture parts in their own lives, emotions, dreams and fantasies. They were so excited to tell their stories and the work was stunning!

Granted, working with any group of teens can be challenging. There were some struggles that we had to overcome. Even so, at the end of the summer course Hope did a ceremony for the teens, acknowledging their achievements. I was touched to hear some of the kid's speeches; how much they appreciated the program, how much hope they had now, and even how some of my own lessons gave them a new found understanding of the world. It made all of the challenges worth it. I still think of those students and certainly pray they keep working towards the goals they were so excited to illustrate. They affected me in a great way and I appreciate it. 

What are some of your hobbies?                      

Playing zombie video games, hiking around Prospect Park, drawing in my sketchbook people/places in Manhattan, DJing at hole-in-the-wall bars and enjoying a good sci-fi movie.

Featured Image: Nathaniel Soria (standing on the ladder on the left) designed this four paneled mural depicting the different seasons for the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.

Hundreds Rally This Week to Fight for Child Care Programs

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The Children’s Aid Society is hard at work this week advocating against the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts – which slash 47,000 after-school and child care slots for New York City children. Campaign for Children, of which Children’s Aid is a lead organization, spoke out at two events. Beginning at City Hall on Tuesday, April 17th hundreds of children, parents and providers rallied together to send one single message to Mayor Bloomberg: slashing much needed programs would devastate thousands of children and threaten the livelihood of many struggling families.

Supporting the event were councilmembers Gale A. Brewer, Margaret Chin, Leroy Comrie, Lewis A. Fidler, Robert Jackson, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, James Vacca, Jimmy Van Bramer, Albert Vann, Melissa Mark Viverito, Jumaane D. Williams, Ruben Wills, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.

In addition, Councilmember Anabel Palma, Bronx Borough President’s Office representative Monica Major and several parents showed their support at the Children’s Aid Bronx Family Center press event on Wednesday, April 18th. “Every day my daughter gets up excited to go to school” said Jenay Davis, a parent whose child attends the Bronx Family Center Early Childhood program. “So I hope and pray that we keep these programs that we really need – that working parents really, really need.”

Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society also spoke to the crowd in the Bronx. “Every parent knows how expensive it is to find quality child care in NYC. This is not a luxury; this is a critical resource for families.”

Thanks to the participation of so many elected officials and advocates, both events were a big success.

But, the fight is not over. Take Action now and join The Children’s Aid Society and the Campaign for Children to help save after-school and child care programs.

Children's Aid's Senior Director of Capacity Building at the NCCS Published in The Magnet Compass

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As part of a series of articles featuring "exceptional, innovative researchers," the April 2012 issue of the Magnet Compass, a publication of the US Department of Education Magnet Schools Technical Assistance Center, publishes an interview with Janice Chu-Zhu, Senior Director of National Capacity Building at The Children's Aid Society National Center for Community Schools.   This issue focuses on school-community partnerships as a strategy to achieving student success.  On page 4, Chu-Zhu, whose participation in the interviews was approved by the US DOE, maps the way to long-term sustainability and success of magnet schools through school-community partnerships.  You can access the article by clicking on the link below:

 http://msapcenter.com/doc/MSAP_Magnet_Compass_Vol2_I2_4_12_2012.pdf

Volunteer Spotlight: Evan Kereiakes

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In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Societyis shining a spotlight on Evan Kereiakes who has volunteered at The Children’s Aid Society as a Project LIVE Mentor at our East Harlem Center and is also a member of the Associates Council.  Project LIVE is a mentoring program that helps link dynamic and positive individuals with middle school students to help them make a successful transition into high school and beyond. Mentors not only provide academic support but also help youth with self-esteem issues and to explore career options.

Diana Matias, Educational Coordinator at The East Harlem Center says:

While he was here he made an impact in our program and we miss having him here. Miriam is the lead facilitator for Project LIVE and worked directly with him. She informed me that Evan was a wonderful mentor, coach and motivator. He helped his mentee think outside the box and push herself to her potential. Under his guidance, his mentee gained true leadership skills and team building qualities. She reached her true potential under his supervision.

Below, Evan shares his feelings on volunteering and working with the youth at The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer at The Children’s Aid Society?

I liked the mission of the organization and thought it fit well with my desire to have a positive impact on the lives of kids from all types of backgrounds.

What keeps you coming?

The people who run the organization and the volunteers themselves are very caring and professional. Children’s Aid has deep roots in the NY community so it’s easy to have a more direct impact thanks to all the hard work that has built the organization over the years.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

The best part of volunteering with kids in Harlem is watching them grow and learn from week to week. Being a mentor means contributing to this development, which is rewarding.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

I've learned how important it is to volunteer.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

Volunteering keeps you grounded and connected to the broader community. Especially if you have a college education, it's important to spend at least a few hours every month giving back and working with kids who are also striving to achieve their goals and go to college.

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

I'm thankful that my parents signed me up for volunteer opportunities at a young age.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at CAS?  Please share with us!

It was very nice to see my mentee had changed some of her afterschool habits and started doing her science homework.

What are some of your hobbies? (Optional)

Biking, enjoying the outdoors, reading, traveling, cooking, playing piano

Featured image: Evan with an East Harlem participant

Volunteer Spotlight: Tara Koschei-Tinelle

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In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is shining a spotlight on Tara Koschei-Tinelle who began volunteering at the Rhinelander Children’s Center in 2008 working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Saturday Program. Tara wanted an opportunity to work with children and teens while at the same time developing her fluency in American Sign Language.

Karen Solomon, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program Director, says:

“You could not find a more dedicated, reliable, responsible and caring individual. Tara gets along well with other program staff, the children she works with and their families. Program participants are very comfortable with Tara and know she is always available to lend a helping hand. Tara's sign language skills have improved so much since she began volunteering at Rhinelander. She is now considering enrolling in a sign language interpreter training program so that she can put these skills to work in a vocational setting. She goes above and beyond what is expected of her and never hesitates to help in any way that she can.  Her dedication and concern for the children and their families is very obvious.  In addition, during special events, Tara recruits her family members to help out as well!! Tara's attendance and punctuality are excellent despite the long distance she travels from her home in Yonkers, NY. “

Below, Tara shares her feelings on why she enjoys working with this specific program and what she has gained by volunteering with The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer in the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program at the Children’s Aid Society Rhinelander Center?

I wanted to volunteer at Children's Aid because I wanted to utilize my ability to communicate in American Sign Language and help enrich the lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and teens by enabling them to experience new things.

What keeps you coming back to the program?

I truly enjoy working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children/teens and sharing in their excitement as we go on different trips and participate in different activities together.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

Many of the places we travel to with our teen group are new places for me too, and I enjoy the enthusiasm and joy on their faces as we visit these excursions. I love sharing in the experiences with them.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

Working with the Saturday Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children/Teens has taught me how to communicate more efficiently with teens that are not only from diverse backgrounds, but have different hearing losses and learning abilities. It has also made me think of things in a different way and not take certain conveniences for granted.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

I think it is important to volunteer in the community because I think it is important to "pay it forward". I believe it is important to do good in the world and pass on your knowledge to others. You will never understand how much others have to offer you, if you do not offer yourself to them.

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

I grew up in a home with a mother that always volunteered to help others, even when she didn't have much time for herself. This work ethic has been instilled in me at a very young age and it makes me feel good knowing that I, too, can help others and make them feel good, just like my mother always did.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at The Children’s Aid Society?  Please share with us!

Through my years with the program, I came in contact with a young girl who wore a smile on her face every day despite the fact that she had little to smile about. She had been bouncing from home to home over the last few years and had few material belongings. When I learned that she didn't have proper winter attire for the harsh season we were having, I gathered together some winter jackets, scarves and gloves from myself and my family to provide her the warmth she needed. During the following spring, she was scheduled to go to a program at one of the colleges that offered an excellent program for Deaf students. When I learned that she did not have a suitcase to travel with, I was able to get an older one that was still good from my grandmother's attic to give her for whenever she traveled. I have learned so much from this young girl, especially not to take what you have for granted and that you can always find the sunshine on a cloudy day. Things could always be worse and we are, of course, alive, which is reason enough to be happy.

Featured image: Tara Koschei-Tinelle (left) with a Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program participant.

National Volunteer Week: Highlighting Children’s Aid Volunteers

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Written by: Volunteer Services Department

In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is celebrating its volunteer family comprised of hundreds of phenomenal individuals.  At Children’s Aid, there are many rewarding volunteering opportunities that range from one-time commitments and corporate volunteer projects to working directly with our clients on a longer term. Volunteer opportunities typically include tutoring, homework help, mentoring, clerical assistance, sponsored beautification projects, holiday events, and opportunities that require a special skill set such as creative design or teaching artists. This week, The Children’s Aid Society is highlighting just a few of our many wonderful volunteers in its blog. 

A message from Malia Poai and Kat Connelly of Volunteer Services:

“The Children’s Aid Society could not do its great work without the selfless dedication of those who give their time, talents, and generous spirit to our programs and children.  We are lucky to witness, time and again, daily examples of your kindness and the life changing impact you have made. Whether you have built a garden, helped a child understand math, facilitated a workshop, or have raised money, we are truly grateful and feel privileged to work with you. We hope that your lives are filled with the same warmth and joy that you give to each one of our children. We thank you and we celebrate you.”

Click here to learn more about Volunteering at The Children’s Aid Society.

An Intervention A Day Can Keep The E.R. Away

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This week, The New York Times introduced us to Gabriel, a second-grader in the Bronx whose classroom disruptions prompted multiple trips to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluations. His story serves to illustrate the harsh reality faced by thousands of New York City schoolchildren whose mental health conditions go untreated or receive punitive action instead of the supports they so desperately need.

The Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) has been successfully diverting boys and girls like Gabriel from the ER for nearly three decades. Today, our Mental Health teams are embedded within four New York City public schools to provide weekly group work during the school day, and full-time, year-round short-term and crisis intervention with program participants and their families, as needed.

Far too many of the young people we serve live in neighborhoods with appalling rates of poverty, violence, and untreated physical and mental health conditions – all formidable barriers to learning. In response, CAS-Carrera Mental Health teams work closely with educators to provide targeted interventions and supports, recognizing that persistent and gentle engagement is crucial, especially when a young person seems not to care. We are in it for the long haul, starting with students in the fifth or sixth grade and sticking with them until they finish high school and beyond.

The good news? The CAS-Carrera program works: For the 1,309 students served during the 2010-2011 school year alone, our mental health staff completed nearly 2,000 mental health assessments; 89 were connected to suicidal ideation, and none resulted in an ER visit or outside referral.

Considering the national average cost for each ER visit is $1,500, in one year we saved NYC taxpayers $133,500 and provided families the access to services that every New Yorker is legally entitled to. More importantly, we have equipped young people with the tools to avoid risky behaviors and embrace the vision of healthy and productive life.

When one considers that youth with mental illness have the highest school dropout rate of any disability group, creating a safe, nurturing and therapeutic environment at school is an effective strategy to ensure our young people get their diplomas. If you’d like to make a powerful investment in the future of our city and young people, please donate to CAS-Carrera  here.