The Children's Aid Blog

Children's Aid Ambassadors: Ready for the Job

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Children’s Aid has its Ambassadors! Rest assured that New York City’s children have a group of talented and passionate group of youth and parents ready and able to speak up for them.  The Advocacy Ambassadors from each CAS site have been trained over the last couple of weeks and now have the tools to be leaders in our advocacy efforts at the very next press conference, rally or to spread the word using the most popular social networking sites.

Over the next couple of months, the efforts of our Ambassadors will be focused on fighting to protect the more than 47,000 child care and after-school program slots from being eliminated, as proposed in Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget. Children's Aid serves 2,280 children in city-funded after-school and holiday programs and more than 600 more in early childhood programs.

“Children’s Aid calls us Ambassadors, we call ourselves protectors of the people and services that guide, shelter and teach our children while we are at work or school. The city wants to cut budgets and shorten our programs, who is then accountable for those children who then wander aimlessly through the streets with nowhere to go” said Jessica Ortiz, a parent whose child attends the Children’s Aid Society after-school program at Fannie Lou Hamer High School.

Lilibet Mendez, also a CAS parent whose child attends programming at P.S. 50 wonders how a working parent would choose between providing income for her family and the safety of her children if they lose their after-school slot.  “I work full time and live check to check. I depend on the Children’s Aid Society extended day and holiday programs so that I can receive my full check and work in peace knowing that my sons have a safe place to be and are surrounded by a wonderful group of people who care about their well-being and educational needs, they also provide a clinic with a registered nurse so that I don’t have to take any days off from work.”

Thank you to all the CAS Advocacy Ambassadors for taking on the challenge. Stay tuned to learn more about our Ambassadors and as they update us on the various efforts throughout the city over the next couple of months.

Photos by Lily Kesselman

Young Men Lift Their Voices in Honor of Their Culture

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The Children’s Aid Society's African American Male Initiative held its public speaking event “Lift Every Voice” last month on Saturday, February 25th at the New York Mission Society’s Minisink Townhouse. Lift Every Voicewas an opportunity to encourage a deeper appreciation of African American history and culture.Along with participants from AAMI, young men from Middle Schools 161, 129, Promise Academy II, and from Abyssinian Baptist Church's Saving Our Son's youth group presented their speeches related to Black History Month.

 Top honors went to Mark Jackson of AAMI and Chazz Johnson of Abyssinian Baptist Church for Exceptional Content and Dzifa Gzaba and Armani Moore of AAMI for Exceptional Delivery.

 "This was an absolutely amazing event “said Mr. John Reddick, a founding board member of the Harlem Link Charter School. “I was impressed and I do not see any reason why next year won't be bigger and better."

 The African American Male Initiative-Steps to Success(AAMI) is a program created by The Children’s Aid Society in response to the educational and social challenges that disproportionately confronted young men of color. AAMI seeks to provide comprehensive services and support to program participants and their families by encouraging academic, social and leadership development of young men.

Congratulations to all the young men for their participation and continued appreciation of African American History.

Children's Aid Fights for New York City's Kids

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The Children’s Aid Society, Emergency Coalition to Save Child Care, NYC Youth Alliance, parents, advocates and elected officials gathered at City Hall on Monday, March 5th to launch Campaign for Children, a citywide campaign against the Mayor’s proposed cuts to child care and after-school programs. The coalition spoke highlighted the devastating aftermath that will surely fall upon New York City’s neediest children and families if the City continues to cut these critical services.

Present among the many elected officials showing their strong support were New York City councilmembers Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Gale A. Brewer, Margaret Chin, Leroy Comrie, Elizabeth Crowley, Julissa Ferreras, Sara Gonzalez,Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Darlene Mealy, Rosie Mendez, Diana Reyna, Hon. Joel Rivera, Albert Vann, Melissa Mark Viverito and Jumaane D. Williams, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and a representative from the Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's office.

Mayor Bloomberg’s fiscal year 2013 proposed budget would eliminate 15,900 child care slots and slash after-school program capacity by 50% – so that 31,800 children will lose their after-school programs come September. In all, more than 47,000 children would be left with no other choice but to fend for themselves or their parents would be forced to walk away from their employment. This is the fifth straight year that the Mayor has cut child care and after-school programs. If the latest proposal is enacted, 90,000 fewer children will have access to these programs since2009.

“It is unconscionable that tens of thousands of kids who already have it tougher than most of us can imagine, now stand to lose some of the most important supports in their lives that will put them on a path to success in school, college and life” said Richard R. Buery, Jr, President and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society. “The Campaign for Children coalition has taken a bold stand to fight for some of the most vulnerable people in our city and I’m proud to join them.”

Join the Children’s Aid Society and Campaign for Children by getting involved and Take Action now!

Children’s Aid Youth Speak Out at Anti-Bullying Forum in Albany

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Written by: Keyla Espinal

On Saturday, February 18th, more than 30 students from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom Middle School and High School, I.S. 98 and the Mirabal Sisters Campus took a bus up to Albany to take part in an anti-bullying youth forum hosted by Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, both from the Bronx. This forum took place during the annual Black and Puerto Rican Legislators Caucus weekend whose mission is to empower the communities it represents and shine a light on the issues that are hindering those communities. During the first part of the forum a panel of members spoke of the consequences of bullying and the resources that can be used to stop, prevent or report it. The panel included Assemblymembers, youth and a representative from the Attorney General’s office.

Then it was time for the voices of the Children’s Aid Society youth to be heard. They shared their thoughts and recommended solutions, to both physical and cyber-bullying, and what they are doing at their respective schools to stop this type of harassment. “Bullys are usually victims themselves and programs like those offered by the Children’s Aid Society can provide them a safe haven that can make the difference in how they redirect their aggression” said Chelsea, a middle school student from I.S. 98., a Children’s Aid Community School. Fannie Lou Hamer students spoke of their Peace March taking place in May to encourage peace and allow students to engage in dialogue about the violence going on in their communities. Kimberly, a Children’s Aid Youth Council representative, spoke of the survey that the council is conducting to get real numbers on how much bullying is affecting the students at their schools. All the youth made it very clear that while bullying in general is a large issue to handle, students need to try their best to get informed and do their part to prevent it.

A talent segment later on in the afternoon was symbolic of all the positive things students can and should, do with their energy and time. Our own Iconic Dancers from I.S. 98 had an amazing performance dancing to the rhythms of the newest beats. The day was an experience for both adults and students alike. The forum provided a basis for a larger and longer discussion on how all can join together to make our schools and neighborhoods much safer.

Richard Buery on The Huffington Post: The Case of the Disappearing Black and Latino Student

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Race and the Achievement Gap at Smith College and Stuyvesant High School

"The American dream demands that where a child ends up in life should not be determined by where he started. Race, class and zip code should not determine destiny. "

Over the past several days, I have spent too much time on Facebook and Twitter discussing two widely posted articles. In the first, a blog entry titled "Alum Tells Smith College to Quit Admitting Poors," Jezebel posted a letter from Anne Spurzem '84, president of the Smith College Westchester alumni club, bemoaning the current makeup of Smith's campus. Her letter complains:

"The people who are attending Smith these days are A) lesbians or B) international students who get financial aid or C) low-income women of color who are the first generation in their family to go to college and will go to any school that gives them enough money..."

And concludes:

"I can tell you that the days of white, wealthy, upper-class students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate because it is this demographic that puts their name on buildings, donates great art and subsidizes scholarships."

Wow.

Then, Fernanda Santos published a compelling story in the New York Times describing the travails of Rudi-Ann Miller, one of 40 black students at my alma matter, Stuyvesant High School. Stuyvesant is one of New York City's prestigious specialized high schools; admission to the school of 3,295 students is based entirely on a standardized test. Those 40 black students (1.2 percent of the student body, compared to 32 percent of students system wide) represent a significant decline: according to the article, Stuyvesant was 12 percent black (303 of the school's 2,536 students) in 1975. By 1980, there were 212 black students; in 1990, 147; in 2000, 109; and in 2005, 66. Latino students make up 2.4 percent of the student body, and 40.3 of the school system. A follow up article by Ms. Santos shows a small overall uptick in black and Latino admissions at the eight NYC high schools that use the test for admissions, but the overall trend remains disturbing.

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Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichardBueryCAS

Children's Aid Students and Parents Advocate for School Based Health Centers in Albany

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In February, dozens of Children’s Aid Society students and parents traveled to Albany to advocate for their School Based Health Centers (SBHC). As part of National School-Based Health Centers Month, nearly 500 students, parents, health care practitioners and advocates from all over the state of New York took to the State Capital Building to meet with their legislators and share their stories on how SBHC’s have impacted their lives and their communities in general.

SBHC’s are considered by experts as one of the most effective and efficient ways to provide preventive health care. With a parent's consent for services, medical, dental and mental health issues are addressed in the school setting. This proactive approach prevents health issues from becoming acute concerns in the home, emergency room or community. As a result, youngsters miss fewer school days and parents miss fewer days at work.

Thanks to all the CAS students and parents for sharing their SBHC stories!

Richard Buery on The Huffington Post: Arrests In Schools a Sharp Reminder That Life Doesn't Stop at the Classroom Door

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"NYC schools need better strategies to help deal with these challenges. We cannot arrest our way out of this crisis."

 

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has just released some startling numbers: five students are arrested on average each day in NYC public schools. In the three month period covered (October through December 2011), 93 percent of those arrested were black or Latino and 75 percent were male. While these numbers by themselves are disturbing, they mask the full extent of the challenge that we as a city face.

We all know children are complex, and they don't leave these complexities behind at the school door. This is true for all children, including those from impoverished backgrounds. For example, a child who is chronically absent because of untreated asthma will have great difficulty succeeding even in a world-class school. A young woman who has been in six foster homes in the last five years and is a mom herself may have trouble connecting with classmates or teachers. A teenage boy who does not have enough to eat may be unable to pay attention or become irritable during the school day.

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The Children’s Aid Society’s “Pioneering” Community Schools To Be Featured in New International Education Publications

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Professor Hal Lawson, an early advocate for community schools recently reached out to The Children’s Aid Society to participate in an international book project that he is co-developing with Professor Dolf van Veen from The Netherlands. Professor Lawson calls The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) the “acknowledged world pioneer, leader, and catalyst for these new kinds of schools" and invited us to prepare a chapter on our New York City experience in order “to inspire others, helping them to leap-frog over the typical barriers confronting newcomers to this important work."  The project involves this first volume plus a two-volume sequel related to this initial book. CAS and other authors would also be invited to contribute to the subsequent volumes.

Professor Lawson got interested in community schools in 1969; he says that it meant the world to him to see I. S. 218, the CAS prototype or pilot school, in the early 90’s.  Lawson is Professor of Educational Administration and Policy Studies and also Professor of Social Welfare at the University at Albany, SUNY. This joint appointment reflects his interests in partnerships among schools, families, community agencies, neighborhood organizations, governments, businesses, and higher education institutions. Partnerships formed to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and their communities and ones involving laypersons’ leadership and expertise, comprise a special priority. These interests span nearly 40 years of teaching, research, consultation, and service in five universities in the United States and Canada.

Professor van Veenis Director of the National Centre on Education and Youth Care, The Netherlands Special Professor at the University of Nottingham (UK); and is affiliated with the Holland University Centre on Urban Education and Youth Policy in Amsterdam. His work focuses on policy strategies and innovative programs serving vulnerable children and youth and their families and schools. He is co-author and editor of over 30 books on multi-service schools, services integration, school attendance and drop out, counseling and student support services, urban education and youth policy, and time out/rebound programs. He is currently director of the Dutch National Programme on Learning and Behavior, support teams, serving 9,000 schools.

Citizenship Application Assistance Workshop in Washington Heights

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The Children’s Aid Society strives to provide children and families with the supports they need to realize their “American dream”. For many of the immigrant parents in the communities served by CAS, becoming an American citizen can seem daunting because of a language barrier or the lack in assistance to fully understand the process and its requirements. CAS has joined the ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! Campaign to engage community members who are eligible permanent residents and educate them on how to apply. With over 400 partnering organizations, the campaign has motivated over 1 million individuals to obtain their U.S. citizenship.

An upcoming Citizenship Application Assistance Workshop, to be held on Saturday, February 25th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Intermediate School 52 in Washington Heights, will provide free of charge assistance with the naturalization application process including a review by an immigration attorney, passport photos and citizenship study materials.

The assistance workshop is by appointment only. Only the first 75 participants will be assisted. To register and for more information, please call 1-888-839-8682 or visit www.YAESHORA.info.

Richard Buery, Children's Aid President and CEO, Offers Suggestions to President Obama

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Richard Buery, Children's Aid President and CEO, offered his suggestions to President Obama as part of blackenterprise.com's feature 11 Black Presidents Under 50 & Their Presidents’ Day Advice for Obama.

“I would recommend a strategy that eradicates the educational achievement gap between rich and poor. First, we need to develop a national indicator to measure the educational, economic, physical and social-emotional health of our children—a Children’s Index. Next, I would urge President Obama to propose a massive expansion of head start programs."

Read Richard Buery's complete comments here.