The Children's Aid Blog

7th Annual Women's Conference Honors Hersilia Mendez

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Hersilia Mendez, Director of External Affairs and Communications for the National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools, will be honored for her strong leadership and commitment at the Seventh Annual Professional Hispanic Women's Conference on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

The conference will be held at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus at 4600 Broadway New York NY 10040. For more information, call Lydia Aguasanta at 212-942-1383 or Leila Arbaje at 718-663-9546.

How long have you been with The Children’s Aid Society?  

I have been with Children’s Aid for 21 years – I began in 1993.

Describe how you became involved with CAS, up to your current position now.

I began in 1993 as the art consultant and instructor for P.S.5 and I.S.218, the two first Children’s Aid Society flagship community schools. My job was to ensure that we provided high quality art programs during after school and summer. I was also teaching art at P.S. 5 and to the Intensive Care Education Program, a very successful intervention for at risk students at I.S. 218. I was fascinated by the community school concept; particularly the way they were welcoming immigrant parents into the schools and helping them engage with their childrens’ schooling (something that I never saw in Forest Hills, where my children grew up). I became an active advocate of community schools and in 1995 was invited to join the National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools (now National Center for Community Schools), founded in 1994, as Deputy Director. I became Director of External Affairs and Communications in 2010.

How do you feel about being honored at the 7th Annual Hispanic Women’s Conference at SU campus?

It's a great honor, I feel humbled.  

From your personal life, who is a female role-model that inspired you and how have they made an impact on your life? 

It may sound too common place but my mother has been my role model.  She was born in 1915 in a little town in the Pacific coast of Colombia. She was a “mulata” in a very racist and patriarchal/male dominated country. She was a woman ahead of her time.  A feminist both at heart and active, that passed those values on to her three sons and three daughters. She was a highly accomplished professional and intellectual, who worked outside of the house until she died at the age of 75. She married my father when she was 32 years old (unheard of at the time) and was at my father’s side when he died 42 years later.  All of her six children have advanced academic degrees - she totally believed that education and equity go hand in hand.  All to say, that she truly juggled being an amazing mother, a supportive wife and a very successful career women, at a time when most Colombian women were expected to be only housewives, or work at dead-end jobs.  I’m grateful for being her daughter!   

Historic or/and contemporary, who is a female role-model that inspires you and what has been their contribution to society?

Historic woman: Simone de Beauvoir, a French feminist, political activist, intellectual, writer and thinker.   Reading her book "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter" when I was 15 years old, was central to the woman I became and still am. That book reaffirmed my mother's upbringing. I firmly believe in womens’ rights as essential to human rights, and in the value of education, I also passed on those values to my daughter and my son, just as my mom did to us. Simone de Beauvoir was a big force behind the Women’ Liberation Movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s –a liberating movement for millions of women around the world –unfortunately there is much still to be done, we need many more women of Beauvoir’s caliber to inspire the new generations.

Contemporary Women:  I’m inspired by many Dominican women that I’ve been in contact with in Washington Heights during my 21 years at Children’s Aid. Lidia Aguasanta, for instance; I truly can write a book about this amazing woman that has inspired hundreds of community members (men, women and children) to develop their potential. Candita Suero, who against almost insurmountable odds raised a successful family. I believe in unsung heroines and heroes.  I can go on and on.  And of course I’m inspired by Hillary Clinton, she’s fantastic.




Hurry, Hurry Don’t Be Late...Associates Council Annual Spring Fundraiser

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This spring, the members of the Children’s Aid Society’s Associates Council (AC) are going down the rabbit hole and up to the penthouse to our very own “Wonderland” for our annual spring fundraising event on April 24, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at Manhattan Penthouse. The AC Events Committee is excited and hard at work painting the roses red to create “Wonderland”, one serious cocktail party for our guests. In the words of Alice: “What an idea. What a mad, crazy, wonderful idea.”

The proceeds of “Wonderland” will support this year’s AC beneficiary, The Children’s Aid Society’s Foster Care Program which provides support to hundreds of children in foster care in New York City.

Here, on the AC blog, we will be documenting the committee’s journey to “Wonderland.” Stay tuned for more about how we picked our theme, the fabulous raffle prizes and the generous companies who will be sponsoring us and more!

So, in the words of the White Rabbit – “Hurry, hurry don’t be late, remember the time (7pm!) and save the date (April 24)! And if you can’t contain your excitement – go ahead and buy your ticket here:

Rising Together to Improve Outcomes for Bronx Children

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Approximately one year ago, The Children’s Aid Society and Phipps Neighborhoods joined forces to develop a cradle-through-college-and-career pathway initiative for the South Bronx. With a $300,000 planning grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the project employed an emerging model of multi-sector collaboration, known as collective impact, to promote student success in a community where 65 percent of children are born into poor families and just 7 percent of adults are college graduates.

On Friday, February 28, the newly named South Bronx Rising Together initiative, met its first goals. Leaders from the education, civic and nonprofit sectors convened at the Collective Impact Design Institute at Hostos Community College, in the heart of the South Bronx, to work on a set of objectives that included developing a common set of well-being and academic indicators of a college bound trajectory; how to support and partner with neighborhood schools; how to utilize data to identify student and community needs and monitor progress and how to connect them to community services and opportunities that reduce barriers to learning.

“It was important to have many key stakeholders there to help shape and guide this work.  We received a tremendous amount of feedback – both affirming and critical – from the very energized and engaged group,” said Abe Fernández, Director of Collective Impact at Children’s Aid.  “There is still much thinking and planning to do, of course, but we have what appears to be a strong foundation of support and a community of folks who are ready to work together to change the odds for kids in the South Bronx.”

Collective impact—a strategy based on the premise that no single organization can affect large-scale, lasting social change alone—has already been applied successfully in areas such as Cincinnati through the Strive Together Partnership, which has seen an increase in Kindergarten readiness, high school graduation rates and college enrollment. South Bronx Rising Together will work to leverage its resources and mobilize any and all different sectors in the Bronx to help achieve the same kind of large-scale change.

As multi-service organizations with a trusted presence in the borough, Children’s Aid and Phipps Neighborhoods currently enjoy strong partnerships with principals, as well as robust staffing within full-service community schools, community centers, health centers and housing developments. Together, the agencies help meet some of the most critical needs of the community, including after-school and summer programs; parent engagement programs; licensed health, dental and mental health services; Head Start and Early Head Start; work programs for disconnected youth; preventive services; work readiness programs; financial literacy programs; foster care; and domestic violence treatment.  As a “backbone” to the collective impact strategy, the two agencies will continue to develop the infrastructure needed to bring stakeholders together to develop and respond to a common agenda in the South Bronx.



Using Art, Harlem Youth Re-Imagine Their Community

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Last week, a great group of volunteers sponsored a Free Arts NYC event at The Children’s Aid Society’s Milbank Center in Harlem for a “Build your Own Community” art project that helped under-served kids re-imagine their worlds as part of Good Deeds Day. Volunteers from NYC Service,, JumpStart, Grow NYC and ABC/Disney's VoluntEARS worked with youth in Milbank’s after-school program bring their ideal communities to life by creating dioramas. “It was really fun! We had a fantastic time” said David Rosenthal, one of the volunteers who worked with the youth.

Good Deeds Day is an annual, global event that celebrates the good deeds of thousands who choose to improve the lives of others.

Images courtesy of ©ABC    

UPK Bronx Rally Attracts Families, Elected Officials

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Hundreds of youth, parents, advocates and youth services providers attended the Bronx Community Action Meeting last Thursday, February 27th, in support of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to provide Universal Pre-Kindergarten to all of New York City’s four year olds. The rally, hosted by Campaign for Children and UPKNYC, also drew the attention of several government officials. Joining the community members in support of this initiative were City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Senator Jose M. Serrano, Senator Gustavo Rivera and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.

The new plan would close the gap for over 53,000 children who receive part-time Pre-K or none at all. At full implementation, more than 73,000 four year olds would be enrolled in a full-day school. In addition, this new initiative would greatly expand after-school learning opportunities for nearly 120,000 middle school students including academics, culture and athletics between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 p.m.

Photo: Senator Jose M. Serrano and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson at the Bronx Community Action Meeting last Thursday, February 27th.


February is National Children's Dental Health Month

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The American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month every February to raise awareness on the importance of good oral hygiene. It is essential to teach children at an early age that brushing and flossing, along with regular dental visits, will keep their teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime.

On February 6 and 7, the Curtis Student Health Center held dental screenings for all 10th graders in Curtis High School on Staten Island as part of the Children’s Aid Society’s No-Touch Dental Screening Program. Our dental hygienists performed a “no-touch" dental screening with the use of a penlight and tongue depressor to look into the students’ mouths for obvious dental problems and if necessary recommend a visit to the dentist. This screening was offered to students at no cost and without missing core academic course instruction. Not only do these screenings help discover dental issues that can be addressed at the Student Based Health Center, but allow for preventative measures such as sealants, before a problem develops.

Out of the 335 students screened at Curtis, 289 (86%) have one or more obvious dental problems. Of those screened, 85 (25%) do not have a dentist for primary dental care. A letter was provided to each student for their parent/guardian to address the issue with a private dentist or to schedule an appointment with an SBHC provider.

The Children's Aid Society's dental clinics are based in our community schools and centers and provide quality dental care to children in New York City's underserved neighborhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention children and adolescents from lower-income families have more untreated tooth decay.

Children’s Aid Dental Services are designed to provide primary care such as:

  • Examinations
  • Restorative care (such as dental fillings)
  • Prophylaxis (dental cleaning)
  • Fluoride treatment and sealants
  • Referrals


Photo: A student at Curtis High School in Staten Island, receives a “no-touch" dental screening provided by The Children's Aid Society.

Phillips Nizer, LLP Helps Family In Need

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On Friday, February 14, Juana and Gregorio Rosario and their granddaughter Amy Germosen Rosario were the beneficiaries of a Valentine’s Day lunch organized by Alan Shapiro, Esq., of Phillips Nizer, LLP, at the firm’s Fifth Avenue offices. For the past eight years, Shapiro has organized this event to benefit a family that has been profiled in the New York Times Neediest Cases campaign. This year, his firm chose the Rosario family, who received assistance through The Children’s Aid Society. Amy, 11, was born with Dandy-Walker syndrome, a congenital brain malformation involving the cerebellum. Confined to a wheelchair, she has been living with her grandparents in the shelter system since 2010. In 2013, the fund provided monetary assistance for clothing, food and job training for Juana, who is now working as a home health aide to support her family. The family relocated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2009 to seek care for Amy. Thanks to the Phillips Nizer family, the Rosarios received financial contributions of approximately $2,300. We salute the extraordinary generosity of Alan Shapiro and his colleagues.

You can read the New York Times story about the Rosario family here.

CAS Advocates for School-Based Health Centers in Albany

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Today, over 600 students, parents, health advocates and CAS representatives are in Albany, lobbying for a funding solution as part of the New York State Coalition for School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs). Since 1995, Medicaid has reimbursed costs from the SBHCs on a fee-for-service basis, but this system is set to expire on October 1, 2014, and a planned redesign to Medicaid will replace the current system with a managed care system. Under managed care, SBHCs will be required to negotiate directly with health care plans for inclusion in their networks and for rates of reimbursement, causing an estimated budget reduction of $16.2 million—a nearly 50% loss and about one-quarter of the $63.3 million budget for the centers.

There are currently 227 SBHCs operating in New York State. These centered are patient-focused medical clinics in schools, operated by Children’s Aid and many other organizations, providing medical and dental care, mental health counseling and health education services to over 200,000 children living in poverty. The benefits of these centers are many; they provide high quality healthcare to those who otherwise would not have access to any medical services, and are effective at reducing ER costs by providing on-site crisis care. The centers also keep children in school who would otherwise be absent due to medical needs, and increase student immunization rates.

The coalition members are asking that the October 1 deadline be delayed to ensure that the network of SBHCs spread across New York be preserved.

This day of advocacy, in addition to fighting for a funding solution, will also honor a key player in the field of SBHCs. Beverly Colon, the Vice President of Children’s Aid’s Health and Wellness Division, is being presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the coalition for her many contributions over the years. Congratulations, Beverly!

Food Justice Program Unveils New Website

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The Children’s Aid Society Food Justice Program recently launched its brand new website. It features student work, videos, photos and a downloadable curriculum. You can also listen to an interview students did with Heritage Radio last summer and check out past community food projects, such as a rap video entitled “Veggies in the Kitchen.”

Weekly Food Justice classes, part of The Children’s Aid Society’s Go!Healthy Food and Nutrition Program, break down the journey between seed and plate. Students explore the various steps of the food system, from learning about the activism of farm laborers to debating the ethics of animal welfare. They engage in factory farming, measuring the sugar in soda, and analyzing maps that highlight neighborhood obesity rates. Food Justice is about cooking healthful meals, trying to affect change by surveying the neighborhoods and writing to the mayor about hunger in New York City and examining the relationship between farm subsidies and cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

We hope our work can serve as a guide through your own food system explorations! We welcome discussion about the curriculum or program in general. For comments or inquiries, please contact Maxine Getz, Food Justice Program Coordinator

Youth Ambassadors Lobby for SYEP Funding in Albany

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On Tuesday, January 28, youth advocates from The Children’s Aid Society attended the Campaign for Summer Jobs’ 15th Annual Youth Action Day in Albany. Youth Action Day is a lobbying initiative which brings together lawmakers with youth to discuss the positive impact of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and press for more funding.

In the current 2013-14 State budget, $25 million was included for SYEP, including $13.5 million for New York City’s SYEP. While this funding supported over 9,300 teens statewide with a summer job in 2011, it was 70% of the amount SYEP received at its peak. In 2014, the New York State minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $8.00, this increase will result in a loss of 3,705 slots to SYEP in NYC if funding is not increased. Governor Andrew Cuomo has allotted an additional $2.5 million for SYEP in his executive budget; however, we need New York State to restore SYEP funding to $35 million in the 2014-15 State budget in order to maintain a level number of slots for the summer of 2014.

Children’s Aid Society youth advocates hailed from Bronx community school, Fannie Lou Hamer High School and from the Hope Leadership Academy community center in East Harlem. The day kicked off with a rally in the State Capitol Well which included youth speeches and performances and remarks from elected officials. Speaker Sheldon Silver of the New York State Assembly addressed the group and vowed to keep SYEP in the state budget because of its positive effects on New York City’s youth. Other highlights of the day included Fannie Lou’s very own district representative, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo. Assemblyman Crespo spoke to the youth about the importance of voting and being an advocate. He also took our group on a special tour of the Chambers. Assemblyman Jose Rivera was gracious enough to share a little of his personal history and spoke about different policy issues. Youth Action Day was a success and our young people made their voices heard loud and clear in Albany.