The Children's Aid Blog

Making Foster Care Human

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When a young person goes into foster care, a flood of paperwork ensues because everything has to be documented. There’s too much at stake. And it all goes into a case, handled by a caseworker.

A dozen young people visited City Hall on May 10 to send a message that behind every case file is a human being, a young person whose aspirations and goals in the broadest scope aren’t that different from most anyone else. They want to feel safe. They want to believe in their future, that they’ll have a fair shot at improving their lives. They want to be acknowledged as individuals, for who they are.

The second Fostering Youth Success Alliance Shadow Day proved an excellent opportunity to do just that. The young adults spent the better part of the day shadowing council members, experiencing meetings that affect city life, and watching first hand the business of government.

Once again, Council Member Stephen Levin, as chair of the General Welfare committee, took a lead role in making this a day to remember. We were honored to have Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito deliver a powerful message on City Hall’s steps, where she was joined by Council Members Vanessa Gibson, David Greenfield, Ben Kallos, Donovan Richards, and Mark Treyger.

The day took on added importance because City Council introduced a bill that will address inequities in the way the city determines homelessness. If it passes, youth aging out of foster care will be credited as homeless during their time in foster care so they qualify for the city’s rental voucher program. Housing is always a critical issue for young people aging out of foster care, so this would be a good step forward for New York City. 

Preschool Every Day

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Our community school teams are paying close attention to strong school attendance at each stage of school because it is such an important factor in student achievement. As early as preschool, chronic absence can present challenges for long-term academic success. Students with lower preschool attendance tend to have lower kindergarten readiness scores, and students who continue to be chronically absent in grades K-1, are much less likely to read proficiently in third grade.

Staff at the Fairmont-Samara campus in the Bronx are helping families develop healthy school attendance practices early on. They invited pre-k families to spend the morning in their children’s classrooms, and help each student build their own book from scratch, showing both children and their families that showing up to school is both fun and critical to a student’s learning. Together, parents and staff can continue to make sure our youngest learners are getting the most out of their early childhood classroom education by attending preschool every day.

Celebrate Mom and Children’s Aid with Rite Aid’s KidCents Program

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Mother’s Day is Sunday. Have you picked up a card for Mom yet? Or maybe some sweets to go along with it?

If not, Children’s Aid suggests that you head over to your local Rite Aid to get Mom something special this year, and while you’re there you can sign up for Rite Aid’s KidCents program. Children’s Aid is a proud participating charity and member of the KidCents community.

What is KidCents, you ask? It’s an opportunity for wellness+ with Plenti card holders to round up every Rite Aid purchase to the nearest dollar and designate a charity to receive that change. That’s right, you can support Children’s Aid mission to help children in NYC living in poverty succeed and thrive with a simple trip to the drugstore! If you aren’t already a wellness+ with Plenti card holder, you can sign up at the store or online. When you sign up, or if you already have a wellness + with Plenti card, please make sure to designate Children’s Aid as your charity of choice on the website! It’s that simple and you’ll be making a difference in the lives of the children we are so privileged to serve.

Children’s Aid’s KidCents program supports our Health and Wellness Division through which our agency provides children and youth with a holistic array of supportive services, from medical check-ups to programs that support young people’s mental health, all in an effort to ensure they have the ability to live healthy, fulfilling lives and can realize their boundless potential. Children’s Aid thanks the Rite Aid Foundation for selecting our agency as one of more than 360 charities who benefit from KidCents. So don’t forget about Mom this weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for the KidCents program and/or designate Children’s Aid as the beneficiary of your generosity!

Making College a Reality

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Meet Christa Hill. Last year, she was in high school getting ready to take the next step in her education. This year, thanks in part to a scholarship from the Children’s Aid Golf Classic, she’s a freshman at Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the CUNY system. She’s majoring in community health with a long-term goal of becoming a physical therapist with a focus on sports medicine.

She became eligible for the scholarship because of her participation with our Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem. Christa is also a poet and Youth Advocate engaged with My Brother’s Keeper Leadership Council. “This scholarship was such a blessing to me in my college life,” said Christa. “I don't come from great financial means, although my mother tries her very best. I was able to purchase so many essential tools such as a laptop, which has really helped this year. And I was able to focus even more on my academics.”

She’s just one of many young people who have benefitted from the scholarship program. On May 15, our dedicated golfers will once again enjoy a day on the links while changing the lives of young people with college dreams. 

Viacommunity Day: Promoting Good Health at Goodhue

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As a premier company that represents brands like MTV and Nickelodeon, Viacom is no stranger to entertainment. And that familiarity suited its employee volunteers well last Friday when they spent the afternoon at our Goodhue Center on Staten Island entertaining 60 third and fourth graders with activities that ran the gamut from hula hooping to face painting. Yet, the message Viacom’s employees had to impart that day—Viacommunity Day 2017, the company’s worldwide day of service—was even more important than the great time had by all: an active lifestyle is a key component to growing up strong. As Children’s Aid would say, physical well-being is critical to helping youth realize their utmost potential.

Viacom’s Health Fair at Goodhue was much more than your run-of-the-mill event that implores kids to “brush your teeth” or “play for 60 minutes a day.” Not only did the members of the Viacommunity man different relay race stations and participate in jump roping, they also took time out to speak to the kids about their work at Viacom, helping inspire our youth about possibilities for their own futures. What’s more, our kids did not leave the Health Fair empty handed. Thanks to the generosity of Viacom, each young person went home with a goody bag filled with hygiene products and a health-conscious snack. Children’s Aid is delighted to be a beneficiary of Viacommunity Day 2017. And we thank Viacom executive vice president and CFO, Wade Davis, who we honored at our annual gala this past November, for his service and support in the realm of education reform and his dedication to improving outcomes for disengaged youth, for its investment in the well-being of the young people we serve.

 

Reaching Higher on College Decision Day

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High school seniors studied for the SATs, wrote personal essays, and filled out their FAFSA and common apps. This week, the hard work pays off in college acceptances, and Children’s Aid staff and community school partners are celebrating their accomplishments with college decision and signing day events across the organization.

Staff at Opportunity Charter School in Harlem held a College Signing Day party for students in the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program, who announced which colleges they will attend and received encouragement from their peers and teachers. The Next Generation Center also hosted informational roundtable discussions in the Bronx for participants in the High School Equivalency program, where they spoke with Children’s Aid staff about higher education and career options.

The Children’s Aid College Access and Success team, which will host a college photo booth at the Hope Leadership Academy this week to recognize each student’s college choice, has been a pillar of support to high school students across our programs throughout their college processes. Yet their support won’t stop after this week. Even after we celebrate their college acceptances and decisions,  each student will continue to receive support from Children’s Aid staff as they embark on the next leg of their higher education journey, so that they will continue their success, on campus.

 

Earth Day Every Day

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As spring is upon us, we turn our focus on our gardens as the weather begins to change from wintery to warm. And the Go!Healthy team at the Children’s Aid Society also focuses its efforts on preparing its community gardens. Since 2006, the Go!Healthy Gardens program supports the education of children around nutrition and healthy living with a “seed to table” approach. Last year, over 475 youth (K-12) participated in STEM-based gardening education through afterschool programs in Children’s Aid across 12 sites.

Through this program Go!Healthy has helped to transform school yards, underutilized community gardens, and rooftops into vibrant growing spaces for education and enjoyment. In this program, kids use the garden as a living laboratory, and are introduced to the pleasures of growing, harvesting, and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables directly from their gardens. Some topics covered include pollination, soil, seeds, plant morphology, and photosynthesis. In addition, the ingredients from the garden are used by youth from across Go!Healthy programs to support their culinary adventure.

This spring, be on the lookout for Go!Healthy gardening events across Children’s Aid sites. For more information, please join the Go!Healthy Facebook group.

Follow Go!Healthy on Instagram

For more information about the Go!Healthy program please contact: Alyson Abrami, Director of Food and Nutrition Programs.

 

A People’s Visit: From the South Bronx to Washington D.C.

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Students from Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School and Children’s Aid after-school programs in the Bronx recently visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). We gave each student a disposable camera to document the trip from their perspective. Take a look through their lenses.

The visit to the NMAAHC, which opened last September, was made possible by Roosevelt Smith, a friend of Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School.

To learn more about the NMAAHC, explore #APeoplesJourney on social media and visit https://nmaahc.si.edu

Basketball Skills and Scholarships

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Thirty youth from various Children’s Aid programs participated in the Elite Basketball Event at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem last Wednesday. This is the 10th year for the basketball showcase and the second it was hosted by the Children’s Aid POWER (Providing Opportunities, Wellness, Education, and Resources) Program. For the first time, three scholarships were awarded to college-bound seniors during the event.

“I grew up here, starting at age 7,” said Milbank alum and Children’s Aid donor Tarik McDermott, who provided the scholarships. “This was a place for me to be productive and stay off the streets. It was a safe haven.”

POWER seeks to leave a lasting impact on adolescents by equipping them with the skills to thrive and lead healthy lives. It hosts the annual Elite Basketball Event to promote basketball as a positive alternative and prevention tool for adolescents in our community while recognizing our young people for academic excellence, community service, and leadership. Scholarship recipients included Ilda Mercado, Elyjah Marrero, and Anahi Cacerres.

“We’re providing a safe space where these kids can be themselves and not end up in jail, not gripped by substance abuse, and not participating in risky behavior,” explained program manager Asari Offiong. “In POWER youth can be individuals, having fun doing the things they like to do.”

Springtime at Children’s Aid

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There’s no more definitive a mark of Spring than Easter. Children’s Aid trustee Eren Rosenfeld, decided to kick off springtime by decorating some stunning Easter eggs, which she exchanged with her colleagues at BlackRock as part of our first Easter Egg drive. Together they raised funds for Children’s Aid programs and services. Thanks to Eren and her colleagues for their colorful support!