The Children's Aid Blog

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.

Youth Celebrate Their Mentors

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In honor of National Mentoring Month, members from the Children’s Aid Society’s East Harlem Center’s Project LIVE program treated their mentors to a dinner at Chef Ho's Peking Duck Grill on Wednesday, January 29. The dinner was to celebrate the mentors’ dedication and commitment to giving of their time and talents to help the young people.

Project LIVE matches adult mentors with youth protégés ages 12-14 in Central and East Harlem. Mentors from all areas of expertise, including medicine, law and finance, bring their own unique experiences and skill sets to their time with children. They meet with the youth once a week for group and individual sessions that cultivate meaningful and positive relationships. This is done through tutoring and participation in leadership and character development workshops. Most importantly, mentors help their mentees develop self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Youth Honor Dr. King with Day of Community Service

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Last week, schools, banks and government agencies all kept their doors closed in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day but some dedicated youth leaders at the Children’s Aid Society East Harlem Center were hard at work inspiring their younger counter-parts to give back to their community.

In honor of the late civil rights leader, Keystone and Torch club youth at the East Harlem Center hosted a full day of service on January 20 for the center’s after-school program participants. This annual project was themed, ‘Dreaming of a New Tomorrow.”

Youth leaders, with the guidance of their adult advisor Midge Caparosa, began the day with ice breakers and workshops that focused on tolerance, unity, leadership and giving back. After lunch, Keystone and Torch club members led discussions about inequality and positive change after watching the animated film, “My Friend Martin.” During the afternoon, participants assembled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed the homeless, made organic lavender scented dog shampoo to donate to the local animal shelter and created “thought bubble” pillowcases decorated with affirmations of hope and strength. 

Keystone and Torch clubs, popular Boys and Girls Clubs of America adolescent clubs, provide a unique leadership and character development experience for young people. Youth participate in, and work together to implement, activities focused on academic success, career preparation and community service at their club site and in the community.

City Releases Universal Pre-K Implementation Plan

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Yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio released a detailed plan for implementation of his proposed full-day Universal Pre-Kindergarten program this September. The plan, which relies on an increase in the personal income tax rate for high-income New York City households, would provide full-day UPK programs for over 53,000 four-year-olds across the city by September, with an increase to over 73,000 for the 2015-2016 school year. Children’s Aid supports de Blasio’s plan.

As a leading provider of early childhood programs in New York City, we are pleased that our Vice President for Early Childhood Programs, Josh Wallack, has been part of the mayor's universal pre-k working group. Universal pre-k is a critical piece of our work building a cradle through college pathway for low-income children, who are shown to be far behind their peers in skills and measures for school readiness by the time they reach kindergarten. These educational gaps are difficult and costly to close as children advance through school, which is why we are determined to expand our early childhood programming.  

In the past year, Children’s Aid has doubled the number children we serve in pre-k programs and yet the dire need for additional slots remains, particularly in the low-income communities we serve. Wallack is quoted on this issue in a press release issued by City Hall this morning.

Children's Aid is also credited with providing exemplary pre-k programming on today's “Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC.

An Evening with Acclaimed Author Cris Beam

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Please join us for an evening with author Cris Beam, who will discuss her acclaimed book, To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care. The New York Times has called it “a triumph of narrative reporting and storytelling.”

A panel discussion (moderated by Mary Keane from You Gotta Believe) will follow on the unique challenges for teens in foster care and what it will take to improve the system.

Speakers will include a teen in foster care, foster parents and staff from The Children’s Aid Society’s teen foster care program.

Wednesday, February 5
6 to 8 p.m.
Lord Memorial Building
150 E. 45th Street, 4th Floor Boardroom
New York, NY 10017

For more information or to RSVP, please visit our website. Registration will be open until February 5.

CAS Students Interview Metta World Peace

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Right before a Knicks vs. Bobcats basketball game last semester, Children’s Aid students Binta Diakite and Terrell Dixon sat down for an exciting interview with Metta World Peace of the New York Knicks. The students were thrilled to speak with the power forward who won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2004, asking him all sorts of questions about basketball and life in the pros. Binta, Terrell and four other Children’s Aid youth were also given the chance to sit in on a production meeting and visited the production truck during the live broadcast of the game. 

This opportunity was part of the “MSG Classroom” program at Madison Square Garden, run by Children’s Aid’s Hope Leadership Academy. Over the course of eight weeks, MSG Classroom students are introduced to the behind-the-scenes world of the television industry and learn first-hand what it takes to put a television show on the air. Students meet with experts in production, editing, directing, camerawork, broadcasting, marketing, public relations and more, exposing themselves to all the various components of the industry.

Participants meet twice a week at The Children's Aid Society to plan and/or debrief, and one day at Madison Square Garden to meet with industry professionals who educate them about the video production business.

Encouraging Health and Wellness Through Art

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Last month, the newly opened school based health center in Curtis High School in Staten Island held a student art contest of all mediums depicting "wellness" and "health". The health center displayed a total of 28 submissions during the month of December for students and staff to admire. The judges with the difficult task of selecting the winning art pieces were Curtis H.S. art teacher Emily Yoonsmith and Children's Aid Society's Hersilia Mendez, Director of External Affairs and Communications for Community Schools and Beverly Colon, Vice President, Health & Wellness Division. The winners are:

First place went to Jasmine Williams for her mental health artwork, “Serotonin.” Michel Ortega came in second place for his canvas of the human heart. In third place is Nathanael Cameron for his graphic art. Fourth place is being shared by Emine Akcay and Diana Nguyen.

Curtis High School will display the winning artwork in the school's lobby all this week. All of the talented entries will live on the walls of the student health center. The Children’s Aid Society appreciates the talent and participation of the students at Curtis High School in this Health and Wellness art contest.



Photos from left to right: First place winner Jasmine Williams, second place winner Michel Ortega, guest judge reviewing students art work.


Hogs & Heifers NYC Saloon Bring Christmas to Harlem

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Written by Alirio Guerrero, Director of Preventive Services

This past Sunday, on December 8, you might have noticed Santa Clause leading a caravan of nearly 50 motorcycles up the FDR highway to deliver gifts and holiday fun to the children and families of The Children’s Aid Society’s Preventive Services Program.

For the third year in a row, Michelle Dell-Ramsey, President of Hogs & Heifers Saloon New York City, her amazing staff and customers hosted an amazing holiday party at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem for 250 of our Upper Manhattan and Bronx clients. Guests enjoyed crafts, face painting and a delicious catered meal before having their photo taken with Santa. The children also took home custom airbrush designed stockings by “Horny” Mike and Ryan Evans of the History Channel’s reality show, “Counting Cars.”

What an amazing and heartwarming event. Words cannot express our appreciation to everyone who participated this year. A big thank you to my team at Preventive Services who helped organize and decorate the Milbank gym!

The generosity shown by Michelle Dell and all the Hogs & Heifers family has touched many lives. It was clear they received as much warmth and joy as they generously gave to our families. This event brought people together from all walks of life and provided one of those rare occasions when stereo-types were set aside and the real meaning of the season was enjoyed by everyone.

Visit this event's photogallery to view more photos.

Photos by Lily Kesselman