The Children's Aid Blog

CAS Applauds the Governor and State Legislature

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The Governor and the New York State Legislature reached an agreement early Saturday morning on the Fiscal Year 14-15 budget, and we are pleased that the children of New York State have been prioritized in this budget.

The budget includes funding for many of the priorities that Children’s Aid values, including universal pre-kindergarten, the continuation of after-school programs, and more time to determine how best to ensure that school-based health centers can continue to serve thousands of children across New York State.  All of these programs are key parts of the community schools strategy, which was funded in the budget for a second consecutive year.

The opportunity gap between children in poverty and their peers is already far too wide. These programs will go a long way in helping to narrow the gap with regard to academics and health – and will produce lifelong positive outcomes – while also saving taxpayer dollars in the long term.

We applaud the Governor and New York State Legislature for prioritizing children in this budget.


2014 CAS Youth of the Year

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Earlier this week, The Children's Aid Society's Adolescence Division coordinated an internal competition to select the young person who would represent Children's Aid at the upcoming Boys & Girls Club of America’s Youth of the Year State Competition.

Six young people representing Children's Aid sites, Fannie Lou Hamer High School in the Bronx and Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem, were nominated for Youth of the Year honors. Selection was based on leadership within the “club,” their commitment to the community and their academic achievements. The candidates underwent an intense process that included writing essays and securing letters of recommendation and/or supporting documentation from their site coordinators. The youth also gave a speech in to a panel of Children's Aid representatives who also evaluated the written applications and formally interviewed each candidate.

Ciarra Leocadio was selected as the Children's Aid Society's 2014 Youth of the Year. Saul Soto and Nyuma Gumaneh, both from the Hope Leadership Academy, were awarded first and second runner-up honors, respectively.

Up next for Ciarra will be to travel to Albany for the Youth of the Year State Competition on May 18-20 where she will compete against other Youth of the Year candidates from across the state of New York. The winner of the state competition will go on to compete in a regional competition. A national Youth of the Year will ultimately be named based on the regional competition.

Ciarra is an Advanced Peer Trainer at the Hope Leadership Academy and has participated in a number of programs, including JPMorgan Project LIVE, MSG Classroom, and the Germany Exchange Program. She will attend Vanderbilt University in the fall on a full Posse Foundation scholarship and plans to become an OB-GYN. The Children's Aid Society is proud to have Ciarra as our 2014 Youth of the Year and we wish her best of luck in Albany!



From the Associates Council: Wonderland Supports CAS Foster Care Programs

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The Children’s Aid Society Associates Council is hosting its fourth annual spring fundraiser themed Wonderland“ on Thursday, April 24 from 7-10pm at the Manhattan Penthouse.

Proceeds from this year’s fundraiser will benefit the foster care programs, which provides care to over 500 young people, ranging from ages 0 to 21, each year. The Children's Aid Society foster care program draws on its 160+ history of helping abused and neglected children by placing them in families that can provide care and support.

“Children's Aid Society is so excited that the foster care programs will benefit from this event,” said Jane Golden, Vice President of Child Welfare and Family Services. “We look forward to partnering with the Associates Council to help us enhance the services we provide to children, youth and families involved with the foster care system – safe, stable home environments and the promise of a bright future.”

Each year, Children's Aid Society foster care programs monitor over 300 family foster homes and facilitate the adoption of approximately 90 children/youth who cannot return to their birth families. Children’s Aid also has two specialized foster care programs – the Treatment Family Foster Care and Medical Foster Care. These programs serve youth with special emotional and psychiatric needs and medically fragile/chronically ill children, respectively. In the past ten years, the Children's Aid Society has also developed new and innovative service models for meeting the specialized needs of adolescents in foster care by creating a Teen Foster Care unit.

By joining us for Wonderland, you will help enhance these Children's Aid Society foster care programs and improve the lives of children in our neediest New York City communities.

We hope to see you on April 24. Buy tickets today!

--Ali Rotondo, Co-Chair, Marketing Committee



Washington Heights Community Celebrates Women's History Month

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Earlier this week, the SU Campus, a Children's Aid Society community school in Washington Heights, held its Seventh Annual Professional Hispanic Women’s Conference. The conference celebrates National Women’s History Month and shines a spotlight on the achievements and contributions of hispanic woment by bringing together members of the community for an evening of entertainment, empowerment and growth.

On Wednesday, March 19, a panel of successful Hispanic women spoke to the audience about perseverance, the importance of education and shared personal anecdotes of how they overcame their own personal obstacles in their pursuits. The panel included Barbara Camacho, Esq. Fragomen Fellow; City Bar Justice Center, Honorable Judge Denise Dominguez, New York Civil Court and Fenix Arias, Associate Dean of Student Engagement and Success, Bronx Community College. The women became very popular with the audience and their motivational energy inspired many to get back on track in pursuing their own goals

In addition, the staff at SU campus honored two dedicated Children’s Aid staff members, Hersilia Mendez, Director of External Affairs and Communications for National Center for Community Schools and Jennifer Archibald, Educational Coordinator at SU Campus, for their contributions to the Washington Heights community. Both were celebrated with awards and accolades from children, parents Children’s Aid staff and elected officials. The office of Assemblymember Gabriela Rosa presented both with an official citation which praised both women’s outstanding commitment to the children and families of Washington Heights.

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.