The Children's Aid Blog

A Hogs & Heifers Holiday Party To Remember

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Written by Alirio Guerrero, Director of Preventive Services

This past Sunday December 11th you might have heard the thundering sounds of nearly 100 motorcycles driving up the Westside Highway to deliver gifts and holiday fun to the children and families of The Children’s Aid Society’s Preventive Services Program.

This year we were so fortunate to have partnered with Michelle Dell, President of Hogs & Heifers Saloon New York City and her amazing staff (Kelly and all the other Heifers) and their customers. Their generosity and energy was overwhelming, from their commitment to the event, to the donations of money and toys and to the time they spent with our families on Sunday.

The day started with the parade of the volunteers on their motorcycles rumbling into the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem delivering toys and gifts for everyone. Then the Preventive Services team and the Hogs & Heifers team got busy making sure this would be a Holiday Party everyone would remember. There were arts and crafts, face painting, manicures and stockings that were airbrushed with each child’s name by one of the artistic Hogs, renowned artist, Mickey Harris.

There was a mountain of toys to choose from and the children's faces lit up when they could take home they toy they had been dreaming of. A catered holiday dinner was served to the families by the Preventive Services team and all the Hogs & Heifers volunteers.

The fun and excitement of the day could only be topped by the arrival of Santa who arrived, Hogs & Heifers style, on his motorcycle rolling into the gymnasium to everyone's delight.

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 of the Hogs & Heifers touched many lives on Sunday. 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.

We look forward to more events with the Hog & Heifer's organization and hope they know the incredible impact they made on our families and The Children's Aid Society. Visit this event's photogallery to view more photos.

Photos by Lily Kesselman

Partnership Helps Parents Navigate Immigration Issues

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Throughout communities served by The Children’s Aid Society, lack of legal and immigration knowledge can hinder a family’s ability to fully establish themselves in New York City. Thanks to collaboration with the City Bar Justice Center and the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), many were able to meet with volunteer attorneys at the 8th Annual Immigration Clinic at the Mirabal Sisters Campus in Washington Heights on Tuesday, December 6th.

At this clinic, parents learned about the citizenship process as well as how to bring relatives to the U.S. For immigrants who are undocumented, this is a special opportunity to meet with lawyers to discuss their specific issues privately and free of charge.

As a result of last year’s clinics, P.S. 152, also a Children’s Aid Community School in Washington Heights, reports that 23 of their parents were able to adjust their immigration status to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Partnerships like this help The Children’s Aid Society further its mission with critical assistance that stabilizes children’s lives. We are grateful to the City Bar Justice Center for their excellent professional support in this endeavor.

Top Chefs and Joyful Volunteers Serve Thanksgiving Dinner in Harlem

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For the 21st year in a row, the Food and Beverage Association of America prepared thanksgiving dinner for approximately 1,500 children and families of The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. On Wednesday, November 23rd, top chefs from some of New York’s finest hotels and restaurants cooked 275 turkeys, at 20 pounds each, along with all the trimmings.

Making this his 10th year serving Children’s Aid families at Milbank, Wayne Whinna, Director of Food and Beverage at The Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, lead the culinary efforts once again. Gladys Mouton Di Stefano, President of the Food & Beverage Association, organized the dinner and coordinated all the donations for the 21st consecutive year. Also joining the efforts this year were students from Frederick Douglass Academy 1 who helped make this special occasion enjoyable for all in attendance.

As always, the youngest guests paraded into the Milbank gym where the dinner was being held wearing crisp chef hats. Also donning a hat this year was Richard R. Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, who helped serve dinner and visited with several CAS families.

Richard Buery Responds to New York State Tax Reform Agreement

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"The tax reform agreement between Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, which demands more from the wealthiest - albeit less than the current Personal Income Tax Surcharge - comes at a critical time for the most vulnerable children in New York City.  Especially during challenging economic times, it is essential that we protect investments in services for children and families who are currently living in the clutches of poverty," said The Children's Aid Society President and CEO Richard Buery. "As we move toward the state budget negotiation process, during which Albany will have to close a significant budget deficit, government must continue to keep its promise to protect our most vulnerable children and families. Only then will this prove to be a progressive tax reform strategy that is truly fair."

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Early Childhood Curriculum Featured on WNYC

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A lot more than play time is taking place at The Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center in Harlem. Children in this early childhood program are using play to set the foundation to make them better learners. The dramatic play activities in the Head Start classroom allow the children to create their own imaginary worlds and teach them to regulate their own social, emotional and cognitive behavior as well as that of their classmates.  This work is done as part of the Tools of the Mind curriculum, an early childhood program that helps build the skills necessary for successful learning by training children to self-regulate.

Beth Fertig’s radio report on WNYC takes its listeners into this Tools classroom at the CAS Harlem center to see the curriculum in action. Ms. Fertig also interviewed Clancy Blair, an applied psychology professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development who is studying the Tools of the Mind curriculum.

Listen to the full WNYC report:

Click here for additional coverage via the New York Times School Book.

"Mr. Martin" and Our Education Exchange

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By Tamara Royal, Education Director for P.S. 5 Head Start, a Children's Aid Society Community School

During a visit to The Children's Aid Society P.S.  5 Community School, a teachable moment swam by as we concluded the tour in Swindler Cove Park. Martin Bates, Superintendent of the Granite School District, Salt Lake City, Utah, didn't just suggest we study the life cycle of tadpoles, he immediately rolled up his sleeves, fetched a bucket and adopted a tadpole for NYC children to study.  Mr. Bates caught the tadpole on the very first try too!

The Head Start teachers and children were so excited they all wanted to adopt tadpoles for their classroom science center.  The namesake "Mr. Martins" are wiggling around and feasting on fish food and lettuce!

This year, we are thankful that Martin Bates scooped up a bucketful of science inspiration.  On behalf of the staff, children and all future frogs,we want to extend a special thank you to Martin Bates, for visiting and sharing his enthusiasm for education.  Muchas Gracias!

NY Ranger Steve Eminger Helps Launch Hockey Program at Milbank

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Steve Eminger, defensive player for the NY Rangers, joined a group of 30 eager children on Thursday, November 17 to launch The Garden of Dreams and Rangers Power Players Program at the Dunlevy Milbank Center.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation and the NY Rangers designed the six-week street hockey program to teach children ages 10-14 the basics of the game as well as to pique children’s interest in hockey as a recreational sport.  In partnership with three organizations including The Children’s Aid Society, the program offers children a chance to participate in a street hockey, which is not a sport that is typically accessible to children from low-income, high-needs communities.  The program removes some of the barriers to hockey by providing the necessary equipment for gameplay and knowledgeable coaches to help children understand the finer points of the game.

At the Power Players launch party, children learned how to properly hold the hockey stick, pass the puck, and how to shoot.  The program provides children with their team’s t-shirts (green and purple) as well as hockey sticks, street-hockey balls, goalie padding and sticks, and goal nets.

Children at Milbank will meet on Wednesday afternoons for skill building activities, practice and gameplay, coached by members of the NY Rangers staff, Tim Webb and Jason Negron.

Following six-weeks of skill-building activities, the program will culminate in January/February 2012 with a 3-hour round robin tournament with all teams in the program.  Participants will earn a medal, certificate of completion and a NY Rangers Jersey following the tournament.

For more information about the Garden of Dreams and NY Rangers Power Players Program at Milbank, contact Casper Lassiter at (212) 996-1716 or casperl@childrensaidsociety.org.

Cheery Volunteers Bundle Up Dunlevy Milbank Center

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October’s random snow storm may have left many wondering if their wardrobe is ready for this hard to predict weather but many Children’s Aid Society children are more than prepared. Thanks to a group of 24 volunteers from Bank of New York Mellon, approximately 200 after-school program participants at the Dunlevy Milbank Center, a Children’s Aid Society Community Center in Harlem, received brand new winter coats and gloves last week.

These energetic volunteers left work early to serve as personal shoppers in the Center’s dance studio, helping each child to choose their best size and fit to keep them extra warm this season.   In addition to this unique personalized shopping experience, volunteers also ensured that the event ran smoothly by restocking the coat racks, labeling and bagging the children’s new treasures, and helping them to choose the perfect pair of fluffy gloves to match.  In the gym, almost all modeled their new attire for each other and excitedly compared their colorful styles.

This year’s coat distribution was an amazing display of corporate engagement and volunteerism by Children’s Aid partner, Bank of New York Mellon. The Children’s Aid Society welcomes corporate groups from across New York City to participate in sponsored volunteer projects such as gardening projects, mural painting, special events, financial literacy training and many others. We are so grateful to our BNY Mellon volunteers who visited Milbank to bundle up our young people, and warm our hearts.

Photos Courtesy of Malia Poai

Laid Off from St. Vincent's and Struggling to Provide

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story about Chonise Blackman and her family. Below is an excerpt from the original article.

Ever since her high school took her on a college tour, Natalia Burks has had her heart set on going to Morgan State University in Baltimore to study forensic science. She has no connection to Baltimore, having grown up in subsidized housing on Edgecombe Avenue in West Harlem. But there was something about the romance of that tour that made Ms. Burks, now 18, believe she could go outside the customary boundaries of her life.

She took night remedial classes for six months so she could graduate on time with the rest of her class at Manhattan/Hunter Science High School, a small public school on the Upper West Side. She graduated in June, a year after her mother, Chonise Blackson, was laid off from St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, where she had worked for 23 years.

“ ‘I really want to make money, Ma,’ ” Ms. Blackson recalled her saying. “ ‘I want to get you out of here.’ ”

To which Ms. Blackson replied, “You get yourself out.

Click here to read the complete article and to learn more about the Neediest Cases Fund.

Early Childhood Parent Policy Council Commits to Their Children and to CAS Programs

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On Wednesday, November 16th, the 2011-2012 Early Childhood Parent Policy Council was sworn into office.  The Policy Council is made up of elected officers from each of the CAS sites which run Head Start/Early Head Start programs.  Mothers, fathers, grandparents and community members came from the Frederick Douglass Center, the East Harlem Center, PS 5, PS 8, PS 152, the Bronx Early Childhood Center, and the Drew Hamilton Learning Center.  The Policy Council is a decision making group, which allows parents and community members to play a meaningful role in determining the nature and direction of their programs.  This unique group of advocates serve as a link between program management, the sites, the CAS Board and various community partners.  The Children's Aid Society congratulates the 2011-2012 Policy Council members and thanks them for their commitment to their children, to their specific programs, and to the Agency.

Blanca Aviles,  PS 152 EHS « Member
Nicole Beatty, Community Rep « Co-Chair
Saran Dore, Bronx EC « Treasurer
Rosa Hernandez, East Harlem HS « Member
Maria Leonardo, PS 8 HS « Member
Tamika Major, Drew Hamilton « Secretary
Joshua Martinez, Frederick Douglass « Chair
Kimberly Paul, PS 5 HS « Area Rep
Elizabeth Peralta, PS8 EHS « Member
Susana Ramos, PS 152 EHS « Grievance
Jennifer Rios, PS 5 EHS « Personnel
Dianelys Tavarez, Drew Hamilton « Member
Diane Williams, Frederick Douglass « Member
Abdou Yaya, Bronx EC « By-Laws
Rosa Zurita, East Harlem EHS « Member

Photo Credits:  Ana Nunez
Pictured:  Members of the 2011-2012 CAS Early Childhood Parent Policy Council