The Children's Aid Blog

Children's Aid Employee Wins Golden Heart Award

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Donna Chandler's years of service to The Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Center in Harlem have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Donna (pictured at right), the Early Childhood Educational Director at Drew Hamilton, has been awarded the Golden Heart Award by the Center for Children’s Initiative (CCI) as part of the CCI’s 2011 Champions for Children Awards. The Early Childhood Program at The Children’s Aid Society nominated Donna for this award because of her tireless efforts in advocating for the children and families of the center and community.

Margaret Caspe, Director of Early Childhood Programs at Children's Aid, wrote of Donna, “Her unconditional love and understanding for children’s needs is evident everyday when she demands a safe and stimulating environment for the children she serves. She often comes to work at 6 a.m. and often leaves well after 7 p.m. all in the effort to make sure that all responsibilities are fulfilled, including kitchen and custodial.”

Donna, along with the other award recipients will be honored at the CCI annual Champions for Children Awards Gala on October 24th.  The event recognizes professionals and organizations for their efforts in early child care and education. Congratulations Donna!

Metamorphosis: Ailey/CAS Camp Washington Heights Finale

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Written by: Giany Mejia

Photography by: Giany Mejia

For dozens of children who spent their summer months as part of The Children’s Aid Society (CAS)/Ailey Camp Washington Heights, the closure to their summer experience was right on stage for all to see. Campers celebrated the end of summer with a big production for friends and family, marking emotional growth and maturity with splits, leaps and drums.

On Thursday, August 11th, the CAS/Ailey Camps Washington Heights held its culminating event, their end of summer camp finale performance, in the main theatre at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. Colorful, inspiring and moving choreography, poetry and drums transported the audience to a place far beyond the busy traffic outside on the Grand Concourse.

CAS/Ailey Camp empowers young people by helping them develop a strong sense of self-esteem, self-expression and mastery. Each summer, 80 Children’s Aid campers (ages 10 to 14) from throughout New York City spend the summer learning the basic techniques of ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap.

“To see that when things come together right, when you have good schools, when you have good programs, when you have wonderful arts, that it can unleash this incredible power that young people have” said Bill Weisberg, The Children’s Aid Society’s Chief Operating Officer in his opening remarks.  “The whole world needs to be reminded that when things come together right, we support children in the right way, this beauty is unleashed.”

Find out more about the CAS/Ailey Camp.

Children's Aid Celebrates Foster Parents

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Written by: Giany Mejia

Photography by: Lily Kesselman

The Children’s Aid Society held its annual Foster Parent Recognition Dinner Dance on June 30th at Maestros, a catering hall in the Bronx. This year’s theme was “Foster Parents Add Color to Children's Lives," a fitting tribute to these special individuals who open their hearts and their homes to New York City's children in need. 

Each year, parents and staff alike look forward to this event which includes raffles, awards and dancing. The Children's Aid Society's President and CEO, Richard R. Buery, Jr. and Jane F. Golden, the Vice President for Child Welfare Policy and Foster Care Services, were on hand to personally thank all of the foster parents for their dedication and commitment.

Please visit the Adoption and Foster Care page to learn more about our programs and how you can become a foster parent.

Hiking the Giraffe Path: P.S. 5 Promotes Active Lifestyle through Visual Art and Exercise

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Written by: Tamara M. Royal, Education Director, P.S. 5 Head Start

Have you ever seen a pink giraffe? Ever hiked uphill with infants, toddlers, grandparents, dads, a pregnant mom, teachers, social workers, education directors, administrative staff and the school cook too?  We did!

“Hike The Heights 7 was the culminating event in a series of artistic and healthy activities that comprise The Children’s Aid Society’s P.S. 5 Head Start Community Partnership Collaboration. This event, which brings families into the parks of Northern Manhattan for hiking, also doubles as an outdoor art exhibit displaying the children’s handmade giraffe sculptures! This experience gives the children and their families the opportunity to express and display their inner art while being more active. Instead of spending the day indoors as if we were caged in an urban jungle, we hiked in herds and had a wild time!

This year’s annual event was bigger, better and healthier than ever! After 6 years of hiking history, the P.S. 5 Head Start hosted a training and practice hike that included more than 100 additional children and their families. The first leg of the hike started at P.S. 5 near 200th street. Stroller-pushing parents and toddlers alike were motivated to keep trekking by their own public art installation along the way, also known as the giraffe path.

Why giraffes you wonder? Like the boot is to Italy, the trail connecting the parks of Northern Manhattan resembles the long legs and long neck of a giraffe. Giraffes, like children, remind us all of the unique vantage point in which they experience the world!

Tips to Get Your Child Ready to Go Back to School

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By: Giany Mejia

Here we are again! Summer is coming to a close and all the essentials are being purchased - pencils, composition books, calculators. It’s a time of year that parents and children look forward to, but not without some anxiety and stress. To ease the transition from vacation to classroom, it is best to come up with a plan. The tips below, provided by the National Association of School Psychologists, will assist parents in establishing an early morning routine. Following each of these will ensure that your little one is ready for the exciting year ahead.

 

  • Begin to establish a mealtime and bedtime routine before school starts to help your child get out of the habit of sleeping late, which so many children do over the summer.
  • Encourage your child to play a quiet game or do some reading instead of watching television during the morning.
  • Designate an appropriate place to do homework. For children who often need assistance and encouragement, this area could be in the kitchen or dining room.
  • Always seem enthusiastic and excited about the first day of school and every school day after that.
  • If this will be a new school, take a visit to the school, classroom, lunchroom and restrooms. This should help your child familiarize themselves with their new school.
  • Take time to discuss with your child anything that may be worrying them about the first day or the school year in general.
  • Try your best to stay involved in school events. Though work schedules make get in the way, remember that children whose parents get involved are more likely to perform better in school.

To parents and children, best of luck and have a happy, healthy school year!

ISI Plants Seeds of Hope and Healthy Habits at P.S./I.S. 50

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By: Malia Poai, Assistant Director, Volunteer Services

Sawing 2x4’s and hauling 40-pound bags of top soil and compost on a hot and humid summer day in New York City usually doesn’t appeal to most of us,  but for the employees of International Strategy & Investment Group (ISI), they did it willingly…and with a smile!  P.S. 50, one of The Children’s Aid Society’s Community Schools in Harlem, was the recent beneficiary of ISI’s helping hands as they built a much needed and long awaited garden in the school’s newly renovated courtyard. 

ISI, one of Children’s Aid’s cherished corporate partners, took part in the construction of this garden as part of their continued effort to provide critical support to Children’s Aid programs and services. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves and combined both artistry and science as they figured out the best way to build 6-ft garden beds, combine soil, and plant fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  These helpful volunteers also gave the entire courtyard a good scrub and created a “Welcome to Our Garden” sign. When finished, elated children poured into the renovated space to literally roll around on the freshly swept turf and examine for themselves the new plantings that had taken up residency in their new garden home.  

P.S.  50’s new garden will be used in conjunction with the afterschool and summer cooking programs and will help to launch the “garden to school café program” where the food from the children’s garden will be used in DOE meals. This method of “seed to table” is a key component of Children’s Aid programming and does much to expose our children and families to nutrition, valuable life skills and to improve overall health.

“Our hope is that the garden that ISI sponsored will give kids at PS 50 the opportunity to experience firsthand the joy of growing and eating fresh produce” said Ellen Barker, Program Manager for the Children’s Aid Go!Healthy Program.  “For us, it completes a circle started with our Go!Chefs culinary program where the children learn how to cook delicious healthy food; and the garden closes that circle by showing them where fresh foods come from and how to grow it for themselves.” 

Many, many thanks to ISI and its volunteers for their generosity, enthusiasm, and back-breaking labor that went into the creation of this garden!

CAS-Carrera Participants are Upwardly “Mobile” with Junior Achievement and Capital One

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By: Kate Riley

On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, when most New Yorkers are gearing up for the start of summer, 7th graders from the Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women took a field trip to eastern Long Island. Their bus disembarked not in the Hamptons but at the Long Island stop of the Capital One/Junior Achievement Mobile Finance Park in Hauppauge where students participated in a day-long budgeting simulation guided by Junior Achievement (JA) educators and Capital One volunteers.

All 77 students are enrolled in The Children’s Aid Society's Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera), which uses a holistic, “above the waist” approach to empower youth, help them develop personal goals and cultivate the desire for a successful future. The evidence-based program is built on seven integrated, scientifically accurate, and age-appropriate components. The employment component – Job Club – helps young people envision productive lives by exposing them to the world of work. Job Club is designed to improve financial literacy and develop life-long, positive financial decision-making through employment opportunities, entrepreneurial and community service projects, and personal bank accounts. CAS-Carrera partners JA and Capitol One have provided crucial resources to the program: the JA curriculum serves as the cornerstone of Job Club and Capital One is where student savings accounts are housed.

Nationally, JA and Capital One teamed up to create the Mobile Finance Park, a movable classroom that allows students to learn about and react to real-world financial scenarios. Soon after their arrival, the students were each given a “Life Situation” debit card that assigned marital status, number and age of children, tax and insurance expenses, and annual gross income. Using that data, each student was tasked to compute her monthly net income and budget it across 17 categories including housing, transportation, and entertainment.

Working with calculators, worksheets and guidance from the Capital One volunteers, the young women soon got a sobering view of how much money they would be “taking home” after taxes and other standard paycheck deductions. Tia Fiorentine, JA Program Manager, noted that in her experience of leading budgeting activities, students are most surprised by “how hard it is [to make a budget] and that adults actually have to do this.”

The Mobile Finance Park has helped thousands of students from the New York area (including all four CAS-Carrera New York City school sites) develop money management skills. Yet the JA staff and Capitol One volunteers at the May 27 session observed that teens tended to develop another important skill: empathy. Through their struggles to balance a budget, participants gained a new appreciation for the financial obligations their own families face. Jeanne Eberhardt, Branch Manager of the Floral Park Capital One location is a veteran volunteer who shared one boy’s reaction that has stayed with her for years. It was not until he was asked to formulate a budget for his fictional adult life did he realize how much his mother had to stretch to run their household. “I thought she was being cheap,” recalled Ms. Eberhardt, “I’m going home to give her a kiss.”

As though paying for clothing, rent, and education wasn’t tough enough, CAS-Carrera participants learned that having a family of one’s own – at any age -- can be expensive, too. One middle school student served as unofficial spokeswoman for her classmates whose financial obligations did not include children: “It’s awesome! I don’t want to deal with the terrible twos: buying them food, putting them to sleep.” Likewise, her classmate remarked, “I’m going to make a lot of money because I have no husband and no kids.”

Powerful learning experiences such as the Mobile Finance Park serve to reinforce CAS-Carrera’s primary goal for young people: to delay parenthood until the second decade of life.

To learn more about CAS-Carrera and Job Club, visit us at: www.stopteenpregnancy.com

If you would like to support CAS-Carrera and Job Club, please click here.

New York Life Volunteers Paint Murals at Milbank

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Several volunteers from New York Life braved hundred-degree temperatures on Sunday, July 24th to paint two stunning murals at The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.

“The Milbank family is always so appreciative when we have volunteer projects that enhance the overall look of our center” said Casper Lassiter, Director of the Dunlevy Milbank Center. “Our kids deserve a facility that is not only safe and clean but looks good as well.  Thanks so much to our New York Life volunteers!”

The murals, which depict spring and summer, were designed by volunteer Nate Soria. Nate has also designed a fall and winter mural, but he is waiting for cooler weather to arrive before completing the cycle!

Watch a time-lapse video of New York LIfe volunteers painting this mural at the Dunlevy Milbank Center

Please visit our Volunteer Page to learn how you can participate take part in this and similar programs.

Richard Buery on The Huffington Post: Aftermath of a Child Welfare Tragedy; A More Holistic Approach

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The tragic deaths of Marchella Pierce and Kymell Oram, two young children whose lives ended due to neglect and abuse while under the watch of NYC's Administration for Children's Services (ACS), have understandably raised concerns and doubts about the effectiveness of New York City's child welfare system. While outrage is warranted, coverage of these incidents has largely ignored the systemic challenges involved in protecting children from abuse -- not the least of which has been the profound public underinvestment in child protective services and family support services compounded by a general lack of coordination among government agencies and community-based organizations that provide care for our city's most vulnerable citizens.

Read more on the Huffington Post.

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Celebrating Summer and Children's Aid

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Some of The Children’s Aid Society’s most devoted friends gathered this week to celebrate the summer season. The Associates Council (AC) held a “Celebrate Summer” party at the home of former AC President, Amy Kohn’s parents on Tuesday, July 19th. Guests, current AC members and Children’s Aid staff enjoyed light refreshments while also hearing from some of the agency’s top representatives including Richard R. Buery, Jr., President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, Ernesto Isaac, Assistant Director of The Hope Leadership Academy and Katherine Eckstein, Director of Public Policy. All in attendance are committed to advancing the agency’s mission in helping New York City’s children in poverty to succeed and thrive.

For 26 years, the AC has been taking ordinary volunteers and transforming them into future leaders that help guide Children’s Aid in its mission to serve New York City’s neediest children and families. Members of the AC come from a variety of fields including media, finance, education, human resources and social work. They combine their individual talents to provide a vibrant and diverse resource to The Children’s Aid Society. Throughout its history, AC members have also spearheaded and engaged in numerous initiatives, projects, and special events such as Miracle on Madison Avenue, the Annual Holiday Toy Drive, and educational seminars.

Click here for more information on these events or to learn more about The Children’s Aid Society Associates Council. You can also follow the AC on Facebook.