The Children's Aid Blog

Advocating for School-Based Health Centers in Albany

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Advocates for School-Based Health Centers

Children’s Aid is lucky to have so many parents who are deeply engaged in their children’s well-being. Dozens of them trekked to the state capital last week—along with students and staff—for another successful advocacy day for school-based health centers (SBHCs). In partnership with the New York School-Based Health Alliance, we asked our state legislators to a) support Gov. Cuomo's $20.6 million budget for SBHCs, b) add $3.8 million to bring us to previous year's level of funding, and c) to extend the deadline for big changes to the way Medicaid treats services at SBHCs. We heard from SBHC champions like Assembly member Richard Gottfried and received immediate results from legislators who signed the Governor’s sign-on letter.  We had two buses from Children’s Aid—one from Washington Heights with parents from MSC and SU Campus, and another one from Staten Island with Curtis High School students. All told, 60 activists made the trip, including 22 students, 29 parents, and 9 staff.

One mother, Maria Morales, explained the effect the SBHC has had in her child’s life due to severe asthma: “I consider it of vital importance to continue supporting the SBHCs for the great care that they offer our children and fighting for our community for a better life. I hope our legislators support this noble cause.”

One Curtis High School senior explained how she’s grateful to have an SBHC in her school. Prior to the SBHC opening two years ago, she was forced to miss school due to severe anxiety. She said, “Coming from a family who believes prayers will cure everything, I knew I needed more help. I went to the health center one day and since then my grades, attendance, and confidence have improved significantly. I wouldn’t be able to share my story if it wasn’t for the SBHC. Whenever my anxiety flares, which doesn’t happen as often anymore, I go to the health center, center myself for a period or two, then go right back to class. Before it was a call home and my mom had to pick me up from school.”

SBHCs are in danger of losing at least $16.3 million in funding when they are “carved-in” to the new Medicaid Managed Care. Our SBHC parents and students met with their district legislators, including Assembly member Guillermo Linares, a staffer on behalf of Senator Adriano Espaillat, Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assembly member Blake, a staff member on behalf of Senator Diane Savino, and a staff member on behalf of Assembly member Matthew Titone. Our advocates asked them to support Governor Cuomo’s proposed State Budget for 2016-2017. We also asked our legislators to permanently exclude mental health services from this new Medicaid program.

When the buses rumbled back to New York City, the people inside them knew they had done a good day’s work. 

 

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Providing Mirrors for the Future

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Providing Mirrors for the FutureSchool was out last week for mid-winter recess, but our programs and services were still operating in overdrive. Our African American Male Initiative (AAMI), Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAPP), and  Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) joined forces to create holistic support systems for young men of color in our programs. What resulted was Male 360°, a day-long assembly at Milbank that provided a multitude of resources to the youth in attendance.
 

A panel of adult male mentors started the day off discussing the importance of giving back to their community, how they found passion and purpose in life, and how mentorship was central to their individual successes. Their experiences ranged from being educators to working in corrections, and they drew parallels to the young men sitting across from them. “In a few years you will be sitting on the other side of this panel,” said one panelist, who had created his own nonprofit. The mentors were able to create a several more figurative mirrors for the young men, reflecting greater possibilities of who they could become.

Providing Mirrors for the FutureBreakout workshops followed in the afternoon and were led by AAMI, CAPP, and OASAS staff to address healthy relationships, anxieties around college, and job employment strategies.

In organizing the event, CAPP Health Educator David Anderson believed that “we could give a little bit more attention and guidance to our young men.”

Children’s Aid is at its best when it can bring together programs from several different angles, and Male 360° is a perfect example of that. By ensuring our youth have access to all we can offer, we are giving them more than one way to succeed.

 

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Teens Learn Love Should Never Hurt

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In honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, the Health and Wellness Division's Just Ask Me (JAM) Peer Educators hosted their annual event to educate other teens across the organization on healthy dating practices and relationships. It comes at an important time when 81 percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue, but 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience abuse in relationships.
 
JAM Peers, led by health educator David Anderson, referenced pop culture examples and acted out scenarios to illustrate unhealthy behaviors that often times go unnoticed by teenagers. The activities sparked a candid conversation surrounding dating culture for the youth in attendance, who didn’t hold back in sharing opinions and experiences.
 
The Violence Intervention Program, a community-based organization that empowers Latina women to live violence-free lives, also educated our students on the realities for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and family violence. They emphasized the importance of recognizing early signs of abuse and also provided resources on how to get help and support.
 
In addition to providing direct services for our clients, our community centers are places to facilitate much needed conversations, and we applaud the JAM teens for making great use of the space to advance the health and well-being of their peers.
 
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Something to Smile About

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Healthy children have one less reason to miss a day of school and have one more asset to prosper in adulthood. And dental health is a critical component of overall health. However, dentist visits are not always accessible to families living in poverty. That is why Children’s Aid is proud to be one of few health care providers to offer dental care to children while they are in school.

We send dental hygienists into our classrooms to conduct “no-touch” dental screenings. With just a flashlight, the hygienists examine each student’s mouth for signs of obvious dental disease. From there, students receive any necessary dental services at our community centers clinics or our school-based health centers. No-touch screenings have been a mainstay service in our community schools for the last seven years with significant impact.

Last year alone, 2,664 patients benefitted from dental services at our community centers and school-based health centers. And this year, thanks to our partnership with Healthplex, we will expand this work to bring no-touch dental screenings to children in dozens of schools affiliated with Children’s Aid.

In addition to screenings, our students will receive a dental hygiene kits with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. These are small things, but they encourage kids to continue to practice healthy habits at home that will stay with them for a lifetime.

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At the Capitol, Strength in Numbers

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On Tuesday, February 2, the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA) descended on the New York State Capitol from many corners of the state. For the second consecutive year, dozens of young people—students from high school and college, recent graduates—joined representatives of the 18 organizations in the alliance to make a case for expansive higher education support for youth in and aging out of foster care.

This year, though, was different. Last year’s advocacy resulted in $1.5 million in the budget for the Foster Youth Success Initiative. Governor Cuomo called for that same amount in the coming budget, a clear signal that New York is taking seriously its parent-like role for youth in foster care. The $1.5 million proposed by the governor for FY 17 would maintain support for the 350 young people currently being helped by last year’s initial round of funding. But we can and must do better.

Our collective group of FYSA advocates had 80 scheduled meetings with senators and assembly members. In each meeting, we asked to expand the funding to $4.5 million for FY 17 so that we can double the number of college students in the program who receive both extra financial aid as well as the support services often supplied by a young person’s parent. This can include financial aid counseling, general student counseling, access to housing during breaks, and much more.

The day was a huge success. And Jessica Maxwell, the coordinator for FYSA, appeared on two news programs that are staples of the legislative in-crowd in Albany: Capitol Press Room and Capital Tonight.

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic as our elected leaders head into the thrust of budgeting season. Stay tuned for more news. 

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College Access Keeps the Promise

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Children’s Aid is fully committed to making college a reality for as many youth in our services as possible. That is why staff from across the organization volunteered this past month to help college-bound students and their parents submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Financial aid can make or break the hopes for low-income students when it comes to attending college; the process can be enough of a barrier to thwart students who would otherwise be the first in their families to attend college. This is where our College Access and Success team gets to work.

“We believe it’s important for students to apply for financial aid early because it increases their financial aid packages,” said College Access Manager Ruben Rivera. And like Ruben told his volunteers, “More money is always a good thing for our students.” He and Felipe Ayala spearheaded volunteer trainings and FAFSA nights at five Children’s Aid sites to help students and their families navigate this crucial step in the college application process, months before the application’s federal deadline.

An important part to the FAFSA process is making sure you have your tax return in order. So we felt very lucky to have New York area tax prep firm R&G Brenner raffle off 50 vouchers for free tax services. Their generosity helped remove one more barrier for students and their families, making the path to college just a little bit smoother.

This was a great project by the College Access and Success team, very much in line with the Children’s Aid approach to our mission: bringing together a multitude of resources to ensure that we keep the promise to our young people. 

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Two from Children’s Aid Join NYC Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board

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The Children’s Aid Society is honored to have placed two members of our team on the NYC Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board. Phoebe Boyer, our president and CEO, and Michael Carrera, our vice president of the Adolescence Division who directs the CAS-Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, will work with dozens of other appointees from academia, faith-based organizations, media, business, technology, the judiciary, and nonprofit organizations in a collaborative effort to protect and promote children’s well-being in the city.  

Many thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration for including Children’s Aid on this esteemed team of professionals.

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Children's Aid Goes to Albany

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On Tuesday, January 26, The Children’s Aid Society president and CEO Phoebe Boyer spent the day in Albany to advocate for New York’s children and families. Phoebe was joined by colleagues from Children’s Aid in conversations with Assemblymembers Guillermo Linares, Andrew Hevesi, and Donna Lupardo, as well as staff members from the offices of Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senator John Flanagan. 
 
Phoebe thanked the elected officials, and particularly the Governor Cuomo, for including $1.5 million in funding for the Foster Youth Success Alliance in the executive budget. This was a huge win for college-aged young people in foster care, as well as for Children’s Aid and the FYSA coalition working on their behalf.
 
In addition, Phoebe advocated for school-based health centers (SBHCs), one of the most effective strategies for delivering high-quality, comprehensive, and culturally competent medical, dental, and mental health care to students, particularly hard-to-reach teens. With the upcoming Medicaid redesign, SBHCs are in grave danger of complete shutdown as each center would need to renegotiate its reimbursement rates with every new managed care provider – a nearly impossible task to complete before the July 1 deadline. Phoebe asked for an one-year extension of the deadline to complete the important work necessary to ensure seamless delivery of health care services.
 
Phoebe also thanked officials for continuing to fund community schools across the state, while also expressing concern about the lack of funding devoted to capacity building – a key piece of ensuring the success of the community school strategy.
 
Each official was receptive to Children’s Aid’s concerns and eager to learn more. Children’s Aid will continue to work with each official’s office to provide guidance and continue to advocate for the children and families in New York City and across the state. 
 

 

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Donna Chandler: Celebrating Her Many Years of Service

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Pictured from left to right: Donna Chandler and Faith Ringgold

Donna Chandler’s no nonsense attitude has always reflected her unwavering commitment to child development. As director of the Drew Hamilton Center, she is the first to walk in and the last to leave. She has made it so that the many families who have walked through its doors know of one more place to call home. Donna is an example of what it means to fight for every child, in her advocacy and love for the families she has supported over the years.

In her last week with Children’s Aid, the Early Childhood Division celebrated her seven years on staff plus many more supporting our work throughout the Harlem community. “It’s been both an honor and a hoot to have Donna on our team,” said Moria Cappio, the vice president of Early Childhood. And with a laugh, Moria said, “We’re looking forward to when she comes back to volunteer.”

Artist, writer, and activist Faith Ringgold stopped by Drew to join CAS staff and families for the celebration. Ringgold’s children’s book Tar Beach is a favorite at the center and it embodies the same imaginative spirit that is encouraged in each classroom at Drew. It was a wonderful moment to reflect on Donna’s influence and legacy.

We could not be more humbled to have worked alongside a passionate leader. We thank Donna for her tireless work and congratulate her on her retirement. 

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Partners in Safety

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The National Income Life Insurance Company has done a fine thing in the name of safety. It has created a Child Safe Kit, offered free to its customers. This kit stores a child’s pictures, fingerprints, and other information useful to law enforcement in the event that that child is reported missing. 

Knowing that Children’s Aid places the highest priority on our kids’ safety and security, National Income Life Insurance approached us as a partner, and in the process made a very generous donation to our programs. Many thanks to the company for its support.  

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