The Children's Aid Blog

NYBGCA Youth of Year Competition

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Last week, The Children’s Aid Society was represented by Ciarra Leocadio in the New York State Youth of the Year competition. Ciarra, who is part of the Boys & Girls Club out of the Hope Leadership Academy, traveled to Albany on Sunday, May 18, with Angela Sharpe. On Monday, she interviewed before a panel of judges as part of the program, and while she didn’t win the competition, she represented Children’s Aid extremely well. The judges commented specifically about her poise and presence.

On Tuesday, Ciarra took a tour of the New York State Capitol and met with a number of elected officials, including Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.

This won’t be the end of Ciarra’s travels. After graduating from Midwood High School, in Brooklyn, Ciarra will attend prestigious Vanderbilt University in the fall, as a Posse Foundation scholarship recipient. She has her sights set on a career as an obstetrician-gynecologist.

She had to write two essays for the competition, and one of them, on the Hope Leadership Academy and its Boys & Girls Club, demonstrates how important her experiences with Children’s Aid have been:

The Club is so important to me because it allows students to get away from the negativity in life and keeps them on the right track. The Club is a safe haven and it’s truly invaluable.

Congratulations to Ciarra, on the competition and on a great high school career!

New York Knicks Player J.R. Smith Visits Fred Doug

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On Tuesday, New York Knicks player J.R. Smith dropped by The Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center to hang out with our kids and their families. As soon as he entered the gymnasium at Fred Doug, the adoring fans ran up to him as he happily signed dozens of shirts, basketballs and other paraphernalia. J.R. then spent some quality time shooting hoops with our youth, and hosted a Q&A about life in the pros.

Thank you to the New York Knicks and to J.R. Smith for visiting our kids! To view pictures from the evening, please click here.

May is Foster Care Month: Geraldine Williams does not like a quiet home

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Several years ago, that was what she came back to each night after work. The youngest of her four children had moved out. Her husband had recently passed away. She was missing something.

“I needed some kids in the house,” said Geraldine.

So she called The Children’s Aid Society to learn about foster care. “I wanted one little girl,” she said. Not too long after she had gone through the classes and gotten state approval to become a foster parent, she received a call. “They had a baby girl, and I was so happy.”

She started to make preparations. Geraldine had retired after a 25-year career working at a bank, and she was then working as a home health attendant. But that would soon change.

“My caseworker called me and said that there were siblings,” said Geraldine. “I said, ‘How many?’ Four. And I thought, ‘Wow.’ I didn’t want to break them up.”

Geraldine wasn’t sure what to expect when these children showed up, but she did think they’d be quiet and reserved at first. She was wrong. “They were so full of joy, they were bubbling,” she said. “These kids came with stories.”

They also came with their own ideas about how this would work, but Geraldine had rules and she didn’t waste much time before sitting them all down to get everything straight. And that’s really what they were looking for.

A day later, they were calling her Mom.

They’ve been with her for two and a half years, and they’re doing great. Aged 2, 9, 10 and 13, the kids are doing well in school and they have solid relationships with both their birth parents. “They lift me up every day,” said Geraldine. “We’re learning from each other. We have good days and we have bad, but the good outweigh the bad.”

And you don’t need a quiet home to expand your family. “I encourage everyone,” said Geraldine. “These kids bring joy into your life. You bring a child into your home and that child can blossom into what he’s supposed to be.”

The Children's Aid Society serves more than 300 children in its foster care programs, including specialized services such as Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care and services for teens aging out of foster care.

Consider opening up your heart and home to ensure a brighter future for a youth in foster care that may otherwise become neglected and disconnected. 

  • Applicants must be over the age of 21 and can be single, married or in a domestic partnership.
  • Applicant must be self-sufficient. Applicant’s income can be from employment, pension, or social security.
  • Applicant must complete a state screening/background check.
  • Applicant must complete 30 hours of Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training, basic training for all foster parent applicants.
  • Applicants must be in good physical and mental health and have completed physical exams for every household member. Applicant must be the lease holder to his or her own apartment or home.
  • Applicant must identify an emergency child care person.

Learn more about how you can become a foster care parent or please call us at 212-949-4962.

Fannie Lou Holds Peace Block Fair

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On May 15, Children’s Aid community high school Fannie Lou Hamer held its fourth annual Peace Block Fair, a tradition that started in 2010 to commemorate young victims of violence and to promote a message of neighborhood peace.  

In the fair this year, students were broken up into groups and listened to some uplifting speakers from notable VIPs: urban revitalization strategist and public radio host Majora Carter; ‎Community Organizing Coordinator at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice Tiffany Cotto; New York State Assembly Member Marcos Crespo; and Professor of Psychology and Urban Education at the City University of New York Dr. Debroah Vietze. The speakers encouraged the youth to tap into their passions and pursue their dreams in college, and shed light on how they can take advantage of the community improvements that the Bronx has seen in recent years.

After listening to the speakers, students were treated to a musical performance and an outdoor fair. There were different activities like foosball, Double Dutch and button making, and the student-made peace quilt was on display. Various tables hosted information on how to get involved with different initiatives, such as a Gay Straight Alliance or PTA-led efforts in the school community.

At the end, students gathered with white and green balloons to memorialize the victims, and released them into the air to spread their message.

To view pictures from the event, please click here.

 

Proud Parents Graduate, Better Equipped for Their Families and Community

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On Saturday May 17, the Seventh Annual Ercilia Pepin Parent Leadership Institute (EPPLI) Graduation ceremony took place. Close to 200 mothers, fathers, grandparents and others from Children's Aid community schools in Washington Heights and Harlem gathered at the Mirabal Sisters Campus to celebrate their accomplishments.

The Children’s Aid Society’s Parent Leadership Institute offers parents and caretakers educational and personal enrichment of their own, including GED, literacy, technology and child care licensing classes, as well as courses in television production, upholstery, fashion design, wood and fabric painting, and culinary arts. Many of the parents’ finished pieces were on display in the school cafeteria after the ceremony.

EPPLI was designed to help immigrant families overcome the social, cultural, financial and linguistic challenges that they face while building a solid bridge between the school, its parents and the surrounding community.

Decorated with beautiful handmade jewelry, home decor, bags and curtains, the exhibit showcased the hard work these parents had accomplished all year long. The day’s event exuded pride not only of the successes achieved by these graduates but of the entire Washington Heights and Harlem communities.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

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The Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) Program’s Just Ask Me (JAM) Peer Educators hosted the “This or That: The Choice Is Yours!” event  on May 7 at the Next Generation Center. The JAM Peer Educators are high school students who educate other youth about sexual reproductive health, life skills that help them navigate difficult decisions, healthy relationships and the reproductive health rights of adolescents in New York State.  The event, held on the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, included discussions about teen pregnancy through a skit developed by the JAM Peers, interactive and informative games and table information highlighting the Health and Wellness Division’s teen clinic nights at the Bronx and Harlem centers.  Many of the 57 attendees participated in the social media campaign started by the organization Bronx Knows to raise awareness about the lax regulation of enforcing the sexual health education mandate by the NYC Department of Education.  This campaign can be found on Instagram by searching for hashtags #tellDOE and #enforcethemandate.

Written by Pascale Saintonge

May is Foster Care Month: Opening Hearts Through the Home

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May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the many people that open their hearts when a young person is in need of a stable home and emotional support during a family crisis. It’s also a time to acknowledge that there are approximately 400,000 children and youth in foster care on any given day—and that there is always a need for new foster parents who want to change the lives of young people.

Beginning today and over the coming weeks, you’ll meet some of those people who have opened their homes to youth in need. People like Juana Sanchez and Jose Dominguez.

As an only child, Juana wished she had a large family. After marrying Jose, her dream came true. They have five children of their own and ten grandchildren. They have always loved being surrounded by children. As their children became adults and left home, Juana and Jose felt the need to fill their home again with children. So they became foster parents.

Soon Juana and Jose were called for a placement of four children. They were thrilled about extending their family. Soon after, a fifth sibling was born and they accepted that placement. Juana and Jose decided to give these five foster children a permanent home by adopting them. “Our family would not have been complete without them,” says Juana, who encourages all to consider foster care. “Extend the love and adopt a child. Your family will grow and so will the love.”

The Children's Aid Society serves more than 300 children in its foster care programs, including specialized services such as Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care and services for teens aging out of foster care.

Consider opening up your heart and home to ensure a brighter future for a youth in foster care that may otherwise become neglected and disconnected. 

  • Applicants must be over the age of 21 and can be single, married or in a domestic partnership.
  • Applicant must be self-sufficient. Applicant’s income can be from employment, pension, or social security.
  • Applicant must complete a state screening/background check.
  • Applicant must complete 30 hours of Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training, basic training for all foster parent applicants.
  • Applicants must be in good physical and mental health and have completed physical exams for every household member. Applicant must be the lease holder to his or her own apartment or home.
  • Applicant must identify an emergency child care person.

Learn more about how you can become a foster care parent or please call us at 212-949-4962.

From the Associates Council: We painted the Town (and the Roses) Red!

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Last Thursday the Associate's Council and their many guests traveled down the rabbit hole and up to the Manhattan Penthouse for "Wonderland", an unforgettable cocktail party in support of The Children’s Aid foster care program. Guests enjoyed stunning views of Manhattan, cocktails featuring Tito's Handmade Vodka, delicious food and a dessert bar featuring Baked by Melissa cupcakes and goodies from Robicelli's. Between conversation and mingling with friends new and old, attendees also had the opportunity to pose for incredible glamour shots by Jonsar Studios and happy moments were caught and captured by the talented Josh Haunschild of Josh Haunschild Photography. Other lucky attendees won incredible raffle prizes ranging from an all-expenses paid golf trip to some of the best golf courses in the country to coveted, hot-ticket Broadway shows to delicious culinary experiences. Needless to say, guests left Wonderland smiling like the cheshire cat.

We are excited to announce that the event raised nearly $45,000, in support of the CAS Foster Care program.  A new record for the Associate’s Council!  Proceeds will support critical programming and services for approximately 560 children and youth in foster care!  We couldn’t be happier!   

 

The Associate Council would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our donors and our financial sponsors: The Danzi Family, Edelman, UBS, Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, and Jonathan Rose Companies. We have been humbled by your generosity and support. 

Finally, we would also like to recognize our guests and extend a warm thank you to everyone who bought a ticket, made a donation or attended the event. Your support means the world to us! We hope you left the Penthouse with many fond memories of Wonderland. We know we did! 

Until next year! 

- Maxi Adamski, Alexandra Cannon and the Associate's Council 

Photo Cred:  Josh Haunschild

 

13th Annual Children’s Art Show

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On Wednesday, The Children’s Aid Society hosted its 13th Annual Children’s Art Show at the Boricua College Art Gallery in Washington Heights. The wet weather didn’t deter the dozens of children, families and friends excited to view approximately 150 pieces of curated and professionally framed artwork that dressed the walls of the gallery. The exhibit featured traditional to Picasso-style self-portraits, paintings, social awareness art and fashion pieces made of recycled paper. All items on display were products of countless hours of work by children and teenagers from our community schools and community centers around New York City.  

The Children’s Aid Society’s Interim President and CEO William Weisberg kicked off the evening’s reception. Dancers from Dunlevy Milbank Center and percussionists from SU Campus, a Children’s Aid community school, entertained guests throughout the event. Another highlight of the evening was the 2014 Arts Excellence Award, a first in the Children’s Art Show history. The East Harlem Center and Marjorie “Midge” Caparosa, the center’s Keystone Advisor and job-training counselor, were honored for their commitment to providing youth with diverse and engaging arts instruction. Midge has provided exemplary art instruction to hundreds of children at the East Harlem Center. Many of her students’ artwork hangs on the walls of the agency’s administrative offices. Midge and her students are also major contributors to the paper flower centerpieces used at the Children’s Aid gala, creating hundreds and hundreds of bright blossoms each year.

At The Children’s Aid Society, we believe that engagement in the arts is an essential component of the healthy, holistic development of every child. We strive to provide high-quality arts programming for the children we serve, who may not receive a full range of arts opportunities at school. A special thanks goes out to our generous sponsors and supporters who allowed us to celebrate our students’ artistic achievement.

Photography by Lily Kesselman

 

Children's Aid Community Schools Cited in New York Times Sunday Dialogue

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On Sunday, April 26, a New York Times feature called Sunday Dialogue touched on issues of school choice and the unequal playing field in public education. One contributor to the feature, a professor emeritus of education at City University of New York, cited The Children’s Aid Society’s Community School initiative as pioneering a movement that recognizes that children need support both in and out of school, from birth through adolescence, and that community schools can have a dramatic impact on children living in poverty.