The Children's Aid Blog

Thousands Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner in Harlem

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Last Wednesday, the Food and Beverage Association of America prepared and served Thanksgiving dinner to approximately 2,000 children and families at The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. Top chefs from some of New York’s finest hotels and restaurants cooked and served an estimated 250 turkeys, 20 pounds each, along with all the trimmings.

Wayne Whinna, director of Food and Beverage at The Sheraton New York Hotel & Tower and Executive Chef Joe Fontanals, led the culinary efforts once again. Gladys Mouton Di Stefano, president of both the Food & Beverage Association and At Your Service Party Consulting, organized the dinner and coordinated all the donations for the 23rd consecutive year.

As always, the Milbank Center's gym had a restaurant-style floor plan where families could dine together around flower centerpieces inspired by the holiday. The youngest guests donned crisp chef hats and lively music filled the room. Richard R. Buery, president and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, also joined this special event and helped serve dinner before he joined guests to enjoy a meal himself.

Photography by Lily Kesselman


Talking Transition: Every School a Community School

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Last week, The Children’s Aid Society took part in “Talking Transition”, a civic forum which brought together tens of thousands of New Yorkers, online and at its pop-up tent on Canal Street, to talk about the future of the city and how to shape the transition for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.

On Tuesday, November 19th, The Children’s Aid Society discussed how New York City’s children and families can receive the supports and opportunities they need to succeed and thrive in school. Community schools, an educational reform strategy, remove barriers to learning by organizing the resources of schools and communities around student success. Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about the impact of community schools, view the story of community school graduate Chastity Salas and hear from a panel that included Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society.

Watch the video below.

Bundling up with BNY Mellon

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Now that the days are shorter and the weather colder, it's time to bundle up. Thanks to an energetic group of Bank of New York Mellon volunteers, over 200 early childhood and school age children at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem were fitted with new cold weather coats, courtesy of BNY Mellon through Operation Warm.

On Thursday, November 7, the volunteers set up a “Milbank Coat Shop” and served as personal shoppers for the students. Together, they searched for the right color and fit. Participants were encouraged to express their personal sense of style as they chose the perfect coat for the frosty months ahead.

This year’s coat distribution was an amazing display of corporate philanthropy, 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 volunteer projects such as gardening projects, mural painting, special events, financial literacy training and many others. We are so grateful to BNY Mellon for their generosity and to their employee volunteers who visited Milbank to bundle up our young people, and warm our hearts.

Finding “Forever” Families for Special Needs Children

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November is National Adoption Month, a time to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care. Currently there are nearly 400,000 children in the United States foster care system. Every year, thousands of these children will age out of foster care without the love and support of a “forever” family.

Thirteen percent of all children served by this system have at least one documented disability. For those with a medical disability, emotional or behavioral disorder, the life-changing event of aging out can be catastrophic. 

At The Children’s Aid Society, our specialized teams in Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Treatment Family Foster Care and services for teens who are “aging out” work tirelessly to bring security and stability to these children, either with a permanent home or with an adoptive family.

Over the past fiscal year ending June 30, the adoption unit at The Children’s Aid Society completed 97 adoptions. And so far, 28 adoptions have already been completed for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1. What makes these numbers extra special is the success the Children’s Aid has had with finding permanent homes for children out of Medical and Treatment Family foster care.

“At The Children’s Aid Society, we continue to be very proud of the fact that included in our adoption numbers we have significant percentages of children adopted out of our special medical, developmental disabilities and treatment family foster care programs,” said Michael Wagner, director adoption and foster care at The Children’s Aid Society. “When these children are adopted by their foster parents, they benefit from having one less transition and that can make all the difference for their futures.”

As we mark November as National Adoption Month, The Children’s Aid Society has six additional children scheduled to finalize their adoptions this week in New York City’s Family Courts.

From the Associates Council: Friendraising Starts with Midnight in Paris

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When you watch Midnight in Paris, you watch the fantastic minds that defined modernism, hanging out in Gertrude Stein’s Paris apartment, creating culture that would impact generations to come. It’s a great reminder of the power of collaborating with impressive & inspiring people. And that’s what we are excited to do at our fall event – bring together awesome New Yorkers to show them the impact we can make together through The Children’s Aid Society.

Our goal at this event is to friendraise – in other words, to get people as excited as we are about The Children’s Aid Society. We’re looking for people who will partner with Children’s Aid to help grow and strengthen their amazing programs.  

As we get closer to the event, we wanted to share some tips on how you can help us friendraise this fall:

Share what excites you the most about The Children’s Aid Society. People will give their time and money to organizations they know and trust. There are so many great charities out there – why choose Children’s Aid? Think about key experiences you’ve had that will influence others to participate.

Show your friends the impact their gift will have. People are more interested in giving when they understand where the resources are going. This year, the Associates Council is raising money for the Go!Healthy program, an initiative that follows children from early childhood through adolescence and beyond, educating them about wellness, nutrition and healthy cooking. Kids who have gone through the program are more likely to choose an apple over candy as a snack and are more open to trying new foods at home. In addition to education, Go!Healthy provides healthy meals to approximately 1,500 children a day. Read more about their programs here.

Offer up multiple ways to get involved. People want to see that they can get involved and influence the organization, not just be a distant donor, but they may be afraid to make a large commitment upfront. An entry-level donation or volunteer experience will help people take that first step with Children’s Aid. Check out volunteer opportunities or learn more about joining the Associates Council.

So invite your friends to take the first step with The Children’s Aid Society by joining us on November 20th for Midnight in Paris – Associates Council style.

-- Stephanie Danzi, Associates Council Member

Join Us Tuesday to Talk Community Schools at “Talking Transition”

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Every School a Community School: Moving from Pilot to Policy

Tuesday, November 19
4:30 - 6 p.m.
The Talking Transition Tent
“Town Hall”
@Canal & Varick Streets

After more than a decade, New Yorkers will have a new mayor in just a few weeks. In preparation for this major transition, The Children’s Aid Society will be taking part in a pioneering public dialogue called "Talking Transition."

Join us to discuss how all of New York City’s children and families can receive the supports and opportunities they need to succeed and thrive in school. Community schools, an educational reform strategy, remove barriers to learning by organizing the resources of schools and communities around student success. There are many existing examples of community schools in NYC—we now have an opportunity to promote system-wide support and implementation.

  • Learn more about community schools and their impact on student success
  • Watch a segment of the PBS special "The Graduates/Los Graduados," featuring Chastity Salas, a community school graduate (Nationally syndicated columnist Esther J. Cepeda has written a commentary on Chastity's journey. Read it here.)
  • Hear from a diverse panel about moving from pilot to policy

There will be a question and answer period following the panel.


  • Richard R. Buery – President and CEO, The Children’s Aid Society (Moderator)
  • Abe Fernandez – Director of Collective Impact, The Children’s Aid Society
  • Catalina Fortino – VP for Education, The United Federation of Teachers
  • Gayle Jennings–O'Byrne – Vice President, JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy
  • Sr. Paulette LoMonaco – Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services
  • Nancy Mann – Principal, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School
  • Dianne Morales – Executive Director and CEO, Phipps Community Development Corporation
  • Andrew White – Director, Center for New York City Affairs at The New School
  • Sarah Zeller-Berkman – Director of Community Youth Development, Youth Development Institute

Talking Transition is an open conversation about the future of New York City. Along with dozens of other organizations and partners, we are helping New Yorkers engage in the issues and be part of the transition. All events are free and open to the public.

We look forward to seeing you Tuesday!

WaPo Column: Making College a Family Matter

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Nationally syndicated columnist Esther J. Cepeda has written a commentary on the PBS documentary The Graduates/Los Graduados, which premiered last month. 

The film shares the compelling stories of six young Latinos from around the country who beat the odds and achieved success in school. Featured in this nationwide premiere is Bronx-born Chastity Salas, a Children’s Aid Society community school alumna and current freshman at the State University of New York at Potsdam.

Ms. Cepeda's column, "Making college a family matter," explores what she calls “a nearly universal barrier to low-income, first-generation college students: leaving an impoverished family behind in order to better yourself.”

Ms. Cepeda quotes Chastity, as well as Emily Task, citing their work together at FLHFHS’s Student Success Center to prepare Chastity for college.

You can watch the entire one-hour documentary here.

Join the online conversation about this film and the ways to curb the high school dropout rate. Visit the film’s Facebook page and use the hashtag #TheGraduates/#LosGraduados on Twitter to show your support.

From the Associates Council: Escape to Midnight in Paris

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The Associates Council is thrilled to continue our literary themed events by bringing a bit of Parisian sparkle to the lower east side in just a couple short weeks. Following our recent Emerald City spring soiree, the Children’s Aid Society’s 17th Annual fall fundraiser pays homage to Midnight in Paris.

Our venue, Preserve24, evokes a bit of the exposed brick facades, cobblestone street feel and Jazz Age environment the movie whimsically brings to life. You can almost picture Hemingway and Fitzgerald lounging in a corner booth discussing their newest masterpiece while Zelda dances by the bar. And even better, this fantastic new venue represents a charitable cause of its own, the preservation of Greenland’s retreating glacial landscape.

We are also pleased to announce that Tito's Vodka has graciously offered to be our exclusive vodka sponsor for the evening.

We hope you can escape with us to Midnight in Paris for drinks, hors d’oeuvres and more on Wednesday, November 20 from 7-9pm in support of the incredibly important work The Children’s Aid Society is doing in our neediest NYC communities. 

Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit The Children’s Aid Society Go!Healthy program, an initiative that follows children from early childhood through adolescence and beyond, educating them about wellness, nutrition and healthy cooking.

Buy tickets today!

-- Rebecca Steuer & Kate Ruque, Fall Event Committee Co-Chairs

Youth Vie For Coveted Spot on Leadership Council

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As New Yorkers head to the polls today to vote for the city’s new Mayor, students at The Children’s Aid Society are also holding their own valuable elections. Last Friday, students in the afterschool program at P.S. 8, a Children’s Aid Society community school in Washington Heights, voted in its new 2013-2014 Youth Leadership Council. Their excitement and nerves filled the school’s auditorium as over a dozen future leaders presented compelling speeches in hopes of securing the most votes.

Youth Leadership Council (YLC) members learn valuable leadership skills and advocate for their fellow students, school and community. The YLC provides input and feedback regarding the activities in their afterschool program, plays a part in organizing afterschool events, and develops and participates in community service and youth advocacy projects.

The incoming council members at P.S. 8 will have large shoes to fill. Former students (left) credit their time with the YLC with teaching them how to be a better student, a better son/daughter and better community member. They ask the new council to be the example that the other children follow.

Stay tuned for more YLC 2013-2014 news.

From the Associates Council: Supporting an Incredible Cause

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On Wednesday, November 20th, the Associates Council is hosting its 17th annual fall fundraiser themed Midnight in Paris.

Proceeds from this year’s fundraiser will benefit The Children’s Aid Society Go!Healthy program, an initiative that follows children from early childhood through adolescence and beyond, educating them about wellness, nutrition and healthy cooking.

“The crisis we face with childhood obesity in this country is so large that it can be overwhelming. But we fight it with positivity and empowerment,” said Stefania Patinella, Director of Food and Nutrition Programs at the Children’s Aid Society. “Our program teaches kids to take their health into their own hands. From toddlers to teens, they learn how to grow vegetables, cook nutritious and delicious meals, be aware of advertising that persuades them to choose junk foods and make the healthy choice instead. As they share meals with their families and compete for Healthiest Chef in our Iron Go!Chefs event, healthy eating transforms from a chore to a cause for celebration.”

By joining us for Midnight in Paris, you will help make Go!Healthy programs, including cooking classes, health and fitness, recipe competitions, and many others better able to improve the lives of children in our neediest New York City communities.

We hope to see you there. Buy tickets today!

-- Rebecca Steuer, Co-Chair, Fall Event Committee