The tragic events in Newtown have led to many important conversations about guns, school safety and mental health services.
Like many who work with children and families in high-poverty communities across the country, my colleagues at The Children's Aid Society have too much experience seeing young people with incredible promise killed by guns. In the last five years alone, 10 young people in our care were murdered and many more have had a friend or family member killed by guns.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all children have every opportunity to live free from violence.
On Tuesday, January 8, more than 100 advocates, parents, children and providers gathered at The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Center for the first Campaign for Children town hall meeting of 2013. The event is the first in a series of town halls across the five boroughs that the Campaign for Children will host to encourage advocacy activities around child care and after-school programs during the upcoming City budget process.
Milbank Center Director Casper Lassiter welcomed the crowd and reminded all how important it is to come together and fight for these vital programs. He noted that the center’s after-school slots for elementary school students were not funded last year, which meant that Milbank served 100 fewer children from the community. Parents whose children attend early childhood and after-school programs expressed the heartache they would feel if they were to lose what they consider a lifeline.
The grandmother of one child, Chase, who has been unable to attend Milbank afterschool program due to the budget cuts, shared with the group his grief. His grandmother says Chase constantly asks what he did wrong to be cut from the program. To Chase, just like all of the children who go to this center, Milbank was his home away from home and staff were his family, too.
Council Member Gale Brewer said she shared the crowd’s discontent with the instability of funding for these critical services for children. She strongly encouraged parents to meet with their local elected officials to let them know they are being held accountable to do right by New York City’s children. Brewer also applauded the Campaign’s work over the last year and advocates’ role in pushing for restoration of funding for these programs, which help parents keep their jobs and support their families and while providing a safe haven and caring environment for children.
Visit the Campaign for Children’s website here for more information on other events and sign up to be a member of the Campaign. Make your voice heard today!
The Children’s Aid Society’s East Harlem Center Keystone Club focused its 2012 community service efforts on an anti-violence campaign (called “WHY?”) to bring attention to the prevalence of gang violence and child abuse in the community. The East Harlem Keystone Club provides young people ages 14 to 18 with unique leadership development opportunities, career preparation and community service.
Throughout the year, the East Harlem Keystone youth organized rallies, press conferences, town hall meetings and forums in order to raise awareness on violence in their community and to do outreach to those affected by or who are at risk of experiencing child abuse or gang violence.
Along the way, they collaborated with East Harlem Center Torch Club members with the intention of taking their concerns to elected officials and reaching out to younger kids before they get pulled into gangs or abusive situations. The members worked tirelessly to organize a child abuse information room for parents and youth. Through their hard work and efforts, the group raised almost $1,000, which they donated to a charity that helps victims of child abuse.
This past November, members of the club took home the first place award for their project at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America 2012 North East Regional Keystone Conference.
Inspired by the efforts of the Keystone Club, most of the eighth grade Torch Club members that collaborated in this powerful campaign, as well as a few teens that attended an Anti-Violence Youth Forum, have now joined the East Harlem Keystone Club.
Choosing anti-violence as their community service theme this year had a tremendous and positive impact on the entire East Harlem community.
In Richard Buery's latest Huffington Post piece, he responds to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, emphasizing the need for stricter gun control and more effective mental health care.
"It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all children have every opportunity to live free from violence. Offering the hope of a better future by providing families with a path out of poverty is critical. Providing access to mental health supports in schools and communities is essential. And so is common sense gun control.”
On December 13, Fannie Lou Hamer High School, a Children’s Aid community school, held a Women’s Boutique to honor its mothers with an evening dedicated to pampering and care. Close to 50 mothers, grandmothers, aunts and guardians attended this evening event built around their financial, emotional and mental wellness.
The New York City Office of Financial Empowerment provided the women with useful information on how to protect their credit and identity, and how to obtain free or low cost tax return preparation assistance. The representatives were available the entire evening to answer any private questions the women had as well. Another important topic was daily stress and finding methods to prevent or to cope with it. On hand was a practitioner of modern Eastern medicine, who gave the women useful tips on how to avoid or cope with every day stresses.
The women also were treated to amazing musical performances from students, and a healthy and tasty dinner. What’s more, each participant left with gifts. In partnership with World Vision, TD Bank and Dress Barn, guests took home bath and beauty products and had the opportunity to choose a new outfit or two from racks of brand new clothing donated by Dress Barn.
High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.
REASSURE CHILDREN THAT THEY ARE SAFE. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
MAKE TIME TO TALK. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or housework. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feeling
KEEP YOUR EXPLANATIONS DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE.
Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
Click here to read more Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
Written by Alirio Guerrero, Director of Preventive Services
This past Sunday December 9, you might have noticed the caravan or heard the thundering sounds of nearly 80 motorcycles driving up the West Side Highway to deliver over 300 gifts and holiday fun to the children and families of The Children’s Aid Society’s Preventive Services Program.
For a second year in a row, we have been fortunate enough to partner with Michelle Dell, President of Hogs & Heifers Saloon New York City, her amazing staff 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 up the West Side Highway to the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem, delivering toys and gifts for everyone. The day continued with plenty of activities for the children such as arts and crafts, face painting and airbrushed personalized Holiday stockings by one of the artistic Hogs, renowned artist, Mickey Harris, who came in from Tennessee in a customized H &H Cadillac!
There were hundreds of toys to choose from and at the end of the day, the children left with something they had been wanting. A catered holiday dinner was served to the families by the Preventive Services team and all the Hogs & Heifers volunteers, including Michelle, who took her time to meet and greet everyone on the buffet line.
The fun and excitement of the day could only be topped by the arrival of Santa who rode in, Hogs & Heifers style, on his orange Harley Davidson -- right into the center’s gymnasium.
Words cannot express our appreciation to everyone who participated this year and everything they have given to these deserving children.
The generosity of the Hogs & Heifers community touched many lives and it was clear from the smiles on their faces that they, too, received joy. We thank the Hog & Heifers organization and hope they know the incredible impact they have made once again on all of us at The Children's Aid Society.
Over 100 volunteers set up Santa’s Workshop in the center’s gymnasium. At individual craft stations, volunteers assisted the children in creating gifts for their family and friends. Some of the most decorative and unique creations from this event included festive floral centerpieces, Christmas tree ornaments, personalized picture frames and pencil cases. The children had no issue finding the right gift for the special people in their lives, while enjoying festive music, face painting and gingerbread cookies. And just in case their hectic school schedules won’t allow for that last-minute trip to Macy’s, Santa was on the premises to confirm any final requests.
On Saturday, December 1, approximately two dozen Harlem students in fifth through tenth grades gathered at the New York Mission Society’s Minisink Townhouse to compete in a two-part speaking competition judged by an audience of their friends, family and peers. The event was hosted by the African American Male Initiative (AAMI).
Speakers improvised one 3- to 5-minute speech on a topic related to politics and current events. Topics ranged from the serious (the nation’s biggest challenges) to the personal (favorite vacations and the animal they would choose to be, and why). In a second, prepared speech, participants were asked to describe what they would do if they were elected president of the United States.
During lunch, the students were treated to a performance by the New York Mission Society Marching Band. Introducing the group, Mr. Robinson praised the competitors for their participation, noting that public speaking is an essential skill that would serve them well in school and in life.
To press his point, Mr. Robinson urged them to think this way: “If I can express myself,” he said, “maybe I can change the world.”
Given a chance to consider this premise, students tackled the tough issues of the day in their prepared speeches. Arguments were put forward to raise the minimum wage, guarantee equal pay for women, tackle obesity, fight unemployment, boost graduation rates for minorities and guarantee health care for low-income communities.
‘Lift Every Voice’ is the first of three planned events to be hosted by AAMI, The Children’s Aid Society’s effort to help young black male students succeed in school and lead productive lives.
As Program Director Clifton Watson noted, with attention given to the disproportionate rate at which black and Latino male students face challenges in their academic lives, the event “highlights student commitment to academic success and community investment in such efforts.”
Last night's second annual Keeping the Promise gala raised more than $1.5 million for The Children's Aid Society and NYC's neediest children, shattering last year's fundraising record. The event was held at 583 Park and honored Citigroup, Inc. and Bill McDermott, Co-CEO of SAP AG, for their long-time support of the organization.
The evening highlighted the importance of education in overcoming poverty and featured several students whose success is a testament to the strength of Children's Aid programs. Florence Wen, 22, and Elvis Santana, 19, served as emcees for the night, and both underscored the night's message by sharing their own personal stories. "I can't imagine my life without Children's Aid programs, and those experiences have made my commitment to education stronger than ever," said Elvis, who is a sophomore at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut.
The second half of the night brought Maria Bartiromo of CNBC to the stage, where she conducted a live interview with Gene McQuade, CEO of Citi, N.A. and fellow honoree Bill McDermott. With an audience of over 500 people, they discussed everything from the impending fiscal cliff to the importance of their work with Children's Aid. "More than ever, in our knowledge-based economy, the antidote to poverty is education," said McQuade.
The gorgeous event space was filled with hand-written messages from other Children's Aid kids, thanking each attendee and making their own pledges of goals they hope to achieve. The program began and ended with a performance by the Children's Aid chorus.
Together, generous donors and friends of Children's Aid will help us reach the vision of college graduation for all the children in our care. From the podium, Mr. McQuade announced a special gift from Citi that, in his words, "will be earmarked to help low-income first generation families meet the academic, financial and social milestones to enroll and complete a postsecondary degree."
Thanking the audience for their commitment, President and CEO Richard Buery also praised them for their belief in equal opportunity. "You announce to the world that the American Dream is not for some children but for all children," he said. "At Children’s Aid, when we talk about 'Keeping the Promise,' that is the promise we are talking about."