The Children's Aid Blog

Celebrate National Black History Month With Your Children

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February is National Black History Month, a time to learn about and reflect upon African American history and culture. The 2011 National Black History Month theme is African Americans and the Civil War. The following events are among the many family-oriented activities going on throughout New York City:

  • The Schomburg Center Public Education Program presents the Black History Month Youth Film Series. The series will take place between February 14 - 18 with a different film shown each day at 10AM.
  • Visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens. Check out the house where the legendary musician lived from 1943 until his death. Children under 4 get in free. As part of its Black History Month celebration, the Museum will present "Louis Armstrong and Race" on February 12th and 26th at 1 and 3pm.
  • The Brooklyn Children's Museum is currently showing "Tales from the Land of Gullah" an exhibit about the Gullah people of West Africa who were enslaved during the 17th century. Visitors will learn about their culture and the contributions they made to America.

Be sure to check back for more coverage of National Black History Month 2011 on the Children's Aid Blog!

Children's Aid Youth Take Part in Street Law Program

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In its fourth year, The New York Law School brings the Street Law program to The Children’s Aid Society’s Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem. According to their web site, Street Law "began in 1972, when a small group of Georgetown University Law Center students developed an experimental curriculum designed to teach District of Columbia high school students about practical aspects of the law and the legal system." Since then, Street Law, Inc. has expanded into an international organization that develops educational programs in over 30 countries.

The curriculum at Hope Leadership Academy consists of 10 interactive lessons that will teach students about the 4th Amendment (Search and Seizure). Participants, along with the guidance of their New York Law School student trainers, will develop arguments on 4th Amendment situations to be presented during a moot court at the end of their program.

A key program goal is to create a positive attitude towards the legal system and to teach participants how to protect their individual rights. Thanks to these New York Law School students, Hope Leadership Academy participants will also gain much needed practice in critical thinking and problem solving skills, tools necessary as they move onto college and adulthood. Perhaps some will even be inspired to pursue a career in law!

The Children's Aid Society Announces New Healthy Beverage Policy

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According to the New York City Department of Health’s Take Care New York 2012 action plan, Americans consume about 250 more calories per day than they did 30 years ago: about half of these calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. The Children’s Aid Society is working towards breaking that trend with its new beverage policy set to take effect on March 1st, 2011. All Children’s Aid staff and clients are joining the fight against unhealthy eating by cutting their consumption of flavored milk, sodas and sports drinks. This is just another step in the agency’s overall mission to educate the communities we serve about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The new beverage guidelines that will apply to all sites are as follows:

  • Tap water will be made readily available to all
  • Children under the age of 2 years old will be given whole milk and for those 3-5 years old, 1% milk (or milk substitute for lactose intolerant children), If 100% juice is served, dilute it by half with water
  • Children over the age of 5 years old are only allowed water, seltzer, 1% milk (or milk substitute for lactose intolerant children), and 100% juice.
  • Allowable alternatives are homemade fruit smoothies and homemade “soda” (seltzer water + 100% fruit juice)
  • Adults are allowed water or seltzer, milk, 100% juice, coffee or tea

Children learn by example and Children’s Aid staff strives to promote healthy lifestyle choices in all areas of programming. Our Go!Healthy Initiative directly aims to alter the habits of young people through a variety of fun and informative activities. Stefania Patinella, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs at Children's Aid, describes the initiative as follows:

“Our programs give families the tools to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink so they can be “conscious consumers.” In one activity, youth are astonished when they measure how much sugar is in their foods and beverages, like sodas, juice drinks and cereals. In another, they learn about the marketing tricks companies use to convince consumers that products are healthy when they’re not—such as pictures of fruit or words such as “natural.” Parents and youth alike learn what too much sugar means for their health, mood, and concentration, as well as its relationship to Type 2 diabetes, a disease that is devastating many low-income families and communities. Of course, to keep every class positive and fun, we include hands-on cooking activities that empower children and parents to make healthy, homemade meals part of their daily lives. With every meal, we serve water…and for special occasions, homemade “soda”: equal parts seltzer and 100% fruit juice, with fresh fruit as a garnish!”

Children’s Aid School Based Health Centers Get Their Report Cards

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The reports are in! School Based Health Centers (SBHC) are considered by experts as one of the most effective and efficient ways to provide preventive health care. Children can receive medical, dental and mental health care right inside their school, resulting in fewer absences. Parents can feel confident that their child will be taken care of and that they do not need to miss a day of work, a great financial burden for most families using Children’s Aid Society services.

The Children’s Aid Society operates five SBHCs in our Community Schools in Harlem and Washington Heights. Important 2009-2010 School Based Health Center Facts:

  • With 85% enrollment, Children’s Aid Society School Based Health Centers exceeded the New York State Department of Health enrollment requirement of 75%
  • 1,595 H1N1 vaccines in this year
  • 2,306 free vision screenings were provided

View all the Report Cards for School Year 2009-2010.

The Children’s Aid Society Raises Readers

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To kick off the New Year, The Children's Aid Society's Early Head Start expansion team became Raising a Reader affiliates. Raising a Reader is a national non-profit early literacy program that promotes daily “book cuddling” between children and their parents. Through these shared story experiences children develop a love of reading critical to school success. Over 20 evaluations of Raising a Reader have shown that the program has a significant positive effect on children’s early literacy skills, parent bonding and kindergarten readiness.

The program is simple. Raising a Reader rotates a set of bright red bags filled with award-winning children’s books into the homes of families on a weekly basis. On January 13th, Raising a Reader staff trained our Early Head Start family workers on how to implement and coordinate the program. Trainers also worked with staff in how to support parents in interactive reading techniques. Other tips (taken from the Raising a Reader Website) on how to make sharing books with your child a great experience includes:

Infants

  • Snuggle up with your baby! The baby will feel secure from being close and hearing your voice.
  • It is ok to let your baby touch and hold the book.
  • Choose books with simple, clear pictures. Babies like faces and bold, high contrast pictures.
  • Rhymes, songs and simple soothing text appeal to babies.

Toddlers

  • Toddlers love book sharing—even if they do not sit still for long.
  • Choose books that are predictable, repetitive, or encourage sound/movement.
  • Encourage your toddler to make sounds and movement to describe the story!
  • Toddlers take comfort in routine and repetition. Try to find a consistent time and/or place to share books.

Preschoolers

  • Offer a variety of books! Include counting books, alphabet books, and animal books.
  • Your preschooler may want to ‘read’ to you—that’s great! Let them read (or tell) the story.
  • Preschoolers love stories about friends and family.

You can learn more about Raising a Reader at: http://www.raisingareader.org/

Children's Aid Celebrates National Oatmeal Month

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Oatmeal

photograph by Kristin Brenemen on Flickr

Get your bowls ready because January is National Oatmeal Month! There are many health benefits to eating oatmeal, including lowering blood cholesterol and promoting weight loss - it’s a good supply of energy. Here is a delicious oatmeal recipe by Stefania Patinella, Director of the Food & Nutrition Programs at The Children’s Aid Society:

MAPLE QUINOA-OATMEAL PORRIDGE

Yields: about 8 cups Makes about 20 servings for 3- to 5-year-olds
Makes about 10 servings for 6 years olds and up
This recipe fulfils the total Grains/Bread component.

Ingredients:

½ cup quinoa
6 cups water
3 cups rolled oats (about ½ pound)
1 large apple cut into small pieces
2½ cups 1% milk
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Rinse and drain the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Put the quinoa in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the water (4 cups), the oats, apple (if using) and milk and cook for 15 minutes more until the oats are soft. Stir in the maple syrup and cinnamon. Serve hot.

Variation:

BROWN SUGAR QUINOA-OATMEAL PORRIDGE
Substitute the maple syrup for ¼ cup packed light brown sugar.

Children’s Aid Welcomes Kathleen Connelly as Director of Volunteer Services

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This month, Kathleen Connelly joined The Children’s Aid Society as the new Director of Volunteer Services. She brings with her a wealth of experience working with volunteers. Before joining Children’s Aid, she served nearly four years as Director of Volunteer Programs for the Manhattan Branch of Dress for Success Worldwide. Kat, as she prefers to be called, also worked for more than 15 years as trainer and video training producer for Wayne Lachman Productions and spent several years as Community Affairs Director for KENS-TV, the CBS Affiliate in San Antonio, Texas. At KENS-TV she was responsible for all community outreach, public affairs programming, writing and delivering on-air public service programs as well as producing and directing a weekly “Crimestoppers” series.

I recently asked Kat a few more questions to get to know her better:

Q: What are your top priorities for the Volunteer Services Department in 2011?

A: My top priorities would be to increase and strengthen membership in The Associates Council. Their participation in Direct Volunteer opportunities as well as fundraising can have great impact. I will also be visiting the sites to assess their needs regarding Direct Volunteers.

Q: You bring such a great background of experience to the table, what do you think is your greatest asset and how will this help our Volunteer Services Department?

A: I think one of my greatest assets is that I’ve spent my career connecting with people, on-camera and face to face. Relationships are the key to engaging people’s support in anything you do. I also spent several years as a weekly volunteer and have a good idea of what motivates volunteers.

Q: Kat, why do you think volunteering is so crucial to a large service organization such as The Children’s Aid Society?

A: Volunteers are an incredibly valuable resource to The Children’s Aid Society on so many levels. Whether it’s mentoring a child or organizing a fundraiser, the passion and commitment of volunteers is what makes it possible for the CAS to do the great work it does.

Give It Back For Jobs Turns Tax Cuts into Charitable Donations

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The holidays have come and gone leaving little trace of the red wrapping paper or the fresh pine tree scent. The fun and excitement of giving gifts to loved ones might be over, but there is still much to do to help those struggling in a down economy.

With the help of giveitbackforjobs.org, a new website created by three academics, Americans can choose to lend a helping hand to organizations that serve the underprivileged. Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University; Robert Hockett, Professor of Law at the Cornell Law School and Daniel Markovits, Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School created the website in an effort to encourage higher income earning individuals to donate their Bush administration tax cuts which were recently renewed.

The site does it all for you! It calculates the estimated value of the tax cut under the new extension and even recommends charities that help communities that are struggling due to the weak economy.

“These causes can use the help and the people they benefit can sure use the help,” said Professor Markovits when interviewed on the Fox Business Network.

One of the charities featured on giveitbackforjobs.org is The Children’s Aid Society. The Children’s Aid Society strives to fill the gaps between what children have and what they need to thrive. It has been serving children for more than 150 years and today serves New York's neediest children and their families. With more than 45 locations in the five boroughs and Westchester County, Children’s Aid offers services and programs ranging from Early Childhood to Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention to assisting families secure stable, affordable housing and avoid homelessness through The New York Times Subprime Neediest Cases Program.

Click here to learn more about The Children’s Aid Society.

Children’s Aid Stays Open on Holidays

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If you think about it, there are many dates when schools close but adults still must work, therefore presenting a dilemma for parents who may not have an alternative child care option. On most holidays (i.e. winter break, Martin Luther King’s Birthday), Children’s Aid centers and community schools run a full day of programming so that parents do not need to make special arrangements. The day can consist of a range of recreational and academic activities/trips as well as holiday-related themes.

Most recently, P.S./I.S. 50 incorporated a Winter Wonderland theme into their winter break holiday program. The children created and exhibited winter-like environments and landscapes using art supplies as well as recyclable materials. Holiday program participants at P.S. 152 had a Holidays Around the World Workshop and Etiquette Tea Party just in time for all the dinner celebrations of the New Year.

“I know of many parents who would have to take time off of work to stay home with their children during holiday school closings. For this community that would be a financial burden, so being able to keep the school open for children on those days is most definitely a big help in keeping those families stable,” - Alondra Garcia, Program Director at P.S. 8, a Children’s Aid Society Community School.

Children’s Aid Celebrates Three Kings Day in East Harlem

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For many of the Latino children and families who participate in The Children’s Aid Society programs, the holiday season doesn’t end New Year’s Day. Three Kings Day is a celebration of the Biblical story of the three wise men that travel to visit baby Jesus and present him with gifts. This celebration is still widely observed within many Latino immigrant communities.

Thanks to El Museo del Barrio, this tradition is kept alive with the annual Three Kings Day Parade. For the fifth year in a row, Children’s Aid Early Childhood participants joined in on the fun. Approximately 80 parents and staff accompanied about 60 children from our East Harlem Center and P.S. 152, a Children’s Aid Community School in Washington Heights, in the parade where they were able to show off their handmade crowns and drums. “Everyone had a blast!” says Moria Cappio, Director of the East Harlem Center's Early Childhood Programs.