The Children's Aid Blog

Sephora Donates Prom Dresses to Children's Aid Teens

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Prom season is in full force and for many households, paying for all its details can quickly become a daunting expense. For a group of 40 young ladies from Children’s Aid Society teen programs such as the Dunlevy Milbank Center and the Hope Leadership Academy, finding the right prom dress was made easier thanks to a donation from Sephora Flatiron. As part of its Values Inside Out program, Sephora employees collected and donated nearly 100 gently used and cleaned prom dresses for the girls to choose from. The dresses were beautiful and the girls had so much fun trying them on and choosing their favorite! In addition, Sephora Flatiron will hold a “master class” for these young ladies, where Sephora experts will show the girls how to apply makeup and do their hair for prom. The girls will also go home with a fabulous goody bag of Sephora products.  

Sephora’s generosity doesn’t end there. They will be selling a special make-up bag through the end of December, and $13 from each purchase will be donated to The Children’s Aid Society.

From the Associates Council: The Hearts at the End of the Road

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In the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man meets Dorothy and states his yearning desire for a heart. He travels all the way to the Emerald City, along with the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, merely to obtain a heart--one he deservingly receives, yet most likely already had.

Those of us on the Spring Committee feel like we have been whisked away to our very own magical (and sometimes chaotic) Land of Oz; however, we have no dearth of nerve, brains or of course, heart. Our fantastic Spring Committee members and volunteers have proven that they, indeed, are the carriers of warm, helpful and beating hearts. I'm offering this final blog in our Courage - Brains - Heart series to the entire committee, as well as to our outstanding leadership.

Specifically, I would first like to thank Kathleen Connelly and Malia Poai, the Director and Assistant Director of Children's Aid's Volunteer Services. They have guided our committee down the yellow brick road, gently advising us through all of the twists and turns. I would also like to thank Jennifer Gallivan, the President of the Associates Council, who has served as a source of guidance and inspiration to our committee. In addition, I’d like to thank my co-chair, Giuliana Vetrano, who has been my other half in this process, offering her witty charm along the way. And as for our wonderful committee members, I’d like to thank Nathaniel Soria, Maxi Adamski, Ali Barrett, Lexie Benenson, Meredith Burgess, Alexandra Cannon, Mishelle Galarza, Anjali Kar, Suzanne Nabavi, Ali Rotondo, Rebecca Steuer and Kate Ruque. They have truly served as the “heart” of our committee, as without them, we simply would not be throwing this event.

As the Tin Man gracefully put it, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Similarly, one does not need to look farther than our very own committee in order to find a surplus of altruistic hearts. Come join us at the end of the yellow brick road, revel in the frills of Emerald City, and meet all of our kindhearted volunteers.

-- Sara Grace Moss, Co-Chair, Spring Event Committee

Children’s Aid Holds a Division Wide Word Bee

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Earlier in May, over 20 young people from our community centers gathered at the East Harlem Center to compete in the division wide Word Bee.  Our kids prepared over the course of the entire academic year, diligently  learning the words, their definitions and their parts of speech. All finalists in the Word Bee had previously won their first rounds of center-based competitions, and were excited to defend their titles surrounded by their peers and families. Our youth shined in not only their mastery of the words, but also their sportsmanship. It was truly a wonderful event, and all of the participants should be congratulated and celebrated for their hard work.

Written by Jaynemarie Angbah

Teens in Action Debut PSA

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Salomé Ureña de Henriquez Campus (SU Campus) in Washington Heights has been buzzing with teen activity over the last few weeks.

For the past year, participants in the Teens in Action Program have worked to bring awareness on topics such as health and beauty to their family and friends.  One of their most successful projects so far has been The Real You, a youth-developed public service announcement (PSA) on body image. After weeks of research online and through peer discussions, the group filmed a talk show that highlights teen perceptions on how society impacts their views on body image. The talk show also discussed eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and shared their thoughts on plastic surgery. The teens found that many of their peers agreed that getting plastic surgery such as breast enhancements can improve body image. The majority also agreed that being thin, blond and blue-eyed is what society considers “beautiful.” Most importantly, the film educates the audience on the warning signs of someone with an eating disorder and how to get help for someone.

The group premiered their PSA to family and friends on April 26, and were also honored for their wonderful work.

Most recently, the teens hosted the annual “Spring in Action” community health fair at SU Campus on Saturday, May 4. The goal of the event was to bring together community members to take advantage of the helpful  health information. Many organizations came together to bring health care enrollment, cosmetic care and nutrition programs to the community. Children’s Aid Society home-finding services and foster care staff were on hand to provide assistance and recruit future foster care families. It was a full day of festivities, including face painting, raffles, aerobic instructions, massages and dance battles among adults and youth alike.  

The Teens in Action Program at SU Campus, a Children’s Aid Society community school, provides youth with personal and career development, leadership and community service opportunities.  Teens are the most important information circulators, and these messages about taking care of yourself and knowing when to get help were loud and clear. We are extremely proud of these young people!

Written by Lorena Jimenez-Castro



At Drew Hamilton: Plantings & A Pep Talk from a Young Alum

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The Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Center recently had the pleasure of hosting two engaging visitors. The first was Charlette Mayfield (pictured), the mother of student NasZair Crabb, who provided a hands-on workshop for our children on the basics of planting in Drew Hamilton’s yard, as part of the class’s education series on plants. Under the instruction of Ms. Mayfield, the children, their teacher and a few parents joined in the labor intensive work of preparing the soil and planting flower seeds and grass, and are patiently watching for new growth. 

The second visitor to Drew Hamilton was Andrew Fenteng (pictured), himself a graduate of the center’s Early Childhood program. He came in to share his kindergarten experience with the preschool students here, and the children listened raptly as Andrew shared his wisdom and advice. After hearing Andrew speak, they became confident that they were ready for "big school," and their biggest fear about tying shoes was alleviated when he assured them that in his charter school, all children must wear Velcro sneakers or shoes.

Written by Donna Chandler







From the Associates Council: Over the Rainbow and Back Again

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In my last blog post, I wrote about the abundance of heart within the Associates Council's spring event committee and our lively path down the “yellow brick road.” Today, I am thrilled to announce that we successfully reached our destination, the great Emerald City.

Emerald City, which took place on May 8, turned out to be a spectacular, beautiful and record-breaking event filled with an abundance of red poppies, hors d’oeuvres and even a friendly (and photogenic) in-character Emerald City guard.  Thanks to the good witches of both the East and West coasts and helpful hands along the way, we were able to raise $28,000 to fully benefit the Go!Healthy Program. This represents a 35% increase from last year and marks the most successful spring event the AC has ever had.  We attribute the increase in revenue to our over 200 guests, wonderful sponsors (Goldman, Edelman, Jonathan Rose Companies, Scotia Bank and Trident Investment Management), individual donors, raffle ticket sales and those who supported scholarship opportunities for Go!Healthy participants.

While the emerald-filled event has come and gone, the vivid memories of a boisterous and action-packed night still linger in my thoughts. I will never forget the sound of uproarious applause after guest speaker Tanya Steel’s compelling speech, the overwhelming feeling of laughter and warmth during the children’s statements about how the Go!Healthy Program has improved their lives or the sense of comfort and satisfaction I received from being surrounded by a team of such brilliant and compassionate individuals. Days have passed and emerald suits and dresses, ruby red heels and accessories, and fashionable accents from the Wizard of Oz still occupy my thoughts. I cannot thank the Spring Event Committee enough for giving their time, energy and resources to the cultivation of this transformative event during the past six months. This experience has been one I truly enjoyed and will never forget. While the excitement of this year’s event has passed, I'm already looking forward to the AC's fall fundraiser. We'll be announcing the date soon!

-- Sara Grace Moss, Co-Chair, Spring Event Committee

Richard Buery on the Huffington Post: The High Costs of Aging Out

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For many young people, the transition from teen to independent adult is a gradual process that extends into their mid- to late 20s, with financial and emotional support from family. Most youth make it, but a significant number don’t—and so they become disconnected.

Youth who age out of foster care have the hardest time getting on their feet, and without family to rely on, the odds of success are against them.  But investments in the futures of these young people can result in significant benefits to them and to society.

On December 1, 2011, the Community Service Society of New York and The Children’s Aid Society convened over 200 local and national experts, policymakers, service providers and advocates to discuss the issues faced by older youth in foster care and strategies to prevent and address their disconnection from anchor social institutions like school, work and family.

I discuss what’s at stake for these young people in my latest essay on the Huffington Post.

You can also download the full report, called “Foster Care and Disconnected Youth: A Way Forward for New York,” that emerged from our forum. It highlights and further develops the issues the forum raised, recommends policy directions and discusses successful program models that address the many challenges facing aging-out youth who become disconnected.

Children’s Art Show Draws Hundreds of Viewers

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Last week, The Children’s Aid Society hosted its 12th annual Children’s Art Show at the Dunlevy Milbank Center, located in Harlem. Hundreds of children, families and friends from the community arrived at Milbank’s gymnasium, which had been transformed into a fully functioning gallery with 186 pieces of curated and professionally framed artwork. The show featured traditional still lifes, self-portraits and many other styles of paintings, in addition to model cities, paper mache fashion pieces and impressive photography. 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 evening also featured a reception, kicked off by remarks from Children’s Aid’s President and CEO Richard R. Buery Jr. and COO William D. Weisberg. This was followed by musical performances from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School’s hip-hop group “Apollo Luck” and guitar soloist Adam Avalo, and elementary school blues musicians from Milbank’s “Harmony in Harlem.”

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

From the Associates Council: Q&A with Tanya Steel

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Meet Tanya Wenman Steel, editor-in-chief of, best-selling cook book author, James Beard award winner and mother of two quickly growing (and eating) boys. We're thrilled to have her joining our Emerald City event as our special guest!

Her philosophy for helping kids learn to love cooking healthy, 'real' food aligns perfectly with Go!Healthy's mission. You can start to see why in our Q&A below. We hope you come out to meet her in person, along with some of the star chefs in our program, on Wednesday, May 8!

  1. What about Children’s Aid and the Go!Healthy program speaks to you and your cause?

    It doesn't just teach kids the facts and figures about how to eat healthy, but provides hands-on learning that empowers and energizes the children to want to cook and eat this way—and once you start them young, they are likely to eat this way for the rest of their life.

  2. What are the major obstacles that kids face in eating healthy?

    Affordability, availability and lack of knowledge and skills are the prime obstacles. If they live in a food desert, it's hard to find healthy food sources, especially ones that are affordable. The good news is that food producers and manufacturers and food retailers are working together to make food deserts dry up. And as kids learn what they can do with, say, a pear or a sweet potato, they are more likely to eat those foods, knowing they can sprinkle some oats on a sliced pear and bake it for a crisp, or microwave a sweet potato, smash it with a fork and add a bit of butter and milk.

  3. What do you see as the most promising solutions for curbing child obesity?
  4. Knowledge and passion will go a long way towards curbing obesity.Kids need to feel empowered to take care of their own health. Obviously, all of the things happening as a result of Mrs. Obama's initiative, “Let’s Move,” is going a long way to getting the corporate and nonprofit worlds activated and mobilized to join in the fight.

  5. What inspired you to advocate for healthy eating among kids or just in general?

    After I had my own kids, I realized that getting kids to eat healthy was so important, and yet, so few had access to information on how to incorporate that into their daily life. Obesity and weight issues not only affect one's physical health, but also can affect energy, concentration and one's confidence. It adversely affects so many aspects, emotionally, intellectually and physically.

  6. What are your favorite recipes to make with your kids or with any kids?

    Edamame succotash, whole wheat Cookies, granola, chana masala—just about anything! I rarely fry foods and don't cook that much red meat, so I don't do that with kids either…

  7. How do you get kids to eat grown-up food?

    There is no such thing as grown-up food, just good-tasting, well-made food and not so good-tasting food. Kids do and should eat everything adults do, and taste things from around the globe. Food should be a passionate exploration, not something to shrink from.

Children’s Aid Supports Denim Day NYC, Advocacy for Sexual Assault Victims

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In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court dismissed a rape case, reasoning that since the victim was wearing tight jeans–which are hard to remove–she must have consented to the act. This absurd ruling sparked a worldwide protest on behalf of victims of sexual assault, culminating in an annual day of solidary on April 24, known as “Denim Day.” Supporters in cities around the world wear jeans and other denim items to show that fashion choices are never an invitation or an excuse for unlawful sexual advances.

Denim Day NYC involves a press conference and a rally at City Hall, and was endorsed by The Children’s Aid Society, several other nonprofits and all five borough presidents. Children’s Aid works with youth and their families who have been affected either directly or indirectly by sexual assault, such as in our Family Wellness Program in the Bronx. Working with victims to overcome trauma from sexual assault is a crucial service we provide in New York City, and we fully support efforts to advocate on behalf of victims.