The Children's Aid Blog

ISI Plants Seeds of Hope and Healthy Habits at P.S./I.S. 50

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By: Malia Poai, Assistant Director, Volunteer Services

Sawing 2x4’s and hauling 40-pound bags of top soil and compost on a hot and humid summer day in New York City usually doesn’t appeal to most of us,  but for the employees of International Strategy & Investment Group (ISI), they did it willingly…and with a smile!  P.S. 50, one of The Children’s Aid Society’s Community Schools in Harlem, was the recent beneficiary of ISI’s helping hands as they built a much needed and long awaited garden in the school’s newly renovated courtyard. 

ISI, one of Children’s Aid’s cherished corporate partners, took part in the construction of this garden as part of their continued effort to provide critical support to Children’s Aid programs and services. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves and combined both artistry and science as they figured out the best way to build 6-ft garden beds, combine soil, and plant fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  These helpful volunteers also gave the entire courtyard a good scrub and created a “Welcome to Our Garden” sign. When finished, elated children poured into the renovated space to literally roll around on the freshly swept turf and examine for themselves the new plantings that had taken up residency in their new garden home.  

P.S.  50’s new garden will be used in conjunction with the afterschool and summer cooking programs and will help to launch the “garden to school café program” where the food from the children’s garden will be used in DOE meals. This method of “seed to table” is a key component of Children’s Aid programming and does much to expose our children and families to nutrition, valuable life skills and to improve overall health.

“Our hope is that the garden that ISI sponsored will give kids at PS 50 the opportunity to experience firsthand the joy of growing and eating fresh produce” said Ellen Barker, Program Manager for the Children’s Aid Go!Healthy Program.  “For us, it completes a circle started with our Go!Chefs culinary program where the children learn how to cook delicious healthy food; and the garden closes that circle by showing them where fresh foods come from and how to grow it for themselves.” 

Many, many thanks to ISI and its volunteers for their generosity, enthusiasm, and back-breaking labor that went into the creation of this garden!

CAS-Carrera Participants are Upwardly “Mobile” with Junior Achievement and Capital One

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By: Kate Riley

On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, when most New Yorkers are gearing up for the start of summer, 7th graders from the Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women took a field trip to eastern Long Island. Their bus disembarked not in the Hamptons but at the Long Island stop of the Capital One/Junior Achievement Mobile Finance Park in Hauppauge where students participated in a day-long budgeting simulation guided by Junior Achievement (JA) educators and Capital One volunteers.

All 77 students are enrolled in The Children’s Aid Society's Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera), which uses a holistic, “above the waist” approach to empower youth, help them develop personal goals and cultivate the desire for a successful future. The evidence-based program is built on seven integrated, scientifically accurate, and age-appropriate components. The employment component – Job Club – helps young people envision productive lives by exposing them to the world of work. Job Club is designed to improve financial literacy and develop life-long, positive financial decision-making through employment opportunities, entrepreneurial and community service projects, and personal bank accounts. CAS-Carrera partners JA and Capitol One have provided crucial resources to the program: the JA curriculum serves as the cornerstone of Job Club and Capital One is where student savings accounts are housed.

Nationally, JA and Capital One teamed up to create the Mobile Finance Park, a movable classroom that allows students to learn about and react to real-world financial scenarios. Soon after their arrival, the students were each given a “Life Situation” debit card that assigned marital status, number and age of children, tax and insurance expenses, and annual gross income. Using that data, each student was tasked to compute her monthly net income and budget it across 17 categories including housing, transportation, and entertainment.

Working with calculators, worksheets and guidance from the Capital One volunteers, the young women soon got a sobering view of how much money they would be “taking home” after taxes and other standard paycheck deductions. Tia Fiorentine, JA Program Manager, noted that in her experience of leading budgeting activities, students are most surprised by “how hard it is [to make a budget] and that adults actually have to do this.”

The Mobile Finance Park has helped thousands of students from the New York area (including all four CAS-Carrera New York City school sites) develop money management skills. Yet the JA staff and Capitol One volunteers at the May 27 session observed that teens tended to develop another important skill: empathy. Through their struggles to balance a budget, participants gained a new appreciation for the financial obligations their own families face. Jeanne Eberhardt, Branch Manager of the Floral Park Capital One location is a veteran volunteer who shared one boy’s reaction that has stayed with her for years. It was not until he was asked to formulate a budget for his fictional adult life did he realize how much his mother had to stretch to run their household. “I thought she was being cheap,” recalled Ms. Eberhardt, “I’m going home to give her a kiss.”

As though paying for clothing, rent, and education wasn’t tough enough, CAS-Carrera participants learned that having a family of one’s own – at any age -- can be expensive, too. One middle school student served as unofficial spokeswoman for her classmates whose financial obligations did not include children: “It’s awesome! I don’t want to deal with the terrible twos: buying them food, putting them to sleep.” Likewise, her classmate remarked, “I’m going to make a lot of money because I have no husband and no kids.”

Powerful learning experiences such as the Mobile Finance Park serve to reinforce CAS-Carrera’s primary goal for young people: to delay parenthood until the second decade of life.

To learn more about CAS-Carrera and Job Club, visit us at: www.stopteenpregnancy.com

If you would like to support CAS-Carrera and Job Club, please click here.

New York Life Volunteers Paint Murals at Milbank

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Several volunteers from New York Life braved hundred-degree temperatures on Sunday, July 24th to paint two stunning murals at The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.

“The Milbank family is always so appreciative when we have volunteer projects that enhance the overall look of our center” said Casper Lassiter, Director of the Dunlevy Milbank Center. “Our kids deserve a facility that is not only safe and clean but looks good as well.  Thanks so much to our New York Life volunteers!”

The murals, which depict spring and summer, were designed by volunteer Nate Soria. Nate has also designed a fall and winter mural, but he is waiting for cooler weather to arrive before completing the cycle!

Watch a time-lapse video of New York LIfe volunteers painting this mural at the Dunlevy Milbank Center

Please visit our Volunteer Page to learn how you can participate take part in this and similar programs.

Richard Buery on The Huffington Post: Aftermath of a Child Welfare Tragedy; A More Holistic Approach

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The tragic deaths of Marchella Pierce and Kymell Oram, two young children whose lives ended due to neglect and abuse while under the watch of NYC's Administration for Children's Services (ACS), have understandably raised concerns and doubts about the effectiveness of New York City's child welfare system. While outrage is warranted, coverage of these incidents has largely ignored the systemic challenges involved in protecting children from abuse -- not the least of which has been the profound public underinvestment in child protective services and family support services compounded by a general lack of coordination among government agencies and community-based organizations that provide care for our city's most vulnerable citizens.

Read more on the Huffington Post.

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Celebrating Summer and Children's Aid

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Some of The Children’s Aid Society’s most devoted friends gathered this week to celebrate the summer season. The Associates Council (AC) held a “Celebrate Summer” party at the home of former AC President, Amy Kohn’s parents on Tuesday, July 19th. Guests, current AC members and Children’s Aid staff enjoyed light refreshments while also hearing from some of the agency’s top representatives including Richard R. Buery, Jr., President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, Ernesto Isaac, Assistant Director of The Hope Leadership Academy and Katherine Eckstein, Director of Public Policy. All in attendance are committed to advancing the agency’s mission in helping New York City’s children in poverty to succeed and thrive.

For 26 years, the AC has been taking ordinary volunteers and transforming them into future leaders that help guide Children’s Aid in its mission to serve New York City’s neediest children and families. Members of the AC come from a variety of fields including media, finance, education, human resources and social work. They combine their individual talents to provide a vibrant and diverse resource to The Children’s Aid Society. Throughout its history, AC members have also spearheaded and engaged in numerous initiatives, projects, and special events such as Miracle on Madison Avenue, the Annual Holiday Toy Drive, and educational seminars.

Click here for more information on these events or to learn more about The Children’s Aid Society Associates Council. You can also follow the AC on Facebook.

Take Action Alert! Tell Federal Lawmakers to Put Children First

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Proposed reductions to the federal budget and the impending August 2nd deadline to increase our country’s debt ceiling are threatening to slow down our fragile economic recovery. Reductions to programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, Child Care and Head Start and the PELL Program would balance our country’s budget on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable Americans, without asking corporations and high-income earners to bear their fair share of the current economic burden.

Join the fight and tell Federal Lawmakers to pass a fair budget that does not cut vital services to children and families. Call President Obama at (888) 828 - 4170 and your Senators at (888) 907 – 1485 and tell them to vote for a budget that protects vulnerable children and families from cuts in vital programs, invests in youth and ensures that the wealthiest contribute their fair share.

Join The Children’s Aid Society in its mission and Take Action Today!

Bridge Program Instructor Reflects on Helping Youth Through Art

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By: Giany Mejia
Photo: Casper Lassiter

The Children’s Aid Society Bridge Program provides middle school youth with a diverse range of activities and services focused on their academic, physical, emotional and cognitive development. The goal is to assist these participants in making a healthy transition to adolescence and teen programming. Some of the other holistic development activities these youth take part in include sports, computer technology, dance and art. Below is a comment by Bernardo Diaz, a Bridge Program art instructor at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.

“A group of youngsters from The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank's Bridge Program, because of my passion for the arts, stole my heart from the day we met and they took to creating works of art like it was something they craved for all of their young lives. This might sound like a cliché, but they do remind me of me, at that age when I discovered art and was given the opportunity of marching to the beat of my own drum by creating amazing pieces of artwork from nowhere in particular, except from within.

We had a great time brainstorming, preparing for our June exhibition and I will never forget the fun time we spent getting to know each other. Next season we plan to take it a step up, and make sure that the world can get a glimpse of some of the great up and coming artist of the future. I am honored to have met and worked with these young geniuses.”

To learn more, please visit our Dunlevy Milbank site.

Richard Buery Featured in City Hall News Story

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A Class By Himself

Children’s Aid Society’s Richard Buery jumps into the business of schooling

As the youngest person to head the Children’s Aid Society in 150 years, Richard Buery Jr., 39, arrived on the scene with a vision of social entrepreneurship. A Brooklyn native, Buery spent his years after Harvard and Yale Law School founding two companies aimed at helping needy children and their families. He spoke candidly about his educational vision for the city’s most vulnerable children, and about how New York’s government is failing to do its part to help those children succeed academically and professionally. What follows is an edited transcript.

Read Complete Article on City Hall News

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Free Summer Meals for All Children

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Attention parents! During summer break, your child is eligible to receive free meals at sites throughout New York City's five boroughs. The Summer Meals Program is offering breakfast and lunch to all children under the age of 18 at more than 1,000 locations, including pools, schools, libraries and parks through Friday, September 2. To find the location nearest you, The Office of School Food and Nutrition Services has provided this website or call 311.

Breakfast is served from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. and lunch is served from 11:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The Summer Meals Program offers a wide variety of nutritious wholesome meals that include whole wheat cereals or toasty omelettes for breakfast and New York-style pizza or roasted chicken with Cajun spice rub for lunch.  Children are not required to present identification and parents do not need to fill out any forms - kids just need to show up and eat! 

Download the Free Summer Meals Flyer for further information.

Tips to Help Your Child Avoid The Summer Slide

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Summer vacation, the time of year all children look forward to, has finally arrived and it looks to be a gorgeously warm one. Some may travel with family and friends or stay closer to their neighborhoods. Whatever plans your children may have over the next 8 weeks, be sure to include activities that will help them avoid the "Summer Slide." The summer slide refers to the educational regression that can occur over the long break when young minds are out of school. As a result, many children start the school year "behind" and have to put in extra work to catch up. 

The following are a few tips you can follow to fight the summer slide:

Pick up a chapter book or two for the older ones and picture books for the little ones. Read on longer train rides or at bed time. Make reading a fun habit and be sure to show your kids that you read for fun too.

Little muscles need practice in writing and drawing pictures. Write letters to friends and families for fun or have them help with the grocery list.

Math is everywhere and can easily become a game.  Simple counting of steps or grocery items is great for little ones. You can even ask older children for help in calculating tips at restaurants.

Interacting and playing with friends is a good way for children to use their social skills.  Practice sharing, taking turns and using polite phrases.

You probably already have plans to visit the zoo or the beach. Trips to the local museums provide yet another opportunity to mix fun and learning.

Turn off the T.V.

The Children's Aid Society offers a variety of summer programs for New York City youth. Visit our camps page for more information.