The Children's Aid Blog

New York Jets Star Santonio Holmes Visits Children's Aid Center

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It is not every day that inner city kids get to meet someone they see on T.V. or on the gridiron at the New Meadowlands Stadium. On Wednesday, March 9th, Santonio Holmes, wide receiver for the New York Jets, visited The Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center and talked to a lucky group of approximately 25 kids from the Bridge Middle School Program. Holmes and his close friend Cerge Sincere wanted to share their passion for working with youth through their new venture called 2DREAM, Inc. Santonio and Cerge described the core values of their mission and shared their own stories of personal struggle. They wanted the young ears listening to know that the recipe for success is not only about having a dream, but also requires Discipline, Responsibility, Education, the right Attitude and Motivation.

The center's youth were asked to share their own stories of facing adversity and to talk about what or who motivates them. Many cited family members. Mrs. Johnita Adams-Raspberry, Frederick Douglass Center’s Assistant Director said that she draws motivation from the kids who attend the center and for whom she works so hard on a daily basis. Mrs. Adams-Rasberry went on to say, “It was a great pleasure to have Santonio Holmes visit the Bridge Middle School Program. On behalf of the Frederick Douglass Center we appreciate the time Mr. Holmes spent with the children and we want to say Thank You!”

Children's Aid Families Speak Out Against Proposed Cuts to Youth Programs

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Over 50 youth and their parents represented The Children’s Aid Society at a rally on March 9th supporting New York City youth programs. The New York City Youth Alliance, Beacons Unite, The Campaign for Summer Jobs, Coalition for Out Of School Time, and the Campaign for Tomorrow’s Workforce were also among the supporters who joined together to voice their concerns to city, state, and federal elected officials about possibly losing these vital youth services.

New York City is facing devastating cuts to youth programs including after school, beacon programs, summer jobs, literacy and job training. Many will be forced to close if these cuts are realized. Kids and families NEED these programs now. Prior to the rally, nonprofit organizations gathered at a press conference to talk about the devastating effects budget cuts will have on youth services. Council Member Lewis A. Fidler, Chair of the Committee on Youth Services, spoke about how important it is to prevent youth and social services from being on the chopping block.

“After-School programs provide a safe and learning environment for us youth” said 8th grader Selena Valentin to Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez at the rally. Selena is a student at the Roberto Clemente Campus, a Children’s Aid Society Community School that provides its students with after-school programs. “We better ourselves, stay out of trouble and prepare for the future. We need after-school programs to help us become all that we can be.”

Click here to learn how you can take action to help prevent these devastating and unprecedented cuts.

New Early Head Start Program Unveiled at Washington Heights Community School

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The Children’s Aid Society’s (CAS) early childhood model is a comprehensive approach to the education of our youngest participants to help them develop a life-long love of learning that also deeply engages parents and caregivers. CAS has home-based, school-based, and center-based Early Childhood programs. Joining this portfolio is the P.S. 152 Community School Early Head Start Program. On the afternoon of Friday, March 4th, CAS staff, parents, elected officials and some of the cutest 0-3 year olds unveiled the newest Early Head Start program in Washington Heights.

The period from birth to five is a vital time of life during which significant transformations take place. Children acquire the basic skills that serve as the foundation for later learning and families establish the daily routines that will support their children’s healthy development. Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares were in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony and voiced their support of such programs. This is particularly important because funding for this, and other early childhood programs, is under attack.

Early Head Start, Head Start and child care funding are at risk of significant cuts as Congress continues to negotiate the current year’s budget. New York families stand to lose a tremendous amount if these cuts are passed. Sixty families that participate in Early Head Start at The Children’s Aid Society would lose their program.

Click "Play" below to watch NY1's coverage of the Early Head Start Unveiling. The video features Katherine Eckstein, Director of Public Policy at Children's Aid, discussing the need to protect federal funding for Early Head Start programs.

Click here to learn how you can take action to help prevent these devastating and unprecedented cuts.

CAS Community School Students Lead School-Based Health Center Tour

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The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) celebrated National School-Based Health Center Awareness Month by taking newly-elected New York State Assemblyman Guillermo Linares (pictured above) on a tour of the School-Based Health Center (SBHC) at the Salome Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Children’s Aid Community School in Washington Heights.

The tour took place during the Children’s Aid Society’s Community School African-American and Dominican Heritage Festival on February 18, 2011 and was led by students and grandparents who proudly guided Assemblyman Linares around the site. Mr. Linares was able to see where students meet with social workers, nurses and dentists. Genesis, a student who visits the SBHC, said the staff is always nice to her. Her favorite health center service is dental because “they make my teeth look beautiful.” Genesis is very excited about getting braces later this year at the SBHC Orthodontic Clinic also located in the Salome Ureña de Henriquez Campus.

Erwin Murga, the grandfather of two SBHC patients, shared how his granddaughter needed seven immunizations this year and all were administered right in her school. “If it weren’t for the SBHC, who knows how many times I would have had to take them to the doctor. Having a health center in the school is a blessing.”

Members of the welcoming committee included Richard Buery Jr., President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, Bill Weisberg, Executive Vice President and COO of CAS; Katherine Eckstein, CAS Director of Public Policy; Lorena Jimenez-Castro, CAS Government Liaison and Adria Cruz, CAS School Health Services Manager. Also present was Jane Lima-Negron, co-executive director of the New York State School-Based Health Center Coalition.

Assembly Member Linares was a gracious guest and he shared how he has been a SBHC champion in previous public service roles and looks forward to continuing to work on behalf of the children of the community he represents and beyond.

Children's Aid Celebrates National Social Work Month

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Since 1984, National Social Work Month has served as a time to celebrate the profession and to educate the public on the positive impact social workers have on communities across the country. Social workers help individuals cope with and solve issues in their everyday lives, such as serious domestic conflicts, disabilities, life-threatening diseases, inadequate housing, unemployment and substance abuse.

Social workers also play a key role in providing mental health support, a fundamental part of The Children’s Aid Society’s efforts to address the physical and emotional well-being of children and families. The Children's Aid Society established licensed mental health services in five community centers in 1973. In addition, mental health services have been a part of our community school model since it was launched in 1992 at the Salomé Ureña de Henriquez Campus (I.S. 218) in Washington Heights. Social Work professionals in our community centers and schools provide children and family members with confidential counseling, group therapy, emergency assessments, referrals and crisis intervention.

The Theme for this year’s National Social Work Month is “Social Workers Change Futures.” Here at Children’s Aid our social workers do everything possible to ensure bright futures and to further our mission of helping "children in poverty succeed and thrive."

The Herman Rosenberg Digital Experience Center Opens in East Harlem

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Through diverse programs and engaging activities, the goal at The Children’s Aid Society’s East Harlem Center is to provide under-resourced youth with the opportunity to access 21st-Century learning tools. Thanks to a donation made by the Estate of Herman Rosenberg to The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, The East Harlem Center Technology facility, a BGCA Clubhouse, has been expanded to include two advanced computer labs. These labs will serve as central gathering places or “hubs” for learning, artistic expression and intellectual exploration.

The enhanced capabilities of the new Herman Rosenberg Digital Experience Center include new computers, a portable Smart Board, a printer, music recording, editing and sound equipment and other advanced software and hardware. Clubhouse staff now have the ability to develop engaging, technology-based programming that will empower youth with increased confidence, skills and experiences. During the naming ceremony on Friday, February 25th, students gave presentations highlighting their newly acquired skills in areas such as animation, website design and music. Peter Bonola, an East Harlem Center student, introduced his web-related project. Peter along with Andrew Martin and Samantha Rodriguez won this year’s BGCA Web Tech Club North America Regional.

Given that so many children in the communities we serve lack regular access to computers, this gracious donation made by the Estate of Herman Rosenberg will ensure that young people at our East Harlem Center acquire the necessary tools to join the tech savvy workforce.

Talking With Your Teen About Sex

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March is National Talk with Your Teen about Sex Month. Though any month is the right time to have “the talk,” the purpose of this commemoration is to remind and encourage parents to open the lines of communication with their children regarding this subject. The Guttmacher Institute reports that seven in 10 teens of both sexes have had sexual intercourse by the age of 19 and according to the Center for Disease Control, teen pregnancies are on the rise once again. The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the industrialized world making NOW the best time to start talking to your teens about sex.

Important tips for parents to remember this & every month:

  • START EARLY. Talk with your children early, using age-appropriate language and examples. Waiting until adolescence may be too late.
  • Be honest about your own feelings of difficulty discussing such a sensitive and intimate topic.
  • Be realistic about the disadvantages of engaging in sexual activity too early, including sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and the possibility of becoming a single parent. Equally important are the advantages of waiting to have sex, such as being able to finish school and meeting career goals.
  • Reassure your children that you will be available to them whenever they need to talk. Expect them to come to you with follow-up questions.

Dr. Michael A. Carrera, Director, Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, says, "Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their own children, they have no choice about it; their only choice is how well or poorly they do it." Dr. Carrera recommends the following books:

It's Perfectly Normal by Robbie Harris
What's Happening to my Body: Book for Boys and What's Happening to my Body: Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras
What's Happening to Me? and Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle.

Community Schools Celebrate Diversity

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With all the snow and ice New York City has seen in the past few months, an evening celebrating the warmer climates is always welcome. This year’s African-American & Dominican Heritage Festival at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Children's Aid Society Community School in Washington Heights, celebrated carnivals from Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Mali, South Africa, Guinea and the United States’ own Mardi Gras—a theme fit to represent the diverse communities served by Children’s Aid services and programs.

Students, parents and staff from six Children’s Aid Society community schools in Washington Heights and East Harlem celebrated their heritage on Friday, February 18th, with a variety of foods prepared by staff and parents, costumes and colorful performances. Tables representing each country greeted visitors with displays of photos, maps and artwork. The Michael Dease Jazz Group played Mardi Gras tunes while guests sampled Sancocho, a traditional soup from the Dominican Republic and Bolinho de Bacalhau, a Brazilian appetizer made of cod fish. To close out the evening, over 100 students, ages 5-18, showcased a variety of musical performances inspired by the Carnivals of each country. The audience, packed to the max as always, could not hide their pride and joy as the cheers could easily be heard out on 196th street and Broadway.

Click here to view more photos from the 2011 African American & Dominican Heritage Festival!

Who Cares? The Children's Aid Society Does!

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Children living in poverty are less likely to experience appropriate early learning opportunities, and are more likely to attend failing schools and to suffer from preventable health problems such as asthma and obesity (click here to learn more). Human Services agencies provide critical programs that address these issues. Sadly, many of these programs are now in the crosshairs of looming budget cuts.

The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) knows how important it is to keep human services intact for New York City’s neediest children and families. CAS is showing it cares by becoming a lead advocate for the Who Cares? I Do! Campaign. Spearheaded by The Human Services Council, the campaign seeks to protect programs that improve the lives of so many New Yorkers by sending clear messages to New York State and City government officials. Campaign activities include collecting signatures for a petition and drawing attention to individual stories and the work of human services organizations.

Join The Children’s Aid Society in our efforts to maintain these life-saving programs and tell our elected officials that cuts in funding will only hurt already struggling and underserved New Yorkers.

Say You Care by:

Mexican Consulate on Wheels Visits East Harlem Center

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For the fifth time in the last four years, the East Harlem Center is hosting a five-day visit from the Mexican Consulate's ‘El Consulado Sobre Ruedas’ or ‘The Consulate on Wheels.’ Families and community members have the opportunity to obtain Mexican passports and Matricula Consular ID cards (which can be used to open a bank account).

Since the program first began coming to CAS, over 4000 documents have been processed. Many of our own CAS families have been able to take advantage of this service. Huge thanks to the Center’s Director, David Giordano, for graciously agreeing to host and to all the Early Childhood and Center staff members who work extra hard during the visit.

The Consulate will be at the East Harlem Center through Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 9:00-3:00. Please see the attached flyer for the required documents. Feel free to pass along the information to interested families in your programs and neighborhoods.

The Children’s Aid Society is very proud to provide this valuable service to the East Harlem neighborhood and to the larger Mexican community.