The Children's Aid Blog

Help Children’s Aid Get Ingrained

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The Children’s Aid Society’s Go!Healthy initiative educates disadvantaged children from birth through adolescence and their families about the joys of healthful cooking and eating. One of the favorites among Children’s Aid youth is Go!Chefs, a 12-week after-school cooking and nutrition program. Its popularity is catching on; this year the Go! Healthy program is one of five finalists in the running to receive a $15,000 grant from the Get Ingrained program.

With the help of this Get Ingrained Grant, we hope to double the reach of our Go!Chefs program by launching a Culinary Race Around the World. Every day, across The Children’s Aid Society community centers and schools in Harlem, Washington Heights and the Bronx, children in Go!Chefs are learning that whole and plant-based foods are a cause for celebration…and now, healthy competition! In Race Around the World, young chefs will cook their way through Senegal and China, France and the American South, learning how world cuisines use whole foods to create vibrant and healthy meals. They will also learn how to be “conscious consumers” by measuring the sugar in popular foods, reading food labels, and exploring whole grains (including grinding whole wheat flour and baking bread!).

The Race will culminate in an Iron Go!Chefs competition where young chefs will design their own delicious meals based on one non-meat protein, two vegetables, and a whole grain, and prepare it live for a panel of peer, parent and professional Chef judges. Our young chefs will also compete in a Nutrition Bee to demonstrate their new knowledge of healthy eating. Funds from the grant would enable us to enroll over 1,000 children across 15 sites in this exciting program that celebrates healthy eating!

This online competition is through November 29th.  You can help us win this grant by voting for Go!Chefs once each day at http://www.getingrained.com/ListOfFinalists.aspx.  Thank you for your support!

Celebrate National Philanthropy Day

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National Philanthropy Day was celebrated on November 15th, but that doesn’t mean it is too late to give back. This special day is celebrated in honor of those organizations that cater to the needy and also to recognize the people active in the philanthropic community. In the United States alone, there are more than 1 million charitable organizations, and donations to charitable causes exceeded $300 Million in 2009.

Throughout New York City, children may have already started their own charity work and may not even realize it or have given it too much thought. They may be selling chocolate bars or Christmas wrapping paper as fundraising for their school or club. This is a great way to start teaching children about charity and what it really means to give back to their community. Other ways to help children get motivated about giving is to:

  1. Teach them about charities/non-profit organizations and the work they do to help people who are less fortunate. There are helpful websites that can assist with this like CharityNavigator.org.
  2. Encourage them to discover a cause that is important to them, such as animal shelters or the homeless.
  3. Read the newspaper together, looking for stories on local organizations that administer services for the needy. One good example is the Neediest Cases campaign in the New York Times.
  4. Giving is not only about money! Encourage them to give of their time by volunteering at a senior center or by donating items to shelters like canned foods or old clothing.

Teaching children about how charitable giving has an impact in their community is important in cultivating tomorrow’s philanthropic society. Youth should learn that they have the power to influence their generation to make every community better.

Making Communities Healthier

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The word is spreading about Children’s Aid Society’s healthier recipes. United Neighborhood Houses, a membership organization that provides its members with policy development and advocacy support, has partnered with Children’s Aid to bring healthier cooking into shelters, day care centers and senior centers.

The program called Cooking for Healthy Communities has begun training dozens of cooks. “These guys know how to cook,” said Stefania Patinella, Director of Foods and Nutrition at Children’s Aid but adds that the training will enhance knife skills and teach them to use fresh vegetables instead of canned. Stefania developed the new recipes for the program following state serving guidelines and budget restrictions.

The goal of this program is to bring healthier foods to those who depend on such organizations regularly for meals. Jacqueline Martinez, Senior Program Director at New York State Health Foundation which helped fund the healthy cooking program understands the importance of providing healthy meals to low-income neighborhoods where the rates of obesity and diabetes are higher. “The reality is, people just don’t have access to healthy foods in certain neighborhoods,” said Ms. Martinez. Others want to focus on the younger generation of consumers. John Graves cooks for children at the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center. He believes that if healthy vegetables should be introduced to children early on “and by the time they’re five, they’re not afraid of broccoli.”

President and CEO Rich Buery discusses how public education is failing black students

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It is an incontrovertible truth: public education in America is failing black students.  This summer's report from the Schott Foundation demonstrated how badly; in New York City, only 28% of New York City’s black males graduated on time in 2007-08, while 50% of whites did.[1] The Council of the Great City Schools more recent report ‘A Call for Change’ indicates that less than one in every eight black boys is proficient in reading and math by the fourth grade.  White boys were 3-4 times more successful than their black peers on national assessment exams.  Most distressing was the news that white boys who live in poverty performed just as well on the exams as black boys who do not live in poverty.

America is built on a basic idea: that all children have an equal opportunity to live their dreams.  These reports make painfully clear that the real achievement gap is the one between our idea of America and our reality -- at least as it exists for black boys.  And these racial disparities are not limited to education; they exist in all of the systems we have developed to support children in need.  For example, racial disparities in the child welfare system are well documented.  A recent National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (2010) found that black parents are more likely to be reported for child neglect, even though black parents are less likely to abuse and neglect their children than white parents.  This was true even when controlling for poverty.  Investigation rates of black parents are also higher than that of white parents, and blacks are less likely to receive preventive services and more likely to lose their children to foster care.  The Department of Health and Human Services reports that, once abuse and neglect was affirmed, black children were thirty-six percent more likely than whites to be placed in foster care.

In New York City, police officers engage in a stop-and-frisk policy which affects blacks at a much higher rate than whites.  According to a Columbia University report, blacks were nine times more likely to be stopped by the police than whites between 2004 and 2009.  However, these stops were no more likely to yield the arrest of a black individual than a white one.[2] Policies like stop-and-frisk that push the limits of the law contribute to the disproportionate involvement of black youth in the justice system.  The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% while white males have a 6% chance.

This is an economic and a political crisis.  Economically, we simply cannot afford the lost human potential represented by generations of black boys denied the opportunity to live to their truest potential.  In a global economy rife with competition, we need all hands on deck.  More importantly, how can we as a nation continue to thrive when, over 55 years after Brown v Board of Education, there is such an obvious disconnect between America's constitutional values and our educational practice?  Income inequality is at an its highest level since the census bureau began tracking household income in 1967, and  intergenerational mobility in the US is lower than nearly all Western nations.  Our nation is becoming more fractured.  This cannot continue.

Sadly, as much as we know about the types of interventions that are required to prevent tragic outcomes, we largely ignore them.  From their earliest years, black children need mentors, effective schools, health care and family support to succeed.  They need a commitment that those institutions that were conceived to build them up will stop tearing them down.

Richard R. Buery, Jr.
President and CEO
The Children's Aid Society

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Influenza Season: Get Your Little Ones Vaccinated

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It’s that time of year again. The runny noses, coughing and aches can make a child’s day-to-day activities near impossible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all children 6 months to 19 years old receive the seasonal flu vaccine. CDC experts have updated the vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu season (because flu viruses change every year, the vaccine is updated annually). So even if you or your children got a flu vaccine last year, you both still need to get a flu vaccine this season to be protected.

This vaccine protects against three different flu viruses that they believe will cause the most illnesses. For those children under the age of 5, as well as those with long-term health conditions like diabetes and asthma, it is especially important to be vaccinated because they are at a greater risk of complications due to the flu. It is also important for the following groups of people to get vaccinated in order to protect them from the flu:

  • Those who come in close contact with children younger than 5 years old (people who live with them)
  • Out-of-home caregivers (nannies, daycare providers, etc.) of children younger than 5 years old
  • People who live with or have other close contact with a child or children of any age with a chronic health problem (asthma, diabetes, etc.)
  • All health care workers

Children should begin to receive the vaccination as soon as it becomes available. Though the first cases of the flu begin as early as October, the flu season can carry into December, January and later into the winter. 

For information, visit "www.cdc.gov/flu"

Photo via http://www.nbpeds.com/flu

Children’s Aid Brings CSI to East Harlem

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The National Award Winning Children’s Aid Society East Harlem Center Keystone Club is already working on establishing their career paths. Following their interest in shows like CSI: Miami, Law & Order and Dexter, the youth worked on a project that brought the world of Crime Scene Investigation to the East Harlem Center. The project is also a requirement for the club to maintain their Gold Status membership.

The Keystone members, along with their mentor Midge Caparosa, East Harlem Center’s Arts & Leadership Coordinator, sought out the help of the New York City Medical Examiners and District Attorney’s offices who provided professionals to talk on the subject. The youth worked on a mystery script, which they acted out at a center-wide event hosted by the Keystoners themselves on Wednesday, November 3rd! CSI: East Harlem, the evening’s theme, was filled with chilling accounts of a love triangle gone wrong. On hand to help the audience weave through the crime scene evidence and disturbing testimonies was a panel of professionals that included Missing Persons Detective Roberto Santos, Mystery/Crime Novelist Doug Magee, NYC Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent Tranchida and Assistant District Attorneys Shanda Strain and Jung Park.

Congratulations to the Keystoners for following their dreams!

Photos Courtesy of Midge Caparosa

Children’s Aid Society Foster and Adoptive Mother Honored As ‘ANGEL IN ADOPTION’

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Every year, through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Angels in Adoption program, members of Congress honor an individual, family or organization from their district that has made a difference in the lives of children in need of a family. Congressman Michael McMahon of Staten Island, New York nominated Merle Ellis as his Angel in Adoption this year. 

Ms. Ellis has been a foster and adoptive parent since 1999, opening up her home and her heart to 50 children, eight of whom she has adopted. "We asked her to adopt us. I just like being with her - I thought that she would make a good mother" says Ms. Ellis’s adoptive son Timothy who she first fostered at the age of 10 years old along with his sister. 

 We are grateful to Congressman McMahon for honoring Ms. Ellis, a foster and adoptive mother who has worked tirelessly with The Children’s Aid Society to help provide a safe and loving home to children in crisis,” said Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society.

The Children’s Aid Society finds homes for more than 500 children each year in our foster care program, which includes such specialized services as family foster care, medical foster care, therapeutic foster care and services for teens aging out of foster care. 

"When I heard I got this award, I said, 'Why me? Why me?'" she said. "I didn't do this for the awards or anything. I just did it for my heart."

To read more about this Angel, please click here!

Image via http://www.nydailynews.com

Pursuing the American Dream Through Education

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Leaving her loved ones back home in the Dominican Republic, Betty Sanchez arrived in New York City four years ago in pursuit of a better education so that she may one day provide for her mother back home. She joined The Children’s Aid Society first by attending ESL classes offered by the Adult Program at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus. She then provided worked organizing supplies for its GED program and with students in the after-school program. 

When an opportunity arose to attend college courses at Hostos Community College through the Center for After-School Excellence at The After School Corporation (TASC), Miguel Balbuena, the Assistant Commuity School Director at Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, encouraged Betty to take the next step in accomplishing her educational and personal goal. The TASC program funded 12 college credits and also helped Betty earn a professional certification in after-school. Betty was promoted and received a raise. “Due to the promotion,” she says proudly, “I was able to get my own apartment with my sister.” She is now about to earn her Associate’s degree and plans to continue her studies in the field of Early Childhood Education.

Betty Sanchez shares a firm understanding of the importance of education to her own independence and personal success, much like Salomé Ureña de Henríquez (1850-1897). De Henríquez was a revered Dominican poet, feminist and educator who founded the first school for girls in the Dominican Republic in 1881. Congratulations to Betty!

Image via http://www.afterschoolpathfinder.org/betty-sanchez

November is National Adoption Month

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November is National Adoption Month. This year’s campaign targets the 115,000 children currently in foster care who are awaiting a safe and nurturing home. 

“I call upon all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find homes for every child in America in need of a permanent and caring family, as well as to support the families who care for them,” said President Barack Obama in his Presidential Proclamation. He also announced that the 11th Annual National Adoption Day will be celebrated on Saturday, November 20th, which gives the courts the opportunity to open their doors to finalize the adoptions of children in foster care.

At The Children’s Aid Society, the Foster Care program provides specialized services including Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care and services for teens "aging out" of foster care. Today, Children's Aid finds homes for more than 500 children each year. Children’s Aid ensures that these temporary homes are safe and nurturing by training foster parents and supervising the families while the children are in their care. But because what is most important is that children find a permanent home either with an adoptive family or their birthparents, our work focuses on providing tremendous support to the children, their foster parents and their birthparents.

National Adoption Month is a coordinated effort between the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau, Child Welfare Information Gatewayand AdoptUsKids.

Image via http://www.fsmetroorlando.org/Learn/FosterCareandAdoption/tabid/67/Default.aspx

Children’s Aid Families March to State Office Building in Support of Afterschool Programs

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Approximately 200 children and their families marched from The Children’s Aid Society Dunlevy Milbank Center to the State Office Building Plaza in Harlem as part of the nationwide Lights On Afterschool celebration on Thursday, October 21, 2010. Once there, parents, children and Children’s Aid staff delivered testimony and presented letters to Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblymember Keith L. T. Wright.

Lights On Afterschool, now in its 11th year, is designed to highlight the importance of afterschool programs that keep children safe, educated and entertained in the hours after school. One-million Americans will be participating in 7,500 Lights On Afterschool events across the country.

Children’s Aid’s Dunlevy Milbank Center promotes the holistic development of students in afterschool activities ranging from educational enhancement, homework assistance, dance, arts and crafts, sports and nutrition. Dunlevy Milbank is one of twelve Children’s Aid Society sites celebrating afterschool programming during Lights On Afterschool.

Here is how other sites celebrated:

Manhattan Center for Science and Math High School held a lunchtime rally where over 200 students discussed the need for afterschool. A petition was signed and a mural was also created that expresses the shared thoughts and feelings regarding afterschool programs.

 

 

20 students at the Rhinelander Children’s Center helped to create a poster that was sent out to funders, government officials and about 600 Rhinelander families electronically. The children discussed why they think having a good after school program is important and the poster is in their words.