The Children's Aid Blog

Helping Families Heal: The Children’s Aid Society’s Domestic Violence Services

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Domestic violence is a serious behavioral issue which adversely affects every member of the family.  The Children’s Aid Society’s innovative Family Wellness Program provides comprehensive services to help parents and children stay safe and eventually heal from the effects of domestic abuse. hands wed Safety is critical, handled by the Program’s experienced case managers, advocacy specialists, and crisis management counselors. 

From safe shelters, housing, and public benefits to legal assistance with orders of protection and emergency response – the Family Wellness Program Case Manager is the “go to” person for families in crisis. We begin the process of helping families heal from the trauma of domestic violence by giving them free access to support groups, as well as one-to-one and group counseling sessions with Family Wellness Program therapists specializing in abusive relationships. Survivors, witnesses and perpetrators (abusive partners) of domestic abuse receive professional help to understand the effects of violence, learn to modify extreme behavioral patterns and begin healing.

Recently, The Children’s Aid Society has expanded domestic violence support services to East and Central Harlem and the Washington Heights district, as part of our unwavering commitment to helping families in crisis – one family at a time.

Fixing Foster Care

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For some children, the foster care system is the best route out of abusive living situations to stable loving homes. Thanks to new state reforms and procedures children are spending less time in foster care limbo- court cases are being expedited and adoptions are happening faster.

In June, many websites, including Forbes.com and MSNBC.com, and print publications ran a story by Associated Press David Crary on the successful reforms of the foster care system. The system has three key components- shorter stays in foster care; faster adoptions; and reaching out to, intervening and offering support to troubled families so that children can avoid entering foster care in the first place.  This strategy that approaches foster care from all angles has had great success in many states dramatically lowering the number of children in foster care. John Mattingly, commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services, pointed out that since the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1990s, the foster care population in New York City has been declining from its highest at 50,000 children. According to the most recent federal data the number of children in foster care in the United States has decreased by 17% since 1998.

Though some worry that budget cuts will affect the new policies, it’s not stopping some states - New York, Florida, California and Ohio, to name a few - from pursuing their goals of significantly lowering the foster child population.  These states have been working diligently to reduce their budgets, and they deem a child’s removal from their home the ‘worst case scenario’. One of the major problems keeping foster children out of adopted homes is the slow moving court system. Even though drastic reforms are being made, it’s not the norm yet, and delays in the courts still occur.

A new budget cut in New York could cost 3,000 families any preventive services , and without the funding, it’s hard to tell whether these new procedures will continue to be successful or not. Preventive service programs provide counseling to struggling families to try to avoid a child’s removal. Jane Golden of The Children’s Aid Society said, “All of these models that we’ve seen as successful are in danger - there’s a great risk of going back to the old days.”

Whatever the situation - poverty, neglect or abuse - many children are removed from their homes but often have long waits to join new, safe and supportive families.  Only time and perseverance can bring about change, and we hope the budget cuts do not affect the hard work and great progress that have been made in improving the foster care system.

Children’s Aid Parents Graduate from Pepin Leadership Institute

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They arrived early to set-up their work - decorations, upholstered furniture, dresses and curtains.  Their family and friends oohed and awed at the creativity and obvious hard work. Great things are always happening at  Children’s Aid Community Schools.

On Saturday, June 5th, nearly 400 parents from five Washington Heights Community Schools graduated from The Children’s Aid Society Ercilia Pepin Parent Leadership Institute at the Mirabal Sisters Campus. The Institute offers guidance on navigating the school system in order to improve their children’s education. While getting empowered to advocate for their children in their schools, the Institute also offers parents educational and personal enrichment of their own. Parents can take GED, literacy, technology or child care licensing classes. Courses in upholstery, dress making, wood and fabric painting and culinary arts are also available. Many of their finished pieces, edible or wearable, decorated the school’s cafeteria for all eyes to see.

The parents were greeted and congratulated by New York State Senator Bill Perkins, New York State Assembly Members Adriano Espaillat and Herman Farrell and New York City Council Member Robert Jackson. On hand to award the “We Are New York” Conversation Program certificates for English was Anthony Tassi, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Adult Programs.

More Than Art

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Adolescence is a difficult time for most of us. Teenagers struggle to fit in, stand out and define themselves.  This time period is even more difficult for adolescents who become involved with the court system, either spending time in juvenile detention or incarceration facilities. The Children’s Aid Society’s juvenile justice programming is designed to give these teenagers the skills and unwavering support they need to make better choices in all areas of their lives. This multi-faceted effort is called Lasting Investments in Neighborhood Connections (LINC) and it focuses on connecting youth re-entering their communities (after being incarcerated) with adults who will positively influence their lives.

Since 2008, Artistic Noise, an arts entrepreneurship program for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, has partnered with LINC to offer arts programming to participants in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Harlem. This partnership provides a safe space for youth to process and document their lives using visual arts while learning valuable life and job skills. Their artwork explores issues that range from self-identity to incarceration.

On June 10th, Artistic Noise held an opening reception for the presentation of “Unfinished Business”, this year’s art exhibit.

“Unfinished Business” Exibition Statement- written by teen curators

“Artistic Noise is about
devotion, determination, meditation and unfinished business.
Inside and outside, the worlds connect.
The spirit is open-minded with a diverse perspective.

The picture of me is bigger than words.
What we see and what reflects us- that’s what we are,
that’s what makes our art.”

The program participants were not only artists and curators of the exhibit but they were also the event hosts and business professionals responsible for selling merchandise and greeting their guests. With support and encouragement teenagers can transform from youth at risk of lagging behind their peers emotionally, socially and academically to future business leaders and creative artists.

Children’s Aid Youth Councils Overcome Obstacles and Celebrate the End of the School Year

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With the school year coming to an end, many students will look back at what they have learned, how they have grown and how these experiences have shaped the road ahead. The 2010 Children’s Aid Society Middle Schools Youth Councils have a lot to be proud of. Their accomplishments were on full display at the End of Year Award Ceremony on Monday, May 10th, 2010 at the National Center for Community Schools.

The youth and their group developers honored each other with awards and by sharing their most memorable stories. Many were brought to tears when they recalled their experiences, the personal issues and the positive impact made on each other’s lives.  All can confirm that their work in the Youth Council has improved their self-esteem, confidence in public speaking and that the friendships made will be remembered always.

The Youth Councils empower students to make a change in their school and communities. This year, the Youth Councils focused on the issues of Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Animal Cruelty and facilitated workshops on these topics at their 2010 “Make a Change” Conference.

Congratulations to the 2010 Community Schools Youth Councils for all that they have accomplished!

Children’s Aid’s David Giordano Receives Community Award

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David Giordano, the Director of Children’s Aid’s East Harlem Center, recently received the José R. Sánchez Community Leadership Award at the Metropolitan Hospital Center Community Advisory Board’s 2010 Annual Public Meeting. Giordano was recognized for his hard work and dedication to the children and families served by Children’s Aid, as well as to the community at large.

Both David and Children’s Aid demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the communities we serve. During his 27-year tenure at Children’s Aid, Giordano held a number of positions including group worker, case worker and program coordinator, and has been director of the East Harlem Center since July 2006. The Center has served the East Harlem community for more than 50 years and continues to provide a range of services from early childhood to teen programming, in areas including educational and career readiness, sports and recreation, mental health services and adult ESL classes, which are especially important for the community’s new immigrants.

At the awards ceremony, Monica Brown, The Metropolitan Hospital Center’s Community Advisory Board First Vice Chair, presented Giordano with the award and spoke glowingly about both David and Children’s Aid. She currently serves with him on East Harlem’s Community Board 11’s Health and Human Services Committee – he as Chair, she as Vice Chair. Ms. Brown was also a Children’s Aid Society Head Start Director in East Harlem.

“I am truly honored, as well as very humbled, to receive this recognition,” said Giordano. “Our rewards and recognition for the work we do is also seen through the accomplishments of the youth we work with.”

Children’s Aid Panthers Win Rawl Cup!

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The Children’s Aid Society Panthers, a girls basketball team based at the Frederick Douglass Center in Harlem, emerged victorious at the 2010 Rawl Cup. The Panthers defeated a Texas all-star team for the championship in the 14 and under division.

Coach Hammer Stevens and nine student athletes traveled to Austin, Texas for the international tournament, held March 31 – April 3, 2010. In addition to 200 youth teams from across the United States, teams from Mexico, Japan, Chile, Norway, Israel and China competed in this exciting basketball competition. The tournament is named for Vince Rawl, who organized the event in Austin for boys and girls youth basketball teams.

The athletes had more than just slam dunks on their minds - the 2010 Rawl Cup tournament also included the Green Ball Project, an initiative aimed at educating youth about environmental issues. The organizers used sports as a means of communicating to the players – and their home cities and countries – the importance of a greater usage and development of alternative energy, energy conservation and recycling.

The Panthers have been victorious at other tournaments on the road, including such prestigious competitions as the AAU Tournament of Champions in Virginia in 2007, East Orange Turkey Shoot, PAL (Police Athletic League) in 2009, Hoop Group Christmas Challenge, also in 2009, the MJ Sharp Shooters and the Martin L. King Challenge in Houston, TX in January 2010.

The Senate Introduces Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act: Report on School Nutrition Standards

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According to federal statistics, many American children consume half of their daily calories at school. In addition, there are 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program. An important question: are these children getting the proper nutrition they need?

A new bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, has been introduced in the Senate with goals that include improving the nutritional quality of meals served at school. The bill, which has the support of the Food and Beverage Industry, calls for an investment of $4.5 billion in new funding for childhood nutrition programs over 10 years. It has bipartisan support in the Senate and is backed by many important public advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Diabetes Association. School nutritional guidelines have not been updated in almost 30 years.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has bipartisan support in the Senate and is backed by many important public advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Diabetes Association. It has three main objectives: (1) to end childhood hunger; (2) to promote health and reduce childhood obesity; and (3) to improve program management and integrity.

Suggested methods of achieving these goals include

  • Expanding after-school and summer meals for at-risk children and connecting more eligible low-income children with school meals
  • Provide funding for school gardens and for getting local producers into school cafeterias
  • Giving the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all food sold on school campus–including vending machines

Stefania Patinella, Director of Food and Nutrition Programs

“From the beginnings of the Go!Healthy, The Children’s Aid Society recognized the dearth of tested and effective responses to this urgent crisis in child health. We set out to create program models that would not only work within our own Community Schools and Centers, but in low-income communities across the country. Our resulting obesity prevention programs are innovative and effective...Go!Healthy takes a holistic and comprehensive approach to child health. Our three pronged approach includes education, foodservice and advocacy.”

Children’s Aid Grows It’s Own Nurses!

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Every week at Children’s Aid Community School, Mirabal Sisters Campus, in Washington Heights, a group of 10 future nurses are preparing for a profession in which they will experience the limitless rewards of saving a life, and a profession that is also experiencing a growing shortage. It is predicted that by 2025, the country will be facing a shortfall of 260,000 nurses.

Growing Our Own Nurses addresses the growing national nursing shortage by generating interest among young students in nursing careers. Growing Our Own Nurses is an after-school program for 6-8th grade students that meet twice a week. On Tuesdays students participate in fun lessons on medically-related topics. Lessons are fun and interactive; students learn about an array of health-related subjects, learn how to take vital signs, as well as how to draw blood (red Kool-Aid) from a “dummy” arm. On Thursdays, students venture out of school to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital to observe health professionals in the “real world.” Visits are also engaging and interactive. Hospital workers take our students nurses on tours of the different areas of the hospital, for instance: in the pulmonary care section they were able to see an artificial heart and taught about its function; in radiology they were taught about the CAT scan and sonogram machines and their purpose; and in the surgical section, they were provided with the opportunity to wear a set of surgical outfits. Students interacted with patients, as well as put their nursing skills into practice by taking each other’s vital signs with actual hospital equipment. Other activities have included visiting the American Museum of Natural History, a viewing of the movie Supersize Me and participating in a Nurses Week event.

Growing Our Own Nurses is an incredibly inspiring and innovative program. Many of these youth now view nursing as an exciting potential profession and are discussing which areas of medicine they want to study. If you would like to learn more about programs like Growing Our Own Nurses at Children’s Aid, visit our website at www.childrensaidsociety.org. Karen Mackenzie Development Associate The Children's Aid Society

Guardian Angels for Families in Need

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Founded in 1933, Homemaker Services is one of The Children’s Aid Society’s oldest programs that helps keep families together. Circumstances exist, some of which parents don’t have control of, where even though they are emotionally available for their children, their physical condition doesn’t allow them to care for their child the right way. Stepping into a household where a parent is sick and unable to care for their children is one of the focuses of Homemaker Services. For parents who struggle with their job schedule, Homemakers can care for the children during those work hours.

Homemakers step in where the parents need help the most. These professionals are extremely experienced in dealing with family issues as well as childcare so that they can offer the greatest support possible to families in need.  The Homemakers combine their experience with that of professional Social Workers to maximize the potential help the Homemakers Services offer. Services include housekeeping, childcare, cooking and transportation to and from school. Whatever the issue may be at home, if there is a tough situation for a child, Homemakers could be the first to take control and solve the problem to the best of their ability. They use their expertise to not only give instruction and care but also to teach the families meaningful life skills and behavioral techniques so that families can function better.

Homemaker Services is available any day of the week, currently assisting 85 families and 200 children. For more information, please visit www.childrensaidsociety.org/familysupport