The Children's Aid Blog

Congratulations to the 24th Adult Family Life/Sex Ed Graduating Class

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On Friday, June 4th, the Adult Family Life/Sex Education program held its 24th graduation ceremony at Hunter College, commemorating an astounding 148 graduates for their impressive openness and commitment to exploring issues around sexuality so that they can better educate their children. In the auditorium were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and community members who took the bold step in examining a topic that can unfortunately be wrought with confusion and, for some, shame. But we know that to not address sexuality education, we risk not being able to accurately inform young people about the consequences of risky behavior on one hand, and the fulfillment of a healthy sense of self on the other.

Children’s Aid takes this work seriously and Dr. Carrera’s program, along with the programs run by our other divisions, have a powerful impact on our youth. With the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the industrialized world, and the devastating outcomes for young mothers and their children, it is critically important to engage the adults in our youths’ lives – the parents and role models who are their first and oftentimes most effective teachers. This is why it was such a thrill to see the proud graduates on Friday, who are among the thousands who have gone through the Family Life/Sex Ed program, and know that because of the information they can impart, our young people can make healthy decisions and pursue a future driven by hope and ambition.

My congratulations to Dr. Carrera for engaging adults so successfully and honoring their achievements with such enthusiasm and respect. It was a truly moving event.

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

Children’s Aid Uses Reliable Data to Better Serve Children

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In today’s information economy, reliable data is invaluable to good decision making. We look to nutrition facts on our food packaging to help us make healthy eating choices; trust newspapers to keep us up-to-date on current events; and utilize resources like the Better Business Bureau to help us find reputable services.

Our leaders rely on good data to help make decisions that turn into the policies and laws that affect community life as a whole.  Data, like the US Census, can also significantly affect where taxpayer resources are allocated.  It may be fair to amend the old adage that time is money. Today, information is.

At Children’s Aid, information that helps us to better understand the needs of the children and families we serve is vital to our work.  Reliable data helps us to make informed decisions in providing the quality care that every child in New York City deserves; it fuels the good decisions that turn into best practices and successful outcomes for our communities.

Data also raises awareness about civic challenges and empowers citizens to create positive change.  Today, we are happy to share valuable resources that can help citizens to better understand the welfare of children and families in their local community. In New York City, specifically, The Citizens' Committee for Children of New York Inc. offers a wealth of policy information, budget analyses, and statistics that help to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities facing local children and their families.

Recently, CCC unveiled the 2010 edition of Keeping Track of New York City's Children (pictured at right), a comprehensive database which is available in both print and an interactive online edition.  The online version allows users to perform customized searches of over 400 child well-being indicators across New York City communities.

For more resources about child well-being across the nation and in your home community, check out The Child Welfare Information Gateway and ChildStats.gov. Both offer a comprehensive list of resources, facts, figures, and reports that span a wide-specturm of concerns, including healthcare and education.

Children’s Aid saltues organizations here in New York City and across the nation that are working hard to raise awareness and provide citizens, policymakers, eduators, parents, and leaders with the resources they need to better understand the challenges that our children face. If you have a resource that you find useful, please feel free to share it in your comments.

Children’s Aid Prepares Youth for the Changing Job Market

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When children take part in arts activities—especially those that involve a group dynamic, such as audio production and filmmaking—they express their creativity and gain self-confidence as well as leadership skills. These attributes are necessary for young people seeking to compete in America’s rapidly changing economy and job sector.

At The Children’s Aid Society, we strive to prepare our youth by engaging them in programs that provide a combination of technical expertise, artistic knowledge and training in the creation of high quality music and video projects. We are able to provide digital arts education with a first-rate audio, visual and recording arts program at several of our community centers and schools. The Frederick Douglass Center in Harlem houses a media center that provides the perfect laboratory for audio and visual experimentation. The media room holds computers, a video and recording studio, piano keyboards and music editing and production equipment. Highly trained and deeply caring Frederick Douglass staff teach youth how to use video recording equipment and editing software to create short public service announcements about issues affecting their lives and their communities, as well as other short videos in which youth have the opportunity to write scripts, direct and act. Through the video and audio production program, youth are not only expressing their creativity but also building skills that will prove valuable for years to come.

Children’s Aid Hosts Sesame Street Workshop on The Economic Crisis

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On Thursday, May 6, approximately 100 of our early childhood parents gathered for an educational event called Families Stand Together, hosted by Sesame Street and made possible by The Bank of New York Mellon. The purpose of this event was to enlighten parents with effective ways to communicate with their children about how the economic crisis has taken a toll on their families. The event was an uplifting and empowering session, with speakers ranging from Children’s Aid CEO Richard Buery, to Sesame Workshop’ s CEO, Gary Knell, to celebrities like Al Roker and the famous Elmo! This impressive cast was wonderful proof to our parents that this curriculum was something that is highly regarded and important to learn.

In addition to comments from the hosts, parents watched the Families Stand Together film, which featured how real-life families have coped with the pressures of unemployment, housing instability and other lifestyle changes that have resulted from personal financial woes. The film emphasized the concept that creating a stable family environment and emphasizing love and unity helps ease the anxiety of children as they experience material or environmental changes. The parents in attendance were among the first Children’s Aid Families that will receive the Families Stand Together curriculum kits which outline the programs core concept in both English and Spanish. The Children’s Aid Society has partnered with Sesame Workshop to be the New York City distribution partner. We will be disseminating 25,000 kits among the children and families that we serve across our centers, schools and program sites.

Mary Newcomb
Development Assistant
The Children's Aid Society

Children’s Aid Helps To Build Stable Homes and Stable Families

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Helping families to help themselves – this is so very near and dear to our hearts at The Children’s Aid Society. This we know: when the home is safe and stable, the family residing in it will be more likely to flourish and remain together. That’s why we provide advocacy services for families needing assistance, by providing information on understanding their tenant rights and responsibilities. Our Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy (OPPCA) team is on hand to counsel families with housing issues – whether needing housing  or by helping resolve complaints against (or by) their landlords.

It’s key for tenant rights and responsibilities to be adhered to by both the renters and landlords. In New York, basic tenant rights include the right to privacy, health, safety and utilities. This includes issues like the landlord’s entrance to a residence without prior approval; health hazards like mold, mildew, rodents or broken stairs; ingress and egress areas being secured and well lit, and proper water and heat being provided. Deviation from these basic rights impacts a family’s rights to fair and decent housing.

In turn, tenants must accept their responsibilities – keeping their dwelling clean and undamaged, paying rent on time, respecting the terms of their rental agreement, and conducting themselves in a manner that is neither disorderly nor disruptive to neighbors. It is a shared responsibility.

The Children’s Aid Society also helps facilitate placement for families in transitional housing – until a permanent solution can be attained.  Homeless families cannot flourish.  This is why we move heaven and earth to aid families going through extreme circumstances. A little help goes a long way; once in a stable home, families are then empowered to change their lives.

Garden of Dreams Foundation Presents Hero Award to Michael Roberts of The Children’Aid Society

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Heroes are often thought of as mythical creatures, those who are endowed with supernatural powers who nobly fight against all odds for the safety and betterment of the world.

On Tuesday, April 6, 2010, Madison Square Garden and the Garden of Dreams Foundation honored a real life hero, Mr. Michael Roberts, Assistant Division Director/Adolescent Services of City & Country Branches.  Though he hasn’t fought dragons or vindictive villains, Mr. Roberts, in his own way has a lifetime of experience in fighting for the safety and progression of those whom he has served throughout his career.  His passion and lifelong dedication to children, youth, and families is an inspiration and embodies the courage and nobleness ascribed to real heroes that we revere.

Standing at half court, flanked by MSG officials and two proud protégés, and surrounded by friends, family, and thousands of fans, Mr. Roberts was the second person in all of MSG history to be presented with this prestigious and exceptional honor—the Garden of Dreams Hero Award.  The stadium erupted in cheers and applause as Mr. Roberts’ graciously accepted this well deserved award that celebrates his work in the field of youth development.  The ensuing evening proved to be just as spectacular.  New Yorkers were proud of the victorious 104-101 Knicks win over the Boston Celtics, but none were prouder than the staff, youth, and families of The Children’s Aid Society on behalf of Mr. Roberts.  Congratulations, Michael Roberts!  You deserve it!

Children's Aid's Carrera Program Featured on NPR

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Here’s something really exciting – a nationally broadcast endorsement of our work!  On Sunday, June 6, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered featured an interview with Dr. Michael Carrera in a fabulous segment about The Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program.

The broadcast explores how Michael Carrera developed his philosophy of linking messages about sexuality to all of the other concerns that young people have (including education, jobs, sports, creativity and their health and well being), approaching teens holistically instead of just about sex. When this happens, he has said, teens develop hope – a very powerful contraceptive.  They see that they can have a productive future that they won’t want to risk with early pregnancies.

Our adolescent pregnancy prevention program has been independently evaluated and shown to be effective at greatly reducing teen pregnancies and births. The All Things Considered segment jumped off from the Obama administration’s decision to fund an evidence-based approach to reducing teen pregnancy and noted that the Children’s Aid Carrera model is one of 28 approved under the federal Replication of Evidence-based Programs .

Noting that “few have more experience with teen sexuality education and adolescent development that Michael Carrera,” the reporter also stated, “It’s hard to find people who don’t like the Carrera model.”

We’re thrilled that this program is getting a lot of attention!  Since current data indicate that the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is on the rise for the first time in many years, attention to this proven-effective program is timely.  According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Unplanned Pregnancy , a child born to an unmarried teen has a 27 percent chance of growing up in poverty, and if that teen did not graduate from high school or earn a GED, the chances of the child growing up in poverty increase to 64 percent. The costs to society are staggering, and the personal cost to the teens can be devastating.

We hope you will listen to at your first opportunity!  And of course, if you want to learn more about The Children’s Aid Society, please visit our website.

Children’s Aid Helping ALL Members of the Family

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It is an issue that unfortunately many of us have had some experience with, but, many people have difficulty understanding or grasping the severity of this national problem. Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a problem that affects all people regardless of race, income, religion, gender or sexual orientation. One of the many factors that contribute to carrying out this form of abuse on an intimate partner and/or children stems from experiencing or witnessing the same trauma as a child.

The Family Wellness Program is the only program in New York City that serves the entire family – including abusive partners. We believe that when there is violence in the home, it is in the best interest of the children to provide services to every member of the family, in an effort to stop generational violence and restore healthy relationships between parents and children, if possible. The Children’s Aid Society and the New York City’s Coalition on Working with Abusive Partners (CoWAP) brought together over 200 New York City providers of domestic violence services, legal services, mental health, child welfare services and fatherhood programs at the One Size Does Not Fit All: Exploring Diverse Approaches to Working with Abusive Partners conference in 2009 to discuss multiple approaches being used around the country to work with perpetrators of intimate partner abuse.

The information gathered at the conference and colloquium was used to develop ’next steps’ for expanding services for abusive partners in New York City. Recommendations from The Children’s Aid Society, based upon information gathered from the experts, include:

  • An assessment of the abusive partner that identifies the factors that contributes to their abusive behavior.
  • Individualized therapy to support behavior change.
  • Parenting programs designed specifically for abusive parents.
  • Substance abuse treatment specifically designed to also address the co-occurrence of abusive behavior.
  • Counseling for the couple and family only following individual services for both partners, when there is no longer violence or significant risk of violence, and accompanied by individual services and ongoing safety assessment by a professional with expertise in domestic violence.
  • Greater consistency in the application of consequences imposed by the criminal justice system.
  • Ongoing services for abusive partners after the initial program completion in order to support behavior change.

It is clear that current services need to be re-evaluated and diversified to properly treat and protect victims and their families. We believe that including intensive counseling and work with the abuser, to maintain a nonviolent home for children - while ensuring the safety of affected child first and foremost - is integral in tackling the roots of generational abuse.

Children’s Aid Stars Take on Radio City Music Hall

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On the evening of April 28th, up-and-coming stars from The Children’s Aid Society and other youth-serving agencies from throughout the tri-state area had the exciting opportunity to showcase their talents at the MSG Entertainment’s “City of Dreams,” Sixth Annual Spring Talent Show on the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall. Hundreds of excited friends and family members lined up outside the doors of Radio City, eagerly waiting to nab up-front and center seats in the massive 6,000-seat auditorium. The night kicked-off with appearances from illustrious guests, including actress/comedian/singer-songwriter/talk show host Whoopi Goldberg and actor Matthew Modine. Following opening introductions, the Radio City Rockettes, bejeweled in signature sequins and top hats, escorted the young performers onstage where the night’s performances commenced. There were twenty performances in total, and a whopping four groups from CAS performed—more groups than from any other partnering children’s agencies.

The Children’s Aid Society Choir was the first CAS group to take the stage. The all-girl group swept onstage, looking stunning in their shimmering black dresses. The Choir performed a moving rendition of “Mama Who Bore Me” from the musical, Spring Awakening.

The second CAS group was a trio of young men from our Frederick Douglass Center’s Intel Computer Clubhouse. For their special night onstage, the group composed their very own, original piece of music, entitled, “U R Mine.” Decked out in dress shirts and ties, the trio serenaded the audience with their sweet melody, bumping beats, and soulful voices.

Switching to dance mode, the third CAS group, Somethin’ Untouchable, from our Dunlevy Milbank Center, tore up the dance floor with a tightly choreographed, high-energy mash-up of dance routines that included hip-hop moves and cheerleading pyramids that brought the audience to their feet.

Closing out the evening, Children’s Aid’s Harmony in Harlem, from our Drew Hamilton Center — a youth jazz ensemble consisting of percussionists, horn players, drummers and violinists — got into the groove with a lively piece of jazz/funk fusion that got toes tapping and hips swaying.

It was an incredible night for the blossoming stars and all their loved ones who came out to support and cheer them on.

Tracy Gilmore
Development Associate

A Year in Review: I.S. 166 Middle School Youth Council

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The Youth Council of I.S. 166 has experienced an enormous amount of obstacles this year.  Due to budget cuts our program was cut down from 5 to 3 days per week.  As a result Youth Council members had to make the sacrifice of missing out on their chosen clubs for most of the day in order to participate in Youth Council activities and workshops.  In this instance, being youth developer proved somewhat difficult because I wanted my students to take part in everything we as a program, had to offer.  In the end I was able to compromise. Youth Council members were able to take part in Youth Council for only the first half of after-school programming then had the choice to stay or go to their club for the rest of the day.  To my happiness, members chose to stay through the entire day.

Elections & choosing issues to advocate for went smoothly.  However, after a month or two, our president stopped attending after school and our president from the prior year was re-elected.  After this we were able to pick up where we left off and focus our attention on preparing for the conference.  We went to Wagon Road to grow together more as a youth council and work on our facilitation skills.

In December, while making the final preparations for our winter showcase, we learned our Community School Director Jobis Ozoria was tragically killed in a car accident.  We cancelled the show and informed the kids on what happened.  This, to say the least, had a tremendous affect on everyone within I.S. 166 and The Children's Aid Society.  We cried together, we grieved together. During this period it was important for us to remember all the good that Jobis represented and I made this my priority with the kids.

When discussing ways that we can honor Jobis we decided that naming the street in which the school is located after him would be most fitting.  We received tons of support, not only from the school and The Children’s Aid Society but also from Mr. Ozoria’s family and the community.  As of now, we received over 700 signatures and have spoken in front of the community board advocating for Grant Avenue between 163rd and 164th to be renamed to Jobis Ozoria Place.  Currently it is in the process of becoming law which is a very good sign that we can achieve this wonderful feat.

Keeping the ball rolling, we thought of ways to expand Youth Council and its message of advocacy and youth involvement.  As a result we are currently working on our very own television program through Bronx Net.  This would be a platform for Youth Council to discuss and advocate for issues on a more public level and show young people that their voices can be heard.

The Youth Council of 166 has dealt with a lot this year, but through it all has stuck together and bonded as a true family. I am proud of these young men and women and truly thankful to be a part of their lives.  They never cease to amaze me and are a prime example of the great things that can happen when positive young people get together to make a change.  They have not only been an inspiration to other students but to myself as well.  When I see the work they have accomplished and continue to work on, I am reminded that nothing is impossible if you truly work hard for it and have the support of others around you.

Joshua Poyer
Youth Council Developer
I. S. 166
Bronx, New York