The Children's Aid Blog

Getting Ready for After-School

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We made it through the first few days of school. A few obstacles here and there, but here we are, in one piece. What’s next? Well for many working parents whose schedules do not necessarily match up with their child’s, after-school programming is often necessary and requires as much planning and anticipation as the first day of school.

Studies show during after-school hours, specifically 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., children are at greater risk to commit or be victimized by crime, substance abuse or to get involved in gang-related activity. At The Children’s Aid Society, after-school programs run for three hours, five days a week and provide children with a safe learning environment. Not only are children kept out of the streets and from being home alone but they are also able to work on homework, receive tutoring and participate in many activities such as sports, art and community service.

Prepare your child for beginning an after-school program by:

  • Visiting the site where the after-school programming will be held, if the program is inside the child’s school, practice the route to the meeting place for the program.
  • Make sure your child knows who will be picking them up from the program if it will not be you.
  • Remind your child that the same rules apply in after-school as in the day school.
  • Talk to your child about the benefits of attending after-school, i.e. homework help.
  • Constantly remind your child of the start date so that your child can anticipate the new schedule.

Arnery Reyes, Children’s Aid Community School Director at P.S. 8 says: “I strongly recommend that if their elementary aged child is starting an after school program, that parents discuss this with their children. Parents should let their school aged child know the start dates and activities they will be engaged in.  Often on the first day of EDP (Extended Day Program), we find that children are surprised to learn that they have to stay for after school and this could be very difficult for some of our younger participants.”

Children's Aid Announces Creation of Housing Stability Resource Center

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The Children's Aid Society is proud to announce the creation of the Housing Stability Resource Center, designed to provide critical and targeted comprehensive services for families threatened with homelessness.

The Housing Stability Resource Center is part of the Office of Public Policy & Client Advocacy (OPPCA). In addition to promoting policies that support children and families, OPPCA provides civil legal services and distributes direct assistance from The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund to children, youth and parents. OPPCA’s 15 years of experience has demonstrated that cash assistance, though frequently essential, is often not enough to bring long-term stability to our families. The distress caused by months and years of living on the edge of poverty undermines families’ health and well being. While the most evident symptom may be the loss of viable housing, the trauma preceding that loss takes an enormous toll on all aspects of family life.

A new grant from The New York Times Foundation now allows us to round out our comprehensive services model to all families referred to us for rental arrears and other housing emergencies. By incorporating an array of programs and supports based on each family’s needs, we aim to stabilize families over at least a 24- month period, thereby reducing the effects of impending homelessness on children and allowing breathing space for parents to begin long-range financial planning.

The Children’s Aid’s new Housing Stability Resource Center will provide targeted interventions to deliver the following services to families threatened with homelessness:

  • An integrated array of key services and supports to provide each family with access to the life-altering service it needs,
  • Material assistance, such as The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund and other grants and stipends,
  • Advocacy for families’ legal and public benefits issues, and

Life coaching or case management and concrete services to support and reinforce steps toward economic stability.

Children’s Aid Youth Teach Survival Skills

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Summer has come to an end and all throughout The Children’s Aid Society children have been celebrating the season with performances they have learned over the last several of weeks. The culminating event at this year’s summer camp at Frederick Douglass Center was a survivor fair held on August 17th. The fair, for parents, participants and community members, began with a short performance by the youngest campers, ages five and six.

Parents were later led downstairs where they could visit several rooms offering informational sessions on how to survive different scenarios. The children decorated their rooms based on their topic and the survival skills they have learned over the summer. In one room named the Red Cross, the children gave general tips on what to do in an emergency. In another, the group explained how to survive an earthquake. The campers wrapped up their exciting fair with skits in which they acted out three dangerous scenarios and how to survive them. The skits included choking at lunch, grandmother getting sick and a friend being injured while playing.

The kids did a wonderful job performing and enlightening the crowd on what they learned during the summer survivor camp. I am confident that after having attended the fair one may feel more prepared to handle a dangerous situation.

Danny Morris
Director, Hope Leadership Academy

The Children’s Aid Society Celebrates 10 Years in the Bronx!

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Ten years of helping young people, families and now operating out of ten sites in the Bronx, The Children’s Aid Society provides support services in foster care, early childhood and after-school care, mental and physical health, preventive care, and helps youth who have aged out of the foster care system.

“We didn’t expect to grow so fast, but there are just so many under-resourced people in Morrisania,” said William Weisberg, Chief Operating Officer for Children’s Aid Society.

Beginning in 2000 with the Bronx Family Center, which offers services to youth from infancy to young adulthood and with The Next Generation Center, opened in 2008, a center designed to meet the needs of young people transitioning to adulthood and self-sufficiency, The Children’s Aid Society has enveloped this community with programs and services to ensure children get the best opportunities possible at all stages of growth. The Next Generation Center also includes a catering company that is staffed by young people who have aged out of the foster care system and are in need of skills as they leave their late teens and early twenties. In addition, Children’s Aid operates a teen pregnancy prevention program that stresses a “waist-up” approach to preventing pregnancy, a teen clinic where any teenager can go and speak to a counselor and a Community Re-Entry Program in collaboration with a Bronx Boys & Girls Club. This program serves youth returning to their communities following placement in juvenile detention facilities.

These special programs are some of the many among the core services that include medical, dental and mental health services that are offered to the young people in these centers and its seven community schools in the Bronx. The Children’s Aid Society operates 21 community schools in New York City, in partnership with the Department of Education, which ensures children are physically, emotionally, and socially prepared to learn by providing vital in-house health and social services.

Children’s Aid Youth Celebrate Their Summer Employers

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Dozens of teens gathered at The Children’s Aid Society’s National Center for Community Schools for the 2010 Internship Appreciation Ceremony on Thursday, August 19th. They were joined by family, friends and Children’s Aid staff as well as staff from several New York City elected officials’ offices at which they interned over the summer.

Not many inner city teens get to experience a real office environment. Imagine these same teens helping to run the busy offices of Congressman Charles B. Rangel or Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat by dealing with community members and answering phone calls. Luckily for the participants of the Community Building Internship Program, which is run by Lorena Jimenez-Castro, Children’s Aid’s Government Affairs Liaison, the experiences and skills acquired while working with these important individuals have prepared them that much more for entering the real world of college and the work force. The summer interns were placed in offices of elected officials in the Bronx, Harlem and Washington Heights. Among the many placements, teens worked with Assemblymember Marcos Crespo and Council Member Inez E. Dickens. The appreciation ceremony was an opportunity for the interns to express their gratitude to the staff who have guided them through a unique and memorable seven week experience.

 “Juggling phone calls and translations was not easy,” said Virginia Farita, who interned at the office of Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat in Washington Heights, “but with focus everything is possible.” Ms. Farita was referred to the internship program by The Teen Pregnancy and Sexuality Prevention Program.

Ruby Roman, who interned in the office of Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, shared that “in the past, I had trouble following through with things but with this internship I learned to finish what I started.” Assemblymember Crespo accompanied Ruby to the ceremony, along with other members of his staff. “You’re part of the family forever” said Mr. Crespo.

The interns also unveiled a 29-page community resource guide which they wrote on issues of great importance to their neighborhoods and that lists organizations that offer immigration, education, housing and health coverage services. The warm afternoon mirrored the warm words of appreciation from all in attendance. I for one am thankful that there are opportunities like this for our youth, who keep these elected officials connected to the communities in which they serve and the issues for which they fight.

Image courtesy of Ben Russell. Pictured left to right: Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Intern Ruby Roman, Matthew Shuffler, Chief of Staff and William D. Weisberg, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer for The Children’s Aid Society.

Parents Get Ready for Back To School

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Here we are again! Summer is coming to a close and the text books are making their yearly debut. It’s a time of year that parents and children look forward to but not without some anxiety and stress. These feelings are normal but if a plan is not set in place before the start of school, transitioning from vacation mode to the classroom will not be easy.

All the essentials are being purchased, pencils, composition books and calculators. Uniforms soon to be pressed and ready to go. Great! But following these few tips provided by the National Association of School Psychologists and establishing an early morning routine will ensure smoother transition over the next few weeks.

  • Begin to establish a mealtime and bedtime routine before school starts to help your child get out of the habit of sleeping late, which so many children do over the summer.
  • Encourage your child to play a quiet game or do some reading instead of watching television during the morning.
  • Designate an appropriate place to do homework. For children who often need assistance and encouragement this area could be in the kitchen or dining room.
  • Always seem enthusiastic and excited about the first day of school and every school day after that.
  • If this will be a new school, take a visit to the school, classroom, lunchroom and restrooms. This should help your child familiarize themselves with their new school.
  • Take time to discuss with your child anything that may be worrying them about the first day or the school year in general.
  • Try your best to stay involved in school events. Though work schedules make get in the way, remember that children whose parents get involved are more likely to perform better in school.

To parents and children, best of luck during the school year!

Children’s Aid CEO Reacts to Study by Brookings Institution

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On July 20, 2010, the Brookings Institution posted a study by Grover J. Whitehurst and Michelle Croft, “The Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education.”

Richard R. Buery, Jr., The Children’s Aid Society’s President and CEO, offers this reaction to the report.

Thanks to researchers at the Brookings Institution for reminding us that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will provide a new battleground for a long-standing debate; do students benefit academically from supports and services designed to expand opportunities for, and remove barriers to, their learning and healthy development? The Children’s Aid Society, one of New York City’s oldest and largest youth organizations, has partnered with many New York City public schools for nearly two decades, combining our human and financial resources with those of our education colleagues through a strategy known as community schools. In the process, we have carefully reviewed both the theoretical and empirical research about what it takes to move all children toward productive adulthood. We were therefore quite surprised to read, in the recent Whitehurst and Croft study linking the Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, the statement that “There is no compelling evidence that investments in parenting classes, health services, nutritional programs, and community improvement in general have appreciable effects on student achievement in school in the U.S.”

In fact, there is compelling evidence generated over the past two decades that the very supports the Broader, Bolder consortium calls for—high quality early childhood, health services, and out-of-school time (after-school and summer) enrichment programs—all contribute to student success, especially for the most disadvantaged young people. These studies, when added to the research about the importance of parental engagement in children’s education, form the underlying research base for the community schools strategy.

Community schools integrate all of these supports with the core instructional program through well designed, long-term partnerships between schools and community resources. Third-party evaluations of our work in New York City and of community schools in other districts around the country have demonstrated that this comprehensive and integrated approach to education produces just the kinds of results suggested by the underlying research and hoped for by policymakers, parents and the public: improvements in academic achievement, student and teacher attendance, student behavior, family engagement in children’s education, school climate and connectedness.

Effective school leadership and excellent teaching are, of course, central to any effective strategy to close the achievement gap. For too long, many in the education establishment have used poverty as an excuse for their failure to create excellent schools. The time for excuses has passed. Yet those who rightly demand accountability from principals and teachers risk trivializing a host of documented reasons why poor children struggle in school—from poor vision to homelessness. When schools partner with community resources to address these very real barriers, they are enabling students to learn and teachers to teach. New research by Anthony Bryk and his colleagues at the Consortium on Chicago School Research, based on a rigorous seven-year analysis of elementary schools in Chicago, clearly indicates that successful schools, even those in the most disadvantaged communities, offer a set of essential ingredients that include a solid core instruction program, authentic parent and community engagement, and a student-centered school climate. There is no conflict between holding educators accountable for ensuring that all children learn, and a strategy that recognizes the critical role that community resources can play in helping educators achieve that goal.

One enlightened superintendent has described community schools as “a strategy to organize the resources of the community around student success.” America’s students—especially those growing up with the least access to opportunity—deserve every chance to achieve this success. Let’s stop the false debate about whether or not the community has anything of value to contribute to this most important enterprise.

Richard R. Buery, Jr.

President and CEO
The Children’s Aid Society
New York City

Campers Dance Their Way thru the Summer

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Imagine a summer full of heart pumping beats, delicate spins and exciting jumps all while pushing yourself to realize your inner beauty and strengths. This summer the CAS/AileyCamp Washington Heights, as always, promised six weeks of an amazing experience and from what I saw on stage the evening of August 12th, I am convinced they more than kept that promise.

Dozens of children amazed a crowded theater of friends, family and staff members with all that they have learned over the summer. It was clearly evident that their time spent with talented and dedicated camp staff of group leaders, counselors and fabulous professional dancers has impacted their self-esteem and courage. These children are a bit more ready to take on the world.

“All we did was plant seeds in them six weeks ago and right now you are going to see the flowers that have been blooming for weeks…I am so proud of them,” said an emotional Amparo Chiqui Santiago, the Camp Director for the Washington Heights camp.

This summer’s final performance, "20/20 Illumination," celebrated the 20 years of The Children’s Aid Society’s partnership with Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation and honored Judith Jamison for her 20 years as Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Ms. Jamison plans to retire in 2011 and was in the audience for the CAS/Ailey Camp’s moving tribute.

The children not only delivered but inspired the audience. Please watch this video to get a taste of this talent-filled performance.

Teens ‘Do Something’ to Collect School Supplies for The Children’s Aid Society

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As part of the 3rd Annual Staples/Do Something 101 Supply Drive, Nikki Reed, star of this summer’s blockbuster film Twilight: Eclipse, is encouraging New York City teens to make a difference this summer by collecting and donating school supplies at their local Staples store from July 4 through September 18 to support kids in need within their community. In addition, Staples customers can get involved by donating $1 at any Staples store with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting New York City students in need. 

The Children’s Aid Society has been selected to participate in this program and receive donations – but we need your help! Support our youth who need supplies to return to school prepared to learn and succeed. Donations can be dropped off at any Staples store nationwide starting July 4th through September the 18th. Specific Staples stores that our organization has been partnered with include:

Do Something 101 has done an amazing job in its first two years, and I’m excited to make the 2010 campaign the best yet,” said Nikki Reed.  “Every donated pencil, notebook and other supplies can add up to make a big difference in improving education.”

During the first two Do Something 101 school supply drives, Staples and DoSomething.org, with the help from celebrity supporters Jordin Sparks and Ciara, raised more than $750,000

To build on this success and help kick off the 2010 campaign, Nikki is starring in a public service announcement (PSA) that will air on television and radio stations nationwide through September.  Staples is also donating more than $125,000 worth of school supplies to the program.

Yes We Can!

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Richard R. Buery, Jr.: Schott details ‘shocking divide between American ideal of equal opportunity and actual practice’ 

Receiving a high school diploma should be a rite of passage, just the start of a young person’s journey, not the result of overcoming immense odds. For a country whose core principles include equal opportunity and racial justice, the results found in the new Schott Foundation report, “Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010,” represent a tragedy of the highest proportion. In stark detail, the report presents a picture of an American education system that is systemically failing Black males.

While much has been written about the achievement gap between Black and white students, the report is a striking illustration of these inequities. It portrays “a U.S. system of denied opportunities for Black males;” it paints an awful picture of wasted potential. New York City is one of the five worst performing districts in the country with large Black male student enrollment. Only 28% of New York City’s Black males enrolled in high schools (in 2007-08) graduated on time with Regents diplomas. (In contrast, 50% of white males did.) Each year, 100,000 Black male students in New York City do not graduate from high school with their cohort. The report delves into the terrible details for school districts around the country.

The report articulates “Conditions for Success;” a list of basic preconditions for educational success. These conditions, such as equitable resources, high quality universal pre-school, new or renovated facilities, programs to address needs attributable to poverty, and state accountability, are so fundamental that it is extraordinary that they still have to be laid out as a preamble to closing the achievement gap.

I’m proud to say that The Children’s Aid Society has a range of initiatives that meet these Conditions for Success, creating a framework for young Black boys – and all the children we serve – to strive for bright futures and fulfill their promise. Our high quality early childhood programs provide a strong foundation for our youngest students, with early literacy activities and parental involvement allowing them to begin their educations on a more level playing field. The supports offered by Children’s Aid’s community schools – including afterschool programs, academic enrichment, health services and arts and recreation – ensure that students are physically, emotionally and socially ready to learn. Recently granted “Top Tier” status by The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy because of its proven ability to reduce teenage births, the Children’s Aid Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program works by providing pre-teens and teens with a vision of a full life that doesn’t include teen pregnancy, but does include academic achievement, work and developing talents and interests.

Our African American Male Initiative (AAMI), a program that works to improve educational outcomes for this vulnerable population has had very promising outcomes. Now entering its fourth year, 100% of the boys in the program, currently in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades, have been promoted to the next grade for each of its three years. This is stunning when one considers that 31.6% of Black boys in the U.S. will be retained one grade by age 11. The AAMI model employs Life Coaches for each student as well as other supports for the boys and their parents. AAMI was launched with support for The Charles Hayden Foundation, and The Black Male Donor Collaborative (BMDC) has just awarded AAMI a $100,000 grant. (The Schott Foundation administers and coordinates the BMDC.) We are extremely grateful to the Black Male Donor Collaborative for its support of AAMI. Though small, AAMI hopefully will be a beacon for those who seek examples of interventions with Black male students that work. I am reminded of Langston Hughes’ famous complaint and promise: “O, let America be America again-- The land that never has been yet-- And yet must be--the land where every man is free.” These shocking statistics highlight the great divide between the American ideal of equal opportunity and America’s actual practice. We know how to solve the achievement gap. Nationwide, initiatives large and small are meeting the conditions of success every day. The question for our nation is whether we take the American ideal seriously. Will we invest the resources necessary to bring these initiatives to scale and ensure that Black men – over 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education – finally have access to an equal education? Or will we lose yet another generation of Black men to what has been America’s tragic reality?

Richard R. Buery, Jr.

President and CEO
The Children’s Aid Society

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS