The Children's Aid Blog

The Drew Hamilton Center Celebrates Week of the Young Child

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The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration in April sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The Week of the Young Child was first established in 1971 to bring attention to the needs of young children and their families and for communities to plan on ways to better meet these needs. Also during this week early childhood programs and educators are recognized for their work. In the United States, approximately 13 million infants, toddlers and preschool children are in non-parental day care.

At The Children’s Aid Society, we recognize that the early childhood years are the most critical for laying the foundation for children’s success academically and throughout life. The Drew Hamilton Center in Harlem celebrated its youngsters by displaying their talents as authors, illustrators and actors. The children also honored their teachers with certificates.

Children’s Aid Nurses Help Bring Medical Relief to a Still-Devastated Haiti

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Neither the news clips, nor the countless stories from my colleagues that have traveled to Haiti after the earthquake prepared me for the atrocities of the ruins. When I landed in Haiti on March 29, 2010, I was overwhelmed by mixed emotions. While I was very happy to be part of the mission-to be in Haiti, my birth place, to see the Haitian people, the people that I love and care for so very much-I was also very tearful at the devastation and the condition the people of Haiti are living in. It saddened me when I did not recognize my parents’ home, a place that I value very much and had some very profound memories of growing up in.  However, I found solace in the resiliency of the people, their will to live, and their hope to carry-on, rebuild and continue with life as if nothing ever happened.

Photo Courtesy of Ixleine Dufrene for The Children's Aid SocietyThe Haitian American Nurses Association (HANA) has partnered with several organizations to help meet the medical needs of the thousands left severely injured by the earthquake that ravaged Haiti on January12, 2010. As part of the HANA Disaster Medical Relief Mission project, we worked in collaboration with several organizations to recruit and facilitate volunteer nurses and doctors for this project. All of our efforts have been concentrated in Port-au-Price. On March 29, 2010 HANA undertook a bold initiative of spearheading a special mission to six suburban provinces in Haiti also affected by the earthquake who have seen little in the form of help. The goal was to create a group of a minimum of 50 volunteer nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and doctors who would be divided into teams and simultaneously be on the ground in Haiti, providing medical assistance for one week.  The HANA members were to recruit friends and colleagues to assist with the mission.  I am employed by The Children’s Aid Society in New York City; I recruited two special nurses Olabisi Olowoyo and Geralde Sully of the Medical Foster Care Program to partake in this special mission.

Our days began at 5 o’clock in the morning and finish by 8 at night. I believe some of the members would carry on through the night if they could; there wasn’t a lack of patients to see but a lack of electricity made it unsafe to work. Needless to say the mission on our end was a success; however, we could not help wishing that we could have done more.

During that week we saw and treated more than 2,500 Haitians.  Their ailments varied from malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, skin ailments, GERD, pelvic inflammatory disease, untreated hypertension; some have been diagnosed but unable to buy the prescribed medication.  But the most striking were malnutrition, illnesses caused by a lack of hygiene, and teenage pregnancy.  We vaccinated a thousand farmers, pregnant women and children seven years and older with donated tetanus vaccines. We also took every opportunity possible to provide health education and distribute condoms.

It has already been four months since the earthquake; people are still living in tents on the streets with no access to portable water and facilities, hungry children and parents who seem to have accepted their fate and do not complain. With the hurricane season approaching, one cannot help but to think of the unimaginable when thinking of how and what else one can do to help.

Haiti is no longer in the news headlines, but the Haitian people need us and we cannot stop working toward a better Haiti.  I want to take the time to thank everyone who has helped in Haiti disaster relief efforts, everyone who prayed for us while we were in Haiti and especially my colleagues at Children’s Aid who covered for us while we were away.

Ixleine Dufrene The Children's Aid Society

Holistic Approach Leads to Improved Education Outcomes: Testimony Regarding the ESEA’s Renewal

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At a recent hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, youth development and education advocates implored lawmakers to advance measures that address “the whole child,” as Congress prepares to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Testimony included representatives from Communities in Schools, the nation’s largest drop-out prevention organization, Harlem Children’s Zone, and the Forum for Youth Investment. Speakers emphasized the importance of comprehensive, integrated care in advancing education and closing the achievement gap; many cited how holistic approaches have successfully improved outcomes for our nation’s under-resourced youth and revitalized communities.

Increasingly, lawmakers and the Obama administration, including Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, are working to reshape policy and move towards a paradigm that expands the support services available to students, meeting critical health and other needs.  “If our children aren’t safe, they can’t learn,” Secretary Duncan told a forum on health sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “If our children aren’t fed, they can’t learn. If our children can’t see the blackboard, they can’t learn.”

Children’s Aid believes that the holistic approach is the right approach.  Our Community Schools model is grounded in the “whole child” approach and effectively targets critical social, emotional and health barriers to academic achievement. In fact, 16 years of research has highlighted what we’ve seen since our first Community School opened in 1992this approach works. Our model has been shown to increase academic achievement and improve student attendance[i]&[ii]; improve student social and emotional development[iii]; increase parent and community engagement[iv]&[v]; and improve mental and physical health.[vi]

You can download testimony and watch the United States Senate’s Full Committee Hearing on the ESEA reauthorization here.  For more information about Children’s Aid’s Community Schools, please visit our website.

Jane Mabe
Development Associate
The Children’s Aid Society

[i] 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings, prepared by Kira Krenichyn, Heléne Clark, Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel and Lymari Benitez of ActKnowledge, September 2005.  See also Summary of Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999, prepared by ActKnowledge.

[ii] Op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.  See also Op cit., 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings.

[iii] Op cit., 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings. See also op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.

[iv] Op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.

[v] Op cit., 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings. See also op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.

[vi] The Children’s Aid Society’s Community School Mental Health Services Analysis of Progress in 4th Year of the New York State Education Department’s VESID – Effective Practices Contract. Evaluation conducted by Heléne Clark and Robert Engle of ActKnowledge, November 2003.  See also PS 50 Evaluation of the Health Component in its First Year. Evaluation conducted by Heléne Clark, Melissa Extein, and Robert Engle of ActKnowledge, September 2003.

Fostering Families in the Bronx

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Imagine being separated from your home, family, friends and neighborhood. No matter the age, children entering in the foster care system are scared and need as much stability as possible. Keeping these fragile children connected to the world they are familiar with will make a difficult time much more bearable and may lessen the short and long term effects of being in foster care. The need for caring homes is especially great in the Bronx. The Children’s Aid Society recognizes the importance in keeping children in foster care connected to their schools, health care providers and family members and is working at full force to recruit families in the Bronx who are willing to open their doors and hearts to children in need. Bronx Family recently printed an article on the high demand for foster homes in the Bronx and the importance in keeping children within their community.

To read more on this issue and the comments of Richard Buery, Jr., president and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, please read the article in Bronx Family.

Frederick Douglass Room Refurbishment by the Garden of Dreams Foundation

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In Harlem there is a special new place to relax, play and remember. With the help of Samix International, Inc., the Garden of Dreams Foundation refurbished a room in Children’s Aid’s Frederick Douglass Center. The room, in the center's basement, went through a complete facelift with new flooring, walls, lighting and furniture. To complete the activity space, brand new toys, books and games were also donated.

The completion of the room was unveiled on Tuesday, March 2nd and on hand to celebrate were New York Rangers alumnus Ron Duguay, New York Liberty alumnus Kym Hampton, New York Knicks alumnus and Children’s Aid Society Board Member Cal Ramsey, and the Knicks City Dancers. The room will also be a place to remember, as it has been dedicated in honor of Clark Elie, Frederick Douglass’ Assistant Director who passed away in December. “Clark Elie worked tirelessly to assist and guide young people in the Frederick Douglass Houses and surrounding community to become productive and caring citizens. He was a staple in the community center for 30 years,” said Tracey Haqq, Director of the Frederick Douglass Center. “He will be greatly missed by all he mentored, community members, parents and especially the young people.”

Report On Teen Leadership: Leading by Example

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Today’s teens may very well be tomorrow’s leaders. But first, they need to develop and practice leadership skills that will help them transition to adulthood – and to become successful, ethical and community-minded men and women.

In the United States, there is a proliferation of teen leadership initiatives sponsored by the government, schools and national groups such as the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of America and 4-H. There are also organizations and initiatives spearheaded by the teens themselves. This cross-section of programs shares the common objective to tap the natural energy and enthusiasm of our youth, helping them acquire a positive direction for their future. This is accomplished by challenging and empowering them with the skills and motivation needed to thrive as individuals and as productive members of society.

Comprehensive teen leadership initiatives focus on the following key areas:

  • Training in the areas of leadership, conflict management and resolution, time management, decision making, communication, leadership, and responsibility;
  • Teaching teens how to focus and develop positive attributes, become independent, self-confident, and responsible for their own actions;
  • Developing an appreciation for the impact of their actions, and learning self-respect as well as respect for others;
  • Encouraging teens to help others through volunteerism; peer mentoring, youth support groups, teen action councils, and community involvement;
  • Teaching teens about the “Big Picture” and the importance of protecting and preserving the plane, empowering them to be ardent advocates for the environment.

Additional comments from Vito Interrante, Division Director of City & Country Branches at The Children’s Aid Society:

“Children’s Aid Youth Development programs create a ladder towards responsible and self-sufficient adulthood for teens by providing them a progressive range of programs and services that teaches them to guide their own growth towards success. Programming that promotes self confidence, community service, financial literacy and employment assistance are at the center of The Children’s Aid Society’s approach towards Youth Development.”

May is National Foster Care Month

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Unfortunately, some children are not born into families who are able to provide the type of safe, stable, loving homes children deserve. The Foster Care system provides nurturing homes for children needing the support and care that they aren’t receiving from their birth families. By standing in for a child's parent, foster parents help children that may otherwise become disconnected, neglected or in some very sad cases, abused. The need foster care parents continues to rise and May is the best time to shed light on this need because it is National Foster Care Month.

President Barack Obama recently issued a proclamation calling for Americans to “support young people in foster care, and to recognize the committed adults who work on their behalf each day.” Our devoted social workers truly deserve acknowledgement and accolades for their hard work, but what would help them even more, is an increase in the amount of available foster homes for our youth in need. This May we ask you to consider opening your hearts and homes to children in need love and shelter. In 2009, The Children’s Aid Society provided safety for 600 children through family foster care, and our specialized medical and therapeutic foster care services. If you are unable to foster a child please share this information with the caring adults in your life.

1. Applicants must be over the age of 21. They can be single, married, or in a domestic partnership.

2. Applicant must be self sufficient. Applicant’s income can be from employment, pension, or social security.

3. Applicant must complete a state screening/background check.

4. Applicant must complete 30 hours of Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training, basic training for all foster parent applicants.

5. Applicants must be in good physical and mental health and have completed physical exams for every household member.

6. Applicant must be the lease holder to his or her own apartment or home.

7. Applicant must identify an emergency child care person.

If you would like more information about becoming a foster parent, please call us at 212-949-4962.

Art is More than a “Secondary Subject”

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The Theater Arts Production Company High School (TAPCO) is batting 1,000! According to Neil Waldman, a distinguished artist, Children’s Aid Society Board member and director of the Fred Dolan Academy at TAPCO, a Children’s Aid Society community middle school and high school in the south Bronx, every one of the seniors this year (as last year) is going on to college! Jose Lopez, a senior, has been accepted as an animation major at the School of Visual Arts and Tania Gutierrez has been accepted by Lehman College – we’re very proud of their accomplishments and TAPCO’s track record.

In this school, which combines a middle and high school, students get advanced training in the arts. Opened as a middle school in 1997, TAPCO has added high school grades and has become a top school for aspiring artists, musicians and performers in the Bronx.

TAPCO’s outcomes are yet more proof that “art is in fact a vehicle that leads to academic achievement, higher education and a meaningful career,” according to Waldman.

He’s not alone in his thinking.

According to an article on the Edutopia website by Sara Bernard, “educator Howard Gardner's seminal theory of multiple intelligences [indicates] that arts education -- including the visual arts, dance, music, and drama -- enhances a student's ability to acquire core academic skills. Study in painting or drawing, for example, can improve complex reasoning, writing, and reading readiness, partly because the critical and creative faculties required to generate and appreciate art transfer cognitively to future learning experiences, and partly because the arts make learning fun: A student personally invested in his or her work will be far more likely to stick with it.”

Not only are the TAPCO seniors getting into college, but they are doing splendidly once they’re there. TAPCO grad and FIT freshman Nazaury Delgado, for example, has just received the ‘most likely to succeed’ award. He and Jonathan Paredes, another really talented FIT freshman, both have maintained GPAs over 3.0.ortrait by Naze.

According to Neil Waldman, however, some of this could change. One of the students now at FIT, who has been living in the dorms rather than in his violent environment in the south Bronx, is in danger of losing his living arrangement on campus as the funding for his room and board diminish. This student’s predicament shines a light on how talent and opportunity can be overshadowed by a lack of resources at a critical time, and how the helping hands of The Children’s Aid Society and its supporters can make a real difference in a child’s life, with your help.

Richard R. Buery, Jr. President and Chief Executive Officer
The Children’s Aid Society

Health Disparities Can Negatively Impact Urban Youth Achievement

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In the great work of education...our physical condition, if not the first step in point of importance, is the first in order of time. On the broad and firm foundation of health alone can the loftiest and most enduring structures of the intellect be reared.” Horace Mann

Healthy bodies are a key element of healthy minds. According to a new research initiative by Columbia University’s Professor Charles E. Basch, the health conditions prevalent in today’s youth are not simply a statistic, they are a major cause of the educational crisis, known as the student achievement gap. There have been great nationwide efforts to close this gap by raising the caliber of our teachers through stringent certification, asking for higher academic standards, improving levels of accountability, and acting on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Yet, the student achievement gap – especially among urban minority youths – remains as wide as ever.

What we do know for sure is that physical and emotional health issues – asthma, visual problems, teen pregnancy, obesity, insufficient nutrition and hyperactivity – are unacceptably high and disproportionately affect low-income and urban minority youths. What we did not know before was exactly how these conditions, individually and combined, negatively impact overall academic achievement. Professor Basch categorizes five pathways through which this impairment occurs: sensory perception, cognition, school connectedness and engagement, absenteeism, and temporary/permanent dropping out.

What can we do to turn this around? Develop a multi-faceted strategy which addresses all the health priorities and their causal effects – simultaneously. The compelling research was presented recently at an event sponsored by the Teachers College’s Campaign for Educational Equity and moderated by The Children’s Aid Society’s Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools, Jane Quinn.

Additional comments from Jane Quinn, Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools at The Children’s Aid Society:

“Dr. Basch has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the integral relationship between health and education by putting rigorous science under common sense. The causal pathways analysis makes the connections clear and explicit, and Basch has offered practical ideas about ways that schools and community partners can work together to address these untenable health disparities.”

Children’s Aid Society’s Resources: An Education In Itself

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The importance of a good education cannot be overstated, and The Children’s Aid Society actively promotes education for all. As President Barack Obama said in his back-to-school address to the students in classrooms across the nation, in September of 2009; “…no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it.”

The Children’s Aid Society knows that school is the road to success, and offers a variety of services and materials to promote and support educational initiatives. Immigrant families in particular need to know that their children have a right to an education, and Children’s Aid has put together a document specifically for this group. It details exactly what is needed to register and enroll children in the public schools, as well as how to apply to receive free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches in school. Additionally, The Children’s Aid Society serves more than 2,500 preschool children, from age’s birth to five, in twelve different pre-school programs. Early childhood education has been found, again and again, to be tremendously important in the development of children, as important as issues of poverty. Moreover, The Children’s Aid Society offers programs ranging from after school homework assistance for students, to literacy assistance and GED preparation for youths ages fourteen to eighteen. With the help of Children’s Aid, children from all backgrounds receive the education and tools needed to achieve a successful future.