The Children's Aid Blog

Richard Buery, Children's Aid President and CEO, Addresses the New York State Budget Agreement

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The New York State Legislature and the Governor reached an agreement late Wednesday night on the Fiscal Year 11-12 budget, where a $10 billion shortfall was closed by spending cuts in education and health and human services. Most of these cuts will have a profoundly negative effect on New York's most vulnerable citizens.

Despite attempts by certain members of the Legislature to cover part of the shortfall by extending the “Millionaires Tax” for individuals with the highest incomes, I am disappointed that the Governor and Legislature decided that increasing the overwhelming divide between the wealthiest families and those living in poverty was the best way to balance the budget.

These cuts will be compounded when the City passes its budget in the coming months. Mayor Bloomberg, who has been an outspoken critic of the State budget agreement, said, "Make no mistake: the final budget still cuts New York City more than ever before. The restorations are merely a fraction of the $600 million necessary to avoid additional layoffs and cuts in the City's budget."

As budgets at the federal, state and local levels are negotiated, programs that support low-income and disconnected youth have been disproportionately affected. The achievement gap between children in poverty and their peers is already far too wide – and the programs being cut are ones that have proven effective in narrowing the gap with regard to academics and lifelong outcomes, while also saving taxpayer dollars in the long term.

The negotiations did result in some limited restorations of critical programs, including the rejection of $91 million of proposed cuts to human service programs. The restoration will fund summer youth employment and home visiting programs, among others. In addition, the budget does not make cuts to core child welfare services.

The final budget also rejected the Governor’s proposal to create a Primary Prevention Incentive Program (PPIP) that would have collapsed and significantly cut funding for nine programs that help New York's most vulnerable children and families, such as after-school programs, which are distributed to counties or community-based agencies. However, only $8.7 million was restored of the nearly $50 million.

Even as we applaud the rejection of PPIP, the cuts of 50% to some of these programs will have a devastating impact on the lives of children and families. The Children's Aid Society's ability to provide high-quality expanded learning opportunities through after-school and summer programs will be profoundly impacted. Cutting these program dollars unfairly diminishes the opportunities for children to break the generational cycle of poverty.

Richard Buery
President and CEO
The Children's Aid Society

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Students Learning Heart Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

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Above: Health Educators Anne Steinfeld and Julia Linesch (not pictured) from the Healthy Promotion Learning Lab, talk to teens about the harmful ingredients in cigarrettes.

In Washington Heights, an impoverished community in upper Manhattan, approximately 47% of children are overweight or obese. Thanks to a Community Impact Grant funded by the American Heart and American Stroke Associations, 11th graders at the City College Academy of the Arts, housed at the Salome Ureña de Henríquez Campus (SUCA) in Washington Heights, are participating in weekly healthy cooking and cardiovascular health education classes to become better equipped in the fight against this epidemic.

During weekly cooking classes, students learn about healthier alternatives to fast foods and create nutritious meals on their own that they can prepare at home. The cardiovascular health education classes bring these high school juniors face to face with the risks that come along with unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. They are also learning about the lifelong ill effects of cigarette smoking and how to avoid becoming influenced by the teen-targeted advertising by cigarette companies.

"We have to do this every year! The students love the cooking classes and most importantly, they are learning to cook healthy, delicious meals” said Burnedette Drysdale, Principal of the City College Academy of the Arts. “Also, the cardiovascular health classes are so informative and eye opening; the Children's Aid Society and American Heart Association are really helping the students to understand the importance of healthy living.”

Richard Buery, Children's Aid President and CEO, Responds to the Recent Indictment of Two Former ACS Staff

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I am deeply concerned by last week’s news of the criminal indictment of two former ACS child protective staff in connection with the horribly tragic death of four-year-old Marchella Pierce. There is no doubt that the allegations—failing to make home visits to a struggling family and falsifying case records—are very serious charges that deserve a strong response and meaningful consequences. Yet, treating these allegations as criminal is clearly unprecedented in New York. I worry about what impact doing so will have on New York City's ability to attract and retain talented staff to do the difficult and uncelebrated work of keeping New York City's most vulnerable children safe.

During the endless cycle of budget cuts these past few years, the Administration for Children's Services has seen its budget cut disproportionately when compared to the uniformed services. Make no mistake: although child protective workers do not wear uniforms, they are every bit as important to the safety of this City as New York City's bravest and finest. They do this work at great personal risk and for little pay. Ultimately, we must ensure that these indictments do not distract us from the need to reverse these systemic under-investments in the child welfare system. The children of our City will not be safe otherwise.

Ensuring the safety of the children we serve will remain at the forefront of The Children’s Aid Society’s work. Our hearts go out to Marchella.

Richard Buery
President and CEO
The Children's Aid Society

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

CAS Beverage Policy: Getting a Head Start on a Healthy Lifestyle

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The new CAS Beverage Policy is in full effect. Children in the Head Start program at P.S. 5, a Children’s Aid Community School, celebrated the policy by decorating their own special water cups. They even stacked the cups to resemble the food pyramid!

“We lined up at the best watering hole, NYC tap water faucets, and toasted to the new beverage policy with intentions to drink more water, less soda, cut 100% juice with water, and set the example for children and families” said Tamara M. Royal, Education Director at the P.S. 5 Head Start program.

During their recent “Family Day,” a juice bar was set up so that children, parents and staff could “cut” the juice with water themselves. A nutritionist also taught the group about the high sugar content in soda.

As of March 1st, all Children’s Aid staff and clients joined the fight against unhealthy eating by cutting their consumption of flavored milk, sodas and sports drinks. This is just another step in the agency’s overall mission to educate the communities we serve about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Cheers to drinking more water!

Keeping Young Hearts Healthy

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During the month of February, The Children’s Aid Society’s School Based Health Center at the Salome Ureña de Henríquez Campus (SUCA) in Washington Heights launched a “Quick Heart Check Up” campaign to celebrate American Heart Month. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Over 250 students from the SUCA campus had their Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure checked and received education on cardiovascular health.

Gifts were given as incentives to come into the clinic for the exams and the students were able to take home the information to share with their parents. About 85 of these patients had abnormal BMI levels and were scheduled for a follow up visit with the Nurse Practitioner for further testing and nutrition counseling.

This was all made possible by a Community Impact Grant funded by the American Heart and American Stroke Associations which currently provide Cardiovascular Health and nutritional cooking classes during the school day to high school juniors at SUCA.

New York Jets Star Santonio Holmes Visits Children's Aid Center

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It is not every day that inner city kids get to meet someone they see on T.V. or on the gridiron at the New Meadowlands Stadium. On Wednesday, March 9th, Santonio Holmes, wide receiver for the New York Jets, visited The Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center and talked to a lucky group of approximately 25 kids from the Bridge Middle School Program. Holmes and his close friend Cerge Sincere wanted to share their passion for working with youth through their new venture called 2DREAM, Inc. Santonio and Cerge described the core values of their mission and shared their own stories of personal struggle. They wanted the young ears listening to know that the recipe for success is not only about having a dream, but also requires Discipline, Responsibility, Education, the right Attitude and Motivation.

The center's youth were asked to share their own stories of facing adversity and to talk about what or who motivates them. Many cited family members. Mrs. Johnita Adams-Raspberry, Frederick Douglass Center’s Assistant Director said that she draws motivation from the kids who attend the center and for whom she works so hard on a daily basis. Mrs. Adams-Rasberry went on to say, “It was a great pleasure to have Santonio Holmes visit the Bridge Middle School Program. On behalf of the Frederick Douglass Center we appreciate the time Mr. Holmes spent with the children and we want to say Thank You!”

Children's Aid Families Speak Out Against Proposed Cuts to Youth Programs

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Over 50 youth and their parents represented The Children’s Aid Society at a rally on March 9th supporting New York City youth programs. The New York City Youth Alliance, Beacons Unite, The Campaign for Summer Jobs, Coalition for Out Of School Time, and the Campaign for Tomorrow’s Workforce were also among the supporters who joined together to voice their concerns to city, state, and federal elected officials about possibly losing these vital youth services.

New York City is facing devastating cuts to youth programs including after school, beacon programs, summer jobs, literacy and job training. Many will be forced to close if these cuts are realized. Kids and families NEED these programs now. Prior to the rally, nonprofit organizations gathered at a press conference to talk about the devastating effects budget cuts will have on youth services. Council Member Lewis A. Fidler, Chair of the Committee on Youth Services, spoke about how important it is to prevent youth and social services from being on the chopping block.

“After-School programs provide a safe and learning environment for us youth” said 8th grader Selena Valentin to Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez at the rally. Selena is a student at the Roberto Clemente Campus, a Children’s Aid Society Community School that provides its students with after-school programs. “We better ourselves, stay out of trouble and prepare for the future. We need after-school programs to help us become all that we can be.”

Click here to learn how you can take action to help prevent these devastating and unprecedented cuts.

New Early Head Start Program Unveiled at Washington Heights Community School

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The Children’s Aid Society’s (CAS) early childhood model is a comprehensive approach to the education of our youngest participants to help them develop a life-long love of learning that also deeply engages parents and caregivers. CAS has home-based, school-based, and center-based Early Childhood programs. Joining this portfolio is the P.S. 152 Community School Early Head Start Program. On the afternoon of Friday, March 4th, CAS staff, parents, elected officials and some of the cutest 0-3 year olds unveiled the newest Early Head Start program in Washington Heights.

The period from birth to five is a vital time of life during which significant transformations take place. Children acquire the basic skills that serve as the foundation for later learning and families establish the daily routines that will support their children’s healthy development. Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares were in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony and voiced their support of such programs. This is particularly important because funding for this, and other early childhood programs, is under attack.

Early Head Start, Head Start and child care funding are at risk of significant cuts as Congress continues to negotiate the current year’s budget. New York families stand to lose a tremendous amount if these cuts are passed. Sixty families that participate in Early Head Start at The Children’s Aid Society would lose their program.

Click "Play" below to watch NY1's coverage of the Early Head Start Unveiling. The video features Katherine Eckstein, Director of Public Policy at Children's Aid, discussing the need to protect federal funding for Early Head Start programs.

Click here to learn how you can take action to help prevent these devastating and unprecedented cuts.

CAS Community School Students Lead School-Based Health Center Tour

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The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) celebrated National School-Based Health Center Awareness Month by taking newly-elected New York State Assemblyman Guillermo Linares (pictured above) on a tour of the School-Based Health Center (SBHC) at the Salome Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Children’s Aid Community School in Washington Heights.

The tour took place during the Children’s Aid Society’s Community School African-American and Dominican Heritage Festival on February 18, 2011 and was led by students and grandparents who proudly guided Assemblyman Linares around the site. Mr. Linares was able to see where students meet with social workers, nurses and dentists. Genesis, a student who visits the SBHC, said the staff is always nice to her. Her favorite health center service is dental because “they make my teeth look beautiful.” Genesis is very excited about getting braces later this year at the SBHC Orthodontic Clinic also located in the Salome Ureña de Henriquez Campus.

Erwin Murga, the grandfather of two SBHC patients, shared how his granddaughter needed seven immunizations this year and all were administered right in her school. “If it weren’t for the SBHC, who knows how many times I would have had to take them to the doctor. Having a health center in the school is a blessing.”

Members of the welcoming committee included Richard Buery Jr., President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, Bill Weisberg, Executive Vice President and COO of CAS; Katherine Eckstein, CAS Director of Public Policy; Lorena Jimenez-Castro, CAS Government Liaison and Adria Cruz, CAS School Health Services Manager. Also present was Jane Lima-Negron, co-executive director of the New York State School-Based Health Center Coalition.

Assembly Member Linares was a gracious guest and he shared how he has been a SBHC champion in previous public service roles and looks forward to continuing to work on behalf of the children of the community he represents and beyond.

Children's Aid Celebrates National Social Work Month

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Since 1984, National Social Work Month has served as a time to celebrate the profession and to educate the public on the positive impact social workers have on communities across the country. Social workers help individuals cope with and solve issues in their everyday lives, such as serious domestic conflicts, disabilities, life-threatening diseases, inadequate housing, unemployment and substance abuse.

Social workers also play a key role in providing mental health support, a fundamental part of The Children’s Aid Society’s efforts to address the physical and emotional well-being of children and families. The Children's Aid Society established licensed mental health services in five community centers in 1973. In addition, mental health services have been a part of our community school model since it was launched in 1992 at the Salomé Ureña de Henriquez Campus (I.S. 218) in Washington Heights. Social Work professionals in our community centers and schools provide children and family members with confidential counseling, group therapy, emergency assessments, referrals and crisis intervention.

The Theme for this year’s National Social Work Month is “Social Workers Change Futures.” Here at Children’s Aid our social workers do everything possible to ensure bright futures and to further our mission of helping "children in poverty succeed and thrive."