The Children's Aid Blog

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."

The Herman Rosenberg Digital Experience Center Opens in East Harlem

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Through diverse programs and engaging activities, the goal at The Children’s Aid Society’s East Harlem Center is to provide under-resourced youth with the opportunity to access 21st-Century learning tools. Thanks to a donation made by the Estate of Herman Rosenberg to The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, The East Harlem Center Technology facility, a BGCA Clubhouse, has been expanded to include two advanced computer labs. These labs will serve as central gathering places or “hubs” for learning, artistic expression and intellectual exploration.

The enhanced capabilities of the new Herman Rosenberg Digital Experience Center include new computers, a portable Smart Board, a printer, music recording, editing and sound equipment and other advanced software and hardware. Clubhouse staff now have the ability to develop engaging, technology-based programming that will empower youth with increased confidence, skills and experiences. During the naming ceremony on Friday, February 25th, students gave presentations highlighting their newly acquired skills in areas such as animation, website design and music. Peter Bonola, an East Harlem Center student, introduced his web-related project. Peter along with Andrew Martin and Samantha Rodriguez won this year’s BGCA Web Tech Club North America Regional.

Given that so many children in the communities we serve lack regular access to computers, this gracious donation made by the Estate of Herman Rosenberg will ensure that young people at our East Harlem Center acquire the necessary tools to join the tech savvy workforce.

Talking With Your Teen About Sex

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March is National Talk with Your Teen about Sex Month. Though any month is the right time to have “the talk,” the purpose of this commemoration is to remind and encourage parents to open the lines of communication with their children regarding this subject. The Guttmacher Institute reports that seven in 10 teens of both sexes have had sexual intercourse by the age of 19 and according to the Center for Disease Control, teen pregnancies are on the rise once again. The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the industrialized world making NOW the best time to start talking to your teens about sex.

Important tips for parents to remember this & every month:

  • START EARLY. Talk with your children early, using age-appropriate language and examples. Waiting until adolescence may be too late.
  • Be honest about your own feelings of difficulty discussing such a sensitive and intimate topic.
  • Be realistic about the disadvantages of engaging in sexual activity too early, including sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and the possibility of becoming a single parent. Equally important are the advantages of waiting to have sex, such as being able to finish school and meeting career goals.
  • Reassure your children that you will be available to them whenever they need to talk. Expect them to come to you with follow-up questions.

Dr. Michael A. Carrera, Director, Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, says, "Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their own children, they have no choice about it; their only choice is how well or poorly they do it." Dr. Carrera recommends the following books:

It's Perfectly Normal by Robbie Harris
What's Happening to my Body: Book for Boys and What's Happening to my Body: Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras
What's Happening to Me? and Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle.

Community Schools Celebrate Diversity

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With all the snow and ice New York City has seen in the past few months, an evening celebrating the warmer climates is always welcome. This year’s African-American & Dominican Heritage Festival at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Children's Aid Society Community School in Washington Heights, celebrated carnivals from Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Mali, South Africa, Guinea and the United States’ own Mardi Gras—a theme fit to represent the diverse communities served by Children’s Aid services and programs.

Students, parents and staff from six Children’s Aid Society community schools in Washington Heights and East Harlem celebrated their heritage on Friday, February 18th, with a variety of foods prepared by staff and parents, costumes and colorful performances. Tables representing each country greeted visitors with displays of photos, maps and artwork. The Michael Dease Jazz Group played Mardi Gras tunes while guests sampled Sancocho, a traditional soup from the Dominican Republic and Bolinho de Bacalhau, a Brazilian appetizer made of cod fish. To close out the evening, over 100 students, ages 5-18, showcased a variety of musical performances inspired by the Carnivals of each country. The audience, packed to the max as always, could not hide their pride and joy as the cheers could easily be heard out on 196th street and Broadway.

Click here to view more photos from the 2011 African American & Dominican Heritage Festival!

Who Cares? The Children's Aid Society Does!

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Children living in poverty are less likely to experience appropriate early learning opportunities, and are more likely to attend failing schools and to suffer from preventable health problems such as asthma and obesity (click here to learn more). Human Services agencies provide critical programs that address these issues. Sadly, many of these programs are now in the crosshairs of looming budget cuts.

The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) knows how important it is to keep human services intact for New York City’s neediest children and families. CAS is showing it cares by becoming a lead advocate for the Who Cares? I Do! Campaign. Spearheaded by The Human Services Council, the campaign seeks to protect programs that improve the lives of so many New Yorkers by sending clear messages to New York State and City government officials. Campaign activities include collecting signatures for a petition and drawing attention to individual stories and the work of human services organizations.

Join The Children’s Aid Society in our efforts to maintain these life-saving programs and tell our elected officials that cuts in funding will only hurt already struggling and underserved New Yorkers.

Say You Care by:

Mexican Consulate on Wheels Visits East Harlem Center

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For the fifth time in the last four years, the East Harlem Center is hosting a five-day visit from the Mexican Consulate's ‘El Consulado Sobre Ruedas’ or ‘The Consulate on Wheels.’ Families and community members have the opportunity to obtain Mexican passports and Matricula Consular ID cards (which can be used to open a bank account).

Since the program first began coming to CAS, over 4000 documents have been processed. Many of our own CAS families have been able to take advantage of this service. Huge thanks to the Center’s Director, David Giordano, for graciously agreeing to host and to all the Early Childhood and Center staff members who work extra hard during the visit.

The Consulate will be at the East Harlem Center through Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 9:00-3:00. Please see the attached flyer for the required documents. Feel free to pass along the information to interested families in your programs and neighborhoods.

The Children’s Aid Society is very proud to provide this valuable service to the East Harlem neighborhood and to the larger Mexican community.

Children’s Aid Celebrates School-Based Health Centers

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All across the country, school-based health centers are being celebrated for the measurable impact they have on the lives of children and their families. For many families who are under-insured or uninsured, the school-based clinic is often their first and only stop when in need of health care. Children’s Aid is celebrating National School-Based Health Center Month by taking elected officials on tours of the clinic at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez campus in Washington Heights so that they may get a firm understanding of the benefits provided to the children and families we serve. Parents and children will also give testimonies describing the impact SBHCs have had on their everyday lives.

The Children’s Aid Society School-Based Health Centers provides parents with comprehensive health care for their children without causing them to miss a day of work. For many in today’s uneasy economy, missing work is simply not an option. And for children, these clinics provide a safe and comfortable environment to address health concerns without having to miss a school day. SBHC’s keeps students healthy and in school because healthy students make better learners.

“School Based Health Centers are a low cost, effective model for delivering health care to students” says Lorena Jimenez-Castro, Government Affairs Liaison for The Children’s Aid Society. “In Washington Heights alone, The Children’s Aid Society operates five health centers and serves 4,200 students. We invite government officials to visit the health centers to learn about how we help students thrive – socially, physically, and academically. The future of New York depends on having healthy and successful students now.”

Bringing the Arts to Communities in Need

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Photos by Spencer Lum

According to a 2005 Harris Survey Poll, more than 90% percent of the general public believes that consistent involvement in arts instruction leads to a well-rounded education.  Yet studies show that children from low-income neighborhoods are less likely to be involved in school-based arts activities. The Children's Aid Society believes that young people in our community schools and centers should have the opportunity to experience the arts. At Children’s Aid locations in the Bronx, East Harlem and Washington Heights, children can participate in visual arts, creative writing, dance, music and theater.

In December, I was lucky to sit in on a Ballet class at The Dunlevy Milbank Center. What a treat to see the girls, most in big pink tutus, rehearsing for an upcoming recital.

And in just a few months, Alvin Ailey Camp participants in Washington Heights and Staten Island will dance their way through the summer (see video below). Also coming soon is the annual Children's Aid Art Show. Beautiful artwork made by participants throughout the entire agency will be on display at The National Arts Club.

Exposure to arts instruction provides children with an avenue of self-expression and improves their self confidence. In a previous post, Marjorie Caparosa, Arts & Leadership Coordinator, East Harlem Center, Children’s Aid, weighed in on the topic:

"Providing programs that encourage children to express themselves through the arts is perhaps the most valuable gift we can offer our youth. Here at East Harlem Center our curriculum is designed to inspire creativity while allowing children to articulate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. With our multidisciplinary approach to programming, participants flourish as they learn about different cultures, holidays, artists, literature, etc. through the arts. Visual arts, dance, music and drama promote teamwork and leadership skills as well providing an outlet for our youth to express themselves. East Harlem Center’s young artists celebrate their creativity and build self-esteem through their participation in arts programs at our site."

Additional Information: Click here to see a complete photo gallery of the Dunlevy Milbank Ballet Class.