The Children's Aid Blog

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.

Kevon’s Choices

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story about Kevon Simpson and how with the help of our Next Generation Center and counselor, Leslie Smith is attending Erie Community College in Buffalo New York. The following is an excerpt from the original article, which was published in the November 30th issue of the New York Times.  


Kevon Simpson was 10 months old when his mother was gunned down. His grandmother, who raised him, was determined that he transcend the low expectations of so many people in their Bronx neighborhood.

With her support, Mr. Simpson, now 18, earned his high school diploma and graduated from Job Corps, a program run by the Department of Labor. Unsure what to do next, he sought information about joining the military from a counselor at the Next Generation Center, a Bronx facility for teens run by the Children’s Aid Society, one of seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

Read more…

To learn how you can make a difference for this family and many others, please link over to The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund or contact:

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund 230 West 41st Street Suite 1300 New York, NY 10036 (800) 381-0075

The Children’s Aid Society Cares for its Earth

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(Photo Courtesy of Ilene Pappert)

At The Children’s Aid Society, being eco-friendly and appreciating what the earth has to offer is an important value that is shared by families and staff.

(Photo Courtesy of Ilene Pappert)

From planting gardens of flowers and vegetables at our centers to recycling, being GREEN is implemented in many ways at our community centers and schools throughout the city.

(Photo Courtesy of Moria Cappio)

Photo Courtesy of Moria Cappio

In celebration of Earth Day, families at the East Harlem Center’s Early Childhood Program had Yoga class on the center’s roof top where they could appreciate the warm sunlight and give praise to Mother Nature’s blessings while learning how to stay fit with their little ones.

EcoFashions Club - (Lily Kesselman Photography)

Also, the Eco-Fashion and Green Design Club of M.S. 324, at the Mirabal Sisters Community School in Washington Heights, created wearable clothing out of recyclable materials such as newspapers, trash bags, bike parts and Metrocards. Club participants were able to strut their “recycled” stuff during the 9th Annual Children’s Art Show in February held at the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park.