The Children's Aid Blog

President and CEO Rich Buery discusses how public education is failing black students

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It is an incontrovertible truth: public education in America is failing black students.  This summer's report from the Schott Foundation demonstrated how badly; in New York City, only 28% of New York City’s black males graduated on time in 2007-08, while 50% of whites did.[1] The Council of the Great City Schools more recent report ‘A Call for Change’ indicates that less than one in every eight black boys is proficient in reading and math by the fourth grade.  White boys were 3-4 times more successful than their black peers on national assessment exams.  Most distressing was the news that white boys who live in poverty performed just as well on the exams as black boys who do not live in poverty.

America is built on a basic idea: that all children have an equal opportunity to live their dreams.  These reports make painfully clear that the real achievement gap is the one between our idea of America and our reality -- at least as it exists for black boys.  And these racial disparities are not limited to education; they exist in all of the systems we have developed to support children in need.  For example, racial disparities in the child welfare system are well documented.  A recent National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (2010) found that black parents are more likely to be reported for child neglect, even though black parents are less likely to abuse and neglect their children than white parents.  This was true even when controlling for poverty.  Investigation rates of black parents are also higher than that of white parents, and blacks are less likely to receive preventive services and more likely to lose their children to foster care.  The Department of Health and Human Services reports that, once abuse and neglect was affirmed, black children were thirty-six percent more likely than whites to be placed in foster care.

In New York City, police officers engage in a stop-and-frisk policy which affects blacks at a much higher rate than whites.  According to a Columbia University report, blacks were nine times more likely to be stopped by the police than whites between 2004 and 2009.  However, these stops were no more likely to yield the arrest of a black individual than a white one.[2] Policies like stop-and-frisk that push the limits of the law contribute to the disproportionate involvement of black youth in the justice system.  The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% while white males have a 6% chance.

This is an economic and a political crisis.  Economically, we simply cannot afford the lost human potential represented by generations of black boys denied the opportunity to live to their truest potential.  In a global economy rife with competition, we need all hands on deck.  More importantly, how can we as a nation continue to thrive when, over 55 years after Brown v Board of Education, there is such an obvious disconnect between America's constitutional values and our educational practice?  Income inequality is at an its highest level since the census bureau began tracking household income in 1967, and  intergenerational mobility in the US is lower than nearly all Western nations.  Our nation is becoming more fractured.  This cannot continue.

Sadly, as much as we know about the types of interventions that are required to prevent tragic outcomes, we largely ignore them.  From their earliest years, black children need mentors, effective schools, health care and family support to succeed.  They need a commitment that those institutions that were conceived to build them up will stop tearing them down.

Richard R. Buery, Jr.
President and CEO
The Children's Aid Society

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

Influenza Season: Get Your Little Ones Vaccinated

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It’s that time of year again. The runny noses, coughing and aches can make a child’s day-to-day activities near impossible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all children 6 months to 19 years old receive the seasonal flu vaccine. CDC experts have updated the vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu season (because flu viruses change every year, the vaccine is updated annually). So even if you or your children got a flu vaccine last year, you both still need to get a flu vaccine this season to be protected.

This vaccine protects against three different flu viruses that they believe will cause the most illnesses. For those children under the age of 5, as well as those with long-term health conditions like diabetes and asthma, it is especially important to be vaccinated because they are at a greater risk of complications due to the flu. It is also important for the following groups of people to get vaccinated in order to protect them from the flu:

  • Those who come in close contact with children younger than 5 years old (people who live with them)
  • Out-of-home caregivers (nannies, daycare providers, etc.) of children younger than 5 years old
  • People who live with or have other close contact with a child or children of any age with a chronic health problem (asthma, diabetes, etc.)
  • All health care workers

Children should begin to receive the vaccination as soon as it becomes available. Though the first cases of the flu begin as early as October, the flu season can carry into December, January and later into the winter. 

For information, visit ""

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Children’s Aid Brings CSI to East Harlem

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The National Award Winning Children’s Aid Society East Harlem Center Keystone Club is already working on establishing their career paths. Following their interest in shows like CSI: Miami, Law & Order and Dexter, the youth worked on a project that brought the world of Crime Scene Investigation to the East Harlem Center. The project is also a requirement for the club to maintain their Gold Status membership.

The Keystone members, along with their mentor Midge Caparosa, East Harlem Center’s Arts & Leadership Coordinator, sought out the help of the New York City Medical Examiners and District Attorney’s offices who provided professionals to talk on the subject. The youth worked on a mystery script, which they acted out at a center-wide event hosted by the Keystoners themselves on Wednesday, November 3rd! CSI: East Harlem, the evening’s theme, was filled with chilling accounts of a love triangle gone wrong. On hand to help the audience weave through the crime scene evidence and disturbing testimonies was a panel of professionals that included Missing Persons Detective Roberto Santos, Mystery/Crime Novelist Doug Magee, NYC Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent Tranchida and Assistant District Attorneys Shanda Strain and Jung Park.

Congratulations to the Keystoners for following their dreams!

Photos Courtesy of Midge Caparosa

Children’s Aid Society Foster and Adoptive Mother Honored As ‘ANGEL IN ADOPTION’

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Every year, through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Angels in Adoption program, members of Congress honor an individual, family or organization from their district that has made a difference in the lives of children in need of a family. Congressman Michael McMahon of Staten Island, New York nominated Merle Ellis as his Angel in Adoption this year. 

Ms. Ellis has been a foster and adoptive parent since 1999, opening up her home and her heart to 50 children, eight of whom she has adopted. "We asked her to adopt us. I just like being with her - I thought that she would make a good mother" says Ms. Ellis’s adoptive son Timothy who she first fostered at the age of 10 years old along with his sister. 

 We are grateful to Congressman McMahon for honoring Ms. Ellis, a foster and adoptive mother who has worked tirelessly with The Children’s Aid Society to help provide a safe and loving home to children in crisis,” said Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society.

The Children’s Aid Society finds homes for more than 500 children each year in our foster care program, which includes such specialized services as family foster care, medical foster care, therapeutic foster care and services for teens aging out of foster care. 

"When I heard I got this award, I said, 'Why me? Why me?'" she said. "I didn't do this for the awards or anything. I just did it for my heart."

To read more about this Angel, please click here!

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Pursuing the American Dream Through Education

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Leaving her loved ones back home in the Dominican Republic, Betty Sanchez arrived in New York City four years ago in pursuit of a better education so that she may one day provide for her mother back home. She joined The Children’s Aid Society first by attending ESL classes offered by the Adult Program at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus. She then provided worked organizing supplies for its GED program and with students in the after-school program. 

When an opportunity arose to attend college courses at Hostos Community College through the Center for After-School Excellence at The After School Corporation (TASC), Miguel Balbuena, the Assistant Commuity School Director at Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, encouraged Betty to take the next step in accomplishing her educational and personal goal. The TASC program funded 12 college credits and also helped Betty earn a professional certification in after-school. Betty was promoted and received a raise. “Due to the promotion,” she says proudly, “I was able to get my own apartment with my sister.” She is now about to earn her Associate’s degree and plans to continue her studies in the field of Early Childhood Education.

Betty Sanchez shares a firm understanding of the importance of education to her own independence and personal success, much like Salomé Ureña de Henríquez (1850-1897). De Henríquez was a revered Dominican poet, feminist and educator who founded the first school for girls in the Dominican Republic in 1881. Congratulations to Betty!

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November is National Adoption Month

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November is National Adoption Month. This year’s campaign targets the 115,000 children currently in foster care who are awaiting a safe and nurturing home. 

“I call upon all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find homes for every child in America in need of a permanent and caring family, as well as to support the families who care for them,” said President Barack Obama in his Presidential Proclamation. He also announced that the 11th Annual National Adoption Day will be celebrated on Saturday, November 20th, which gives the courts the opportunity to open their doors to finalize the adoptions of children in foster care.

At The Children’s Aid Society, the Foster Care program provides specialized services including Family Foster Care, Medical Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care and services for teens "aging out" of foster care. Today, Children's Aid finds homes for more than 500 children each year. Children’s Aid ensures that these temporary homes are safe and nurturing by training foster parents and supervising the families while the children are in their care. But because what is most important is that children find a permanent home either with an adoptive family or their birthparents, our work focuses on providing tremendous support to the children, their foster parents and their birthparents.

National Adoption Month is a coordinated effort between the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau, Child Welfare Information Gatewayand AdoptUsKids.

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Children’s Aid Families March to State Office Building in Support of Afterschool Programs

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Approximately 200 children and their families marched from The Children’s Aid Society Dunlevy Milbank Center to the State Office Building Plaza in Harlem as part of the nationwide Lights On Afterschool celebration on Thursday, October 21, 2010. Once there, parents, children and Children’s Aid staff delivered testimony and presented letters to Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblymember Keith L. T. Wright.

Lights On Afterschool, now in its 11th year, is designed to highlight the importance of afterschool programs that keep children safe, educated and entertained in the hours after school. One-million Americans will be participating in 7,500 Lights On Afterschool events across the country.

Children’s Aid’s Dunlevy Milbank Center promotes the holistic development of students in afterschool activities ranging from educational enhancement, homework assistance, dance, arts and crafts, sports and nutrition. Dunlevy Milbank is one of twelve Children’s Aid Society sites celebrating afterschool programming during Lights On Afterschool.

Here is how other sites celebrated:

Manhattan Center for Science and Math High School held a lunchtime rally where over 200 students discussed the need for afterschool. A petition was signed and a mural was also created that expresses the shared thoughts and feelings regarding afterschool programs.



20 students at the Rhinelander Children’s Center helped to create a poster that was sent out to funders, government officials and about 600 Rhinelander families electronically. The children discussed why they think having a good after school program is important and the poster is in their words.

East Harlem Center Celebrates National Day for Kids With A Healthy Meal Thanks to Wal-Mart

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Every year The Boys & Girls Clubs of America sets aside one day to celebrate and honor children by having the significant adults in their lives spend meaningful time with them. It's about celebrating kids -- children, grandchildren or any child in need of mentoring.

On September 30th, the Children’s Aid’s East Harlem Center Boys & Girls Club celebrated Day For Kids by inviting parents to spend the afternoon playing games with their children. As the youth celebrated, they did so with nutritious food courtesy of a Wal-Mart Summer Food Program grant. Four Children’s Aid Society community centers and schools in East Harlem, Harlem and Washington Heights were recipients of a Wal-Mart Summer Food Program grant, which provided funding over the last three months for nutritious foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain crackers, as well as awareness of healthy eating habits.

The goal of Day for Kids is to inform and encourage adults that spending time with children, time that is rich in activity and focus, helps children in many aspects of life. It also reminds parents that self-reflection is necessary as parents and caregivers in order to improve relationships with kids.

NY State Senator Rubén Diaz Honored at The Children’s Aid Society in the Bronx

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On October 6, New York State Senator Rubén Diaz was honored for his support of the audio/video room at The Children’s Aid Society Next Generation Center in the South Bronx. Thanks to Senator Diaz’s assistance, the center, which serves neighborhood teens, as well as those aging out of foster care, now features a state-of-the-art A/V room designed to build young people’s creative and technical skills. William Weisberg, The Children’s Aid Society’s Chief Operating Officer, described Senator Diaz as a “champion of young people.” 

Cutting the ribbon at The Children’s Aid Society Next Generation Center are (left to right) Cordale Manning, 18; New York State Assembly Member Marcos Crespo; Karon Porter, Technology Coordinator; New York State Senator Rubén Diaz; Fateem Smith, 16.

Children’s Aid Wants You To Be Safe This Halloween

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You might see ghosts and you might see goblins but these scary costumes may not be the only thing causing a fright this Halloween. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of deaths among child pedestrians ages 5 to 14 is four times as many on Halloween evening than any other evening of the year. At The Children’s Aid Society we want all children and their families to be extra cautious this Halloween. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released “Lucky 13” Tips for a Safe Halloween with important information on the risks and how to stay safe this weekend.

For a Safe and Fun Halloween, remember:

  1. Wear bright, reflective costumes or add strips of reflective tape so you’ll be more visible; make sure the costumes aren’t so long that you’re in danger of tripping.
  2. Don’t eat candy until it has been inspected at home.
  3. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
  4. Trick-or-treaters should eat a snack before heading out, so they won’t be tempted to nibble on treats that haven’t been inspected.
  5. Wear makeup and hats rather than masks that can obscure your vision.
  6. Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if additives in your makeup are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use it.
  7. Don’t wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional and gotten a proper lens fitting and instructions for using the lenses.
  8. Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.