The Children's Aid Blog

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.

Three Ways To Celebrate Presidents' Day With Your Kids

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In 1971, the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, both in February, were combined into Presidents' Day which is celebrated on the third Monday of the month. Coinciding with Presidents' Day is the mid-winter recess. New York City children are out of school from February 21st thru the 27th. Don’t let the stubborn cold air keep your family from enjoying all the entertaining and educational activities throughout the city. Here are a few ways for your child to get the most out of their break:

Children's Aid Cares for Your Child's Smile

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The American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month every February to raise awareness on the importance of good oral hygiene. It is essential to teach children at an early age that brushing and flossing, along with regular dental visits, will keep their teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime.

The Children's Aid Society's dental clinics are based in our community schools and centers and provide quality dental care to children in New York City's underserved neighborhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention children and adolescents from lower-income families have more untreated tooth decay.

Children’s Aid Dental Services are designed to provide primary care such as:

  • Examinations
  • Restorative care (such as dental fillings)
  • Prophylaxis (dental cleaning)
  • Fluoride treatment and sealants
  • Referrals

Depending on where a patient lives, additional care is provided by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center or St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. Children's Aid, in partnership with the Orthodontic Program at St. Barnabas Hospital, in November 2006, added a school-based Orthodontic Clinic to its roster of dental services.

CAS-Carrera, Cupid and Careers at ASE

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Love – and the art of the deal -- is in the air at the Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship (ASE), where industrious participants in The Children’s Aid Society's Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) have launched a small business through “Job Club.”

Every day, ASE students in Grades 6-10 participate in Job Club, which is designed to introduce young people to the “world of work” and the array of career opportunities available, including an emphasis on the “green” industry and its tremendous potential for growth when students enter the full-time workforce. In activities led by a certified teacher, CAS-Carrera participants improve their financial literacy, hone their entrepreneurial skills, and develop life-long, positive financial decision-making.

A crucial part of Job Club is opening and maintaining an individual savings account for each young person. This year, nearly 770 CAS-Carrera participants in New York City will receive a stipend for their classroom and project-based learning sessions with one condition: that the monthly check each young person receives from CAS will be deposited in his or her bank account. These stipends are funded through individual donors.

This winter, ASE participants prepared gift baskets that contained scented, hand-crafted, soy-based candles and chocolates festooned with a heart-shaped balloon. And before putting the product out to market, the young people presented their business plan to program founder Dr. Michael A. Carrera (pictured at left), who discussed with them their practices related to research and development, business plan creation, purchasing, production, marketing and advertising, pricing strategies and order fulfillment. His recommendation: reinvest any profits realized back into their savings accounts.

According to Dr. Carrera, the gift basket sale “is illustrative of Job Club’s efforts to ensure that young people understand entrepreneurism, learn the importance of savings, and increase awareness of careers. The component’s long-term objective is that young people attend and complete college, and mature into taxpayers, not tax burdens.”

If you would like to support CAS-Carrera and Job Club, please click here.

New York Times Neediest Cases Fund and Children's Aid Help Families In Need

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The end of January marked the close of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund’s 99th Campaign. The New York Times highlighted stories of families that were helped by the fund through the seven beneficiary agencies. Assistance from The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund is used to help families meet an immediate need such as paying for food, school uniforms, winter clothing or to avoid eviction due to rent arrears. This fundraising campaign has raised more than $8 million annually thanks to the generous donations of its readers.

The Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy (OPCCA) at The Children’s Aid Society, one of the seven beneficiary agencies of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, screens requests from needy families and checks their eligibility for public benefits and other subsidies as well as provides legal advice and referrals during eviction proceedings. Thousands of families have benefited from OPPCA's work with The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

The Children’s Aid Society has been able to tap into the fund to help many families get through tough times due to job loss or illness. Here are a few cases that were highlighted this season by The New York Times:

One Woman Makes a Home for Many

Losing Wife, Man Becomes Cook and Caretaker to His Sons

Long Living Countries Apart Now Under One Roof

An Orphan in Her Teens, Determined to Get an Education

Click here to access a complete list of the this season's articles featuring The Children's Aid Society. Though the giving season has come to an end, please consider making a donation to The Children’s Aid Society to continue helping New York City’s neediest families.

TransCanada Supports Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program

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For youngsters who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HOH), it can be especially challenging to develop relationships with their peers and engage in social activities, but the experience of communicating and connecting is an important part of countering feelings of social isolation. It is important for every child to engage in social and recreational activities with peers to help him or her develop a sense of self-worth and belonging.

The Saturday Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Teens  held at The Children’s Aid Society’s Rhinelander Center  is the only free, weekend recreational program for Deaf young people in New York City. The Saturday Program was established in 1989, after a comprehensive city-wide youth needs assessment found that there were no weekend programs for Deaf children or teens in NYC.

This program relies on support from caring donors to continue to provide these services. TransCanada, a company focused on natural gas transmission and power services, has generously donated $20,000 to help the Saturday Program reach its goals of improving communication skills, building self-confidence, enhancing social skills and promoting community involvement among Deaf young people in NYC.

On Saturday, January 22, 2011 Anthony Schonfarber, Director of TransCanada’s Ravenswood Generating Facility in Long Island City, and Sharon Scott, Community Relations Coordinator visited the program. Youth played board games with staff members as they waited for a bus to whisk them off to a special visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, while the parents of the participants gathered to discuss high school and college educational options for the Deaf in and near New York City. “TransCanada and the Ravenswood Generating Station are proud to have the opportunity to support such a worth cause,” explains Schonfarber. “The Children’s Aid Society Saturday Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Teens is so very important to the participating young people. It gives the kids a chance to spend time in a safe and comfortable environment, learning life skills that will help them to realize their full potential. This is a key aspect of TransCanada’s Community Investment Program…partner with the community to improve quality of life, create hope, and establish new beginnings.”

The TransCanada donation will cover the costs of recreational and cultural trips for the rest of the year. “We offer a variety of trips and activities which are so important for the young people in our program,” commented Rhinelander’s Director, Laura Colin Klein. “They don’t get to go bowling, camping or to the theater on the weekends since their families often can’t afford these activities. And, even if they could, they would not have deaf friends with them. Our participants gain a broader sense of the world, a network of friends who share their challenges and they have a lot of fun.”