The Children's Aid Blog

"Wild Thing" play a real theater-going experience at the Children's Aid Society's Philip Coltoff Center

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This spring at the Philip Coltoff Center, theater-going children and adults alike were enthralled by the sight of a young-at-heart dad dragged off by monsters for a dose of discipline.  The play, "Wild Thing" by Resident Playwright Monica Flory, was put on by The New Acting Company, The Children's Aid Society's theater company and school soon to celebrate its 10 year anniversary.

Inspired by the well-loved children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak, this play was well suited for children ages 4 through Adult. The costumes and staging just added to the fun as Rohana Elias-Reyes from nytheatre.com said, "The New Acting Company takes producing for kids seriously; they don't skimp on lighting, costumes, sound and set and this creates a real theatergoing experience." This is just the latest installment from The New Acting Company, which specializes in exciting productions for families, including "The Jungle Book", "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" & "Alice In Wonderland" just a few favorites from previous seasons.  The New Acting Company, created, founded and lead by Artistic Director, Stephen Michael Rondel is a fun, safe and creative place for students of all ages to explore the world of acting.

In the Kitchen Youth Learn about Cooking, Life

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Kitchen work is busy work: slicing, dicing, basting, baking, tasting. There is much to learn, including the deliciousness of fresh, natural foods, how to choose the best ingredients, plan nutritional menus and follow recipes correctly.  Learning to cook is an essential skill, but also stands as a metaphor for life - developing skills, planning, proper implementation...and living a healthy life. The Children's Aid Society knows the recipe for teaching the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, and we take part in several culinary educational programs. "Fun Food, Smart Food" is a 12-week cooking and nutrition program for middle school-age youth (grades 5-8) empowering young people to learn cooking skills, develop a passion for healthful food and to benefit from healthful food choices. After-school classes, which meet at sites in Brooklyn and Harlem, help students learn hands-on cooking and nutrition lessons. Utilizing fresh, healthful foods is the goal, and field trips to local greenmarkets and farms reinforce classroom work. Fresh Direct and Baby Buggy donate food to the program, which is a collaboration of the Department of Youth and Community Development and The Children's Aid Society, in partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Office of the Food Policy Coordinator. The program is scheduled to expand in fall 2009 to the South Bronx and Jamaica.

The Children's Aid Society has also teamed up with the Food Network and Share Our Strength® with the opening of the first Good Food Garden in New York City at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. Share our Strength tells us that one out of six kids in America is at risk of going hungry.  Good Food Gardens is a multigenerational learning opportunity, with toddlers, teens and seniors working side by side to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. The produce is used in The Children's Aid Society's Go!Chefs program, which makes healthy cooking and eating both fun and accessible for young people, ages two through 21. (You're never too young to learn prepare and enjoy "real food"). Take a tour with this blogger here. We'll look at all the Go!Chef  programs, including the Go!Kids early childhood obesity prevention program, in more detail in a future blog. Feed the body, feed the mind!

Photos Courtesy of Lily Kesselman

Founder of The Children's Aid Society, Charles Loring Brace understood the Power of Education

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For over 150 years The Children's Aid Society has been a leader in assistance to needy children, with the ultimate goal of helping them become healthy and productive adults. Founder Charles Loring Brace believed that by filling the gaps between what children deserve and what life has dealt them, they would prosper. Education has been an anchor of The Children's Aid Society; Today, Children's Aid continues to be an education leader, operating community schools in New York City in partnership with the Department of Education.

Charles Loring Brace knew that the role of the education system should provide more for children than the typical education provided in the 19th century; it should offer a community of support and multiple services to the child. The phrase "the child is the father of the man" coined by William Wordsworth, was a popular phrase in the 19th century and was surely embraced by Charles Loring Brace. It speaks to the growth to adulthood requiring a strong foundation in childhood.

The schools operated by The Children's Aid Society in New York City are open early, close late, and are open evenings, weekends and summers. These community schools serve as more than a place where children attend classes. With a familiar and nourishing environment, children can also receive medical and dental care, speak to a counselor about a problem, stay after school to build reading skills, play chess, work on a computer, take art and music lessons, get help with homework, practice sports and attend summer camp: "school days" that provide a strong foundation to aid in growing to prosperous adulthood. And parents find a new center of their community.

2009 Report: 15,000 Youth are Homeless in New York City: The Children's Aid Society's Housing Programs Fight Back!

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This spring the Coalition for the Homeless released its annual "State of the Homeless 2009" report, an assessment of homelessness in New York City. The report finds that there are currently more than 36,000 homeless New Yorkers sleeping in municipal shelters each night - including an astonishing 15,500 children. The report states that high unemployment and rising housing costs were major factors that led to a serious increase in families ending up in shelters in 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009.

It was the homelessness of impoverished children who lived on the streets of New York City that helped propel Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children's Aid Society, to action in 1853. Today, more than 150 years later, The Children's Aid Society in New York still believes that every child belongs with a family in a safe place that he or she can call home. We provide many services for housing youth and their families, including:

  • The Carmel Hill Project provides social services to residents in three renovated apartment buildings on West 118th Street.
  • Children's Aid Society's Pelham Fritz Apartments, provide apartments for homeless families on the road to permanent housing.
  • The Children's Aid Society's Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy helps families resolve housing issues by providing legal and financial assistance.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless' report, data from the past two New York City recessions points to continued growth of unemployment and high housing costs, which will increase homelessness in New York City throughout 2009. With growing need,The Children's Aid Society's programs are more critical than ever.

New Jersey Students Bring the Orphan Trains to Life – and Make a Donation to Children's Aid

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Pictured: C. Warren Moses (far right) with the student stars of "The Orphan Train" at The Elisabeth Morrow School.

The eighth grade students at The Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood, New Jersey mounted a production of Aurand Harris’ “The Orphan Train” play on May 6th and 7th. In lieu of charging admission, the young actors requested donations for The Children’s Aid Society. The students raised almost $690 – and awareness amongst their friends and families – for Children’s Aid.

Charles Loring Brace, the founder of The Children’s Aid Society, began the Orphan Train movement in the 1850s to combat the harsh life faced by many children on the streets of New York City. He proposed that these children be sent by train to live and work with families on farms out west. More than 120,000 children were moved between the 1850s and 1920s.

C. Warren Moses, the CEO of Children’s Aid, was a special guest on the play’s opening night. Mr. Moses thoroughly enjoyed the production, which chronicled the stories of several children who traveled on the Orphan Trains to the Midwest seeking adoptive families. After the play, he spoke to the audience about the history of the Orphan Trains and Children’s Aid’s current work in New York City.

Photo courtesy of The Elisabeth Morrow School

Teen ACTION Club Wins Free Trip and New Service Learning Opportunities

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post3cas-66-1As part of a Service Learning Grant awarded to the Teen ACTION Club at Children's Aid Society's Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics community school by New York City's Department of Youth and Community Development, students embarked on a month-long canned food drive in collaboration with ASPIRA.

Beginning in early November and extending through mid-December, the teens collected 9,900 cans of food for local food pantries! In the process, they learned about homelessness and poverty and its impact on our communities.

Teen ACTION students met outside of their regular club hours to assist with the counting and boxing of the cans, and even assisted the local pantries with loading the trucks for deliveries.  They did a remarkable job and their work did not go unnoticed.

Another service learning agency that participated in the project, The League, recognized their efforts and awarded our students 15 free Jet Blue tickets to fly anywhere the airline flies and perform service activities in the destination of their choice.

post3cas66-3Teen ACTION chose Las Vegas due to its most recent anti-graffiti movement and went there this spring. In Las Vegas, the students helped clean up a neighborhood: cleaning streets, painting over graffiti and clearing parking lots. They also worked with the organization Youth with a Mission, aka The Pier, to distribute Easter baskets to community members and advertise that agency's services.

post3cas-4Our youth left Las Vegas with a greater appreciation of the extent of poverty beyond New York. Katherin Ramirez, one of our students, stated, "It was quite heartbreaking to see the conditions these families were living in and see young kids at home rather than at school so early in the day. I've gained respect not only for those working at The Pier but also a great appreciation for what I have back home."

East Harlem Center Keystone Club Honored at National Boys & Girls Clubs of America Conference in Atlanta

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The Children's Aid Society's East Harlem Center (EHC) welcomed home its Keystone Club from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's National Keystone Conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia in early April. Experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event, our Keystoners were honored at the conference with several awards recognizing their inspiring activities: two first place awards, one second place, and a special Advisor of the Year award for Midge Caparosa, the Keystone Advisor and job-training counselor at the East Harlem, New York Center of The Children's Aid Society.

In the category of Character and Leadership Development, the teens took first place for their success in having a traffic light installed at a dangerous intersection in their East Harlem neighborhood. In recognition of the teens' fundraising activities, the club also won first place in the category of Free Enterprise for creating By Kids Ink, a greeting card company. The second place award was for the Education and Career Exploration category, for their mock news program "WEHC NEWS," which deal with education.

EHC Keystone Club member Stephanie DeJesus was selected, through participation in the Latino Outreach Initiative, to meet with Roxanne Spillett, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Stephanie says the conversation concentrated on teens' use of the club and the space devoted to activities. Stephanie and Meagan Gonzalez, also involved in the EHC's Latino Outreach Initiative, taped a commercial about the Initiative for Univision.

The Keystoners also participated in educational opportunities and workshops, hearing a variety of unique speakers. They enjoyed a talented group of actors, performers and artists who took part in the workshops. The conference and recognition was a rewarding opportunity for them and for Midge as well. Perhaps most importantly, they learned that hard work and commitment have great rewards when you follow through! Congratulations to all!

Photo: Two Boys & Girls Club youth (far left and far right) presented an award to Children's Aid Society East Harlem Keystone Club members (left to right) advisor Midge Caparosa, Mikal Edwards, Selia Washington, Michael Medina, Dominique Giordano, center director David Giordano, Meagan Gonzalez and Stephanie DeJesus.

East Harlem Against Deportation Campaign Seeks Reform of Harsh Immigration Policies

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On a warm and sunny Friday, April 24, a gathering of politicians, advocates, families, members of the community and media crowded the sidewalk and street outside Children's Aid's East Harlem Center to hear elected officials and community organizers speak passionately about the ongoing deportations of undocumented immigrants and the ensuing havoc this wreaks on families and children.

State Senator José M. Serrano, who organized the event, announced a letter-writing campaign that will tell President Obama about the impact of deportations. "One thousand letters doesn't sound like a lot, but it will have an impact," he promised.

Congressman Charles B. Rangel declared that "this is not just a legislative issue, but a moral issue ... it's about human beings, about families, and relationships."

Congressman José E. Serrano, the State Senator's father, asserted that "a country that turns its back on immigrants turns its back on itself." City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "it is painful to be here" because of the nature of the issue, and urged the community to continue the letter-writing campaign and to keep the pressure on officials. The Children's Aid Society's East Harlem Center will collect the letters.

Moria Cappio, Children's Aid's director of Head Start at the East Harlem Center, talked about the agency's history of working with immigrant families in the community, and introduced two parents, both American citizens, who read letters from undocumented parents that were powerful and moving.

All spoke about the need to pass HR 182, the Child Citizen Protection Act, and deplored the cruel and inhuman treatment of undocumented immigrants in detention. Under this legislation, according to Congressman Serrano, judges would have the power to use their judgment to keep families together.

N.Y. Post Praises Children's Aid Society Community School M.S. 324's Performance

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The March 12 New York Post gave kudos to M.S. 324 in Washington Heights and its above-average test performance, which has led to $3,000 bonuses for all teachers and staff through an experimental merit-pay program. (President Obama supports merit pay for teachers!)

What the paper didn't say, however, is that M.S. 324 is a Children's Aid Society community school, led by principal Janet Heller and community school director Marinieves Alba.

So here's the info: the school has extensive after-school programming and additional caring adults present via Children's Aid; medical services for students are right in the school and dental services are provided across the street at P.S. 8, another Children's Aid community school. Social workers and other qualified adults within the school help ensure that the school's students are coping with stress and any other problems they may have and are in their classrooms ready to learn.

The Post's article, by Carl Campanile, pictured teacher and union rep Benjamin Lev along with principal Heller. The article didn't point out that Lev is also educational coordinator for Children's Aid's after-school program at M.S. 324, so he is a supporter of the Department of Education - Children's Aid partnership.

Photo: GRIN & MERIT: Teacher Benjamin Lev and Principal Janet Heller are at the forefront of MS 324's educational achievements, which earned teacher bonuses.

Children's Aid Community Schools' Celebration of African American and Dominican Heritages Raises the Roof!

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The earth moved and the roof shook for over 1,000 joyous visitors to the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus in Washington Heights on Friday, February 27. Over a dozen performances by students at nine Children's Aid Society community schools, designed to co-celebrate African American and Dominican Heritage, were met by wild cheers, applause, shouts and stomping by the hundreds who packed the school's auditorium and who witnessed one of the most polished and diverse performances ever seen there.

The celebration began in the campus' lobby, where tableaux vivant recreated the feel of Dominican mercaditos, an African thatched hut village, and a Dominican house. Many beautifully costumed friends lent the tableaux a really authentic feel.

Three elected officials honored this portion of the event by dropping by and greeting celebrants: City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat and Council Member Miguel Martinez, who returned later to recognize the performers and the audience in the auditorium.

Representative Charles B. Rangel and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer addressed the standing room-only crowd in the auditorium. Rep. Rangel credited Children's Aid's community school model for recognizing that children need "love and care besides what's on the blackboard" in order to succeed. Stringer, and the returning Martinez, relayed their joy of the celebration of our two cultures with this performance.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Russell