The Children's Aid Blog

Summer Frolic and Theater Camp at Children's Aid Society Philip Coltoff Center

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bestsummer2007Summer fun and children’s theater come together each year at the Philip Coltoff Center’s New Acting Company Summer Camp. The two-week intensive theater camp, scheduled in July, attracts theatrically-inclined children (age 7-14). In the course of each two week camp, students will create an original play with their fellow campers.

A wonderful way to channel their energy and creativity, the camp encourages self-expression and a sense of community between young acting peers.  The children are taught everything from acting, set design/building and sound/lighting to costume design and stage make-up.  The pièce de résistance of each camp is the final performance which family, friends and Village locals attend —and a fabulous time always is had by all!

PCC Building_0The Philip Coltoff Center at Greenwich Village plays a vital role in providing educational, recreational and service programs for Village families since 1892.  The Center, which proudly operates under the auspices of the The Children’s Aid Society, offers a wide range of social services that include early childhood education, after-school programs and summer camp, teen and adult classes, and children’s theatre and art programming.

The Center’s mission is to be a center of Village community life, to provide dynamic, high-caliber programs and sponsor events – all with the central aim of enriching the social, cultural, creative and intellectual lives of the children, families and the Greenwich Village community at large.

Downward Dog for the Preschool Set

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Many adults practice yoga and love it, but it is also a fun, educational and healthy activity for the preschool set. The flexibility and balance necessary for yoga, as well as the discipline, make it a great way to help kids stay fit, while appealing to the perpetual desire of little kids to twist their bodies into as many different shapes as possible.

We are not the only ones recognizing the benefits of yoga for kids. "Yoga is wonderful for children," says Rebecca Whitford, author of Little Yoga: A Toddler's First Book of Yoga. "It helps them retain their natural flexibility, which they can lose, slumped over a PlayStation or at a desk in school." Actress and yoga enthusiast Gwyneth Paltrow is also a fan of yoga for children, narrating the DVD adaptation of Little Yoga.

Early childhood yoga is offered through the Children’s Aid Society’s Go!Kids Obesity Prevention Program, a program launched in 2003 to combat childhood obesity plaguing the low-income, urban communities we serve. Go!Kids is offered at community schools P.S. 5 and P.S. 8 in Washington Heights, at our Bronx Family Center’s Day Care program and at the East Harlem Center Head Start Program .  There is also Grown-Up and Me Baby and Toddler Yoga, for adults and children ages 2-24 months, offered at the Philip Coltoff Center in Greenwich Village, which makes yoga a family activity for parent and child.

As keeping kids fit and fighting obesity become increasingly important goals, we are always incorporating new and fun activities for kids and their parents to enjoy while staying healthy. The Children’s Aid Society’s East Harlem Center’s weekly yoga class, provided free by University Settlement’s Butterflies Program,” teaches the children to exercise their bodies and positively focus their energy.  And what better place for a ‘Downward Facing Dog’ than outside on our beautiful new roof?” said Moria Cappio, Director of the East Harlem Center Early Childhood program.

Children's Aid Society Community Schools: Arts and Culture - Celebrating Dance and Cultural Diversity

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Dance is a dynamic tool to engage, stimulate and streamline a child’s natural energy and self-expression.   The Children’s Aid Society offers a number of dance programs, clubs and camps at their community schools which inspires young people to listen, feel and move to the rhythm of great music.  New York City is known as the “Cultural Mecca of North America”, and we believe ALL  students, regardless of income, should have an opportunity  to enjoy full access and exposure to the arts.

Some shining examples of our programs are the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics’ Capoeira , named for the Brazilian movement, combining dance, martial arts and break dancing; and the Ailey Camp, a wonderful collaboration with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.  Ailey Camp participants are challenged to explore their full creative potential. 

It’s ballet819fabulous to hear them recite the daily affirmation:  “I will not use the word can’t to define my possibilities.” We also partner with the American Ballet Theatre in their Make a Ballet program, where students are taught to create, choreograph, and perform their own original ballet. This magical program not only teaches the beauty and discipline of dance, but also introduces them to the world of professional performance art – both behind-the-scenes and on stage.

Recently, Children’s Aid Society youth participated in a glorious celebration of dance and culture at the African American and Dominican Heritage Festival 2009. Dance performances ranged from Salsa to Hip-Hop and Step. Dance is the harmonious synthesis of self-expression, discipline, artistry and culture.  Children’s Aid Society dancers acquire a unique set of skills, knowledge and cultural experiences that will serve them and last a lifetime!

Papers and Pencils and Pens, Oh My!

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education817 The back to school countdown is on! Grammy award winning recording artist Ciara, along with Staples, Inc. and Do Something 101, joined forces this summer to collect school supplies to benefit low-income youth. On, Tuesday, August 04, 2009, celebrities and Do Something volunteers gathered at The Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Boys & Girls Club to stuff 5,000 back packs to the brim with school supplies donated by Staples. Ciara was joined by Chaske Spencer of the Twilight movie saga and singer/actress Leah Renee.

dosomethingJoel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education also dropped in to lend a hand with the tons of paper, pencils and highlighters. Ciara encouraged members of the Dunlevy Milbank Summer Day Camp to focus on their education and not worry about having the latest fashions or hairstyles. “Life is what you make it…you create your destiny”, said Ciara advising the youth to give their all at school this year. She added that now they should have everything they need for a successful start to the school year.

Images courtesy of Giany Mejia

Mentoring Makes a Difference

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mentor cas1014When you mentor, you don’t just serve; you join a movement. A few years ago, USA Today reported that, as baby-boomers become empty nesters and young adults join the ranks, mentoring is at an all-time high. At some agencies in New York, the ranks of mentors have as much as doubled.

Perhaps people are becoming mentors because they want to make a difference. The article notes that mentoring has a notable impact on key youth behaviors, including school attendance, drug and alcohol abuse and violence. The Educational Commission of the States has observed that mentoring can improve everything from self-esteem to eating disorders.

The broad and substantial impact of mentoring is becoming ever more critical to developing today’s children into tomorrow’s leaders and citizens. After all, the issues facing children – tobacco, drugs, violence, overeating and pregnancy – are becoming more severe and more common.

The Children’s Aid Society matches caring adults with children and youth to provide them with guidance, support, and encouragement. Providing career exploration and homework help, mentors may do everything from reading to playing sports. But The Children’s Aid Society can’t make these positive and lasting differences in children’s lives without the help of volunteers.

Lend a weekday evening or Saturday to a 9-18 year old today. Think of it as a way to repay those who’ve lent you time along the way.

New York's Children's Aid Society Provides Solutions for Kids "Aging out" of Foster Care

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The foster care system across the US is immense. The United States Department of Health & Human Services reports that nearly 800,000 children were served by foster care system services in 2007, (the last year statistics are available). What happens to these children when they "age out" of the foster care system is an ongoing concern. Many experience failure; a quarter of foster-care youth will be incarcerated and more than 20 percent will be homeless before age 25, according to statistics reported in 2007 by the public-policy group Pew Charitable Trusts.

Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society knew the value of a stable and nurturing family. Today, Children's Aid finds homes for more than 500 children each year. And for those who turn 18 in the foster care system in New York, thus “aging out”. The Children’s Aid Society in New York provides additional support so that youth do not lose ground from progress already made.

The Next Generation Center (NGC) is a one-stop center designed to meet the needs of young people transitioning to adulthood and self-sufficiency. NGC provides support, guidance, training and opportunities to young people ages 14 to 24, with a focus on youth in foster care and those who have aged out of foster care. It offers leadership and life skills training, job readiness, educational tutoring, legal and housing assistance, and many more services. Foster care remains one of The Children’s Aid Society in New York’s largest service divisions, and is among its highest priorities. To learn about becoming a foster parent, please visit here

Orphan Train Heritage Still Lives Today

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The legacy of the famed Orphan Trains that began during the first days of the Children’s Aid Society in New York lives on today. An estimated 150,000 children took part in the Orphan Train Movement from 1854 to 1929, giving them new lives and a bright future by removing them from the poverty and danger of the city streets.

Charles Loring Brace, the founder of the New York’s Children Aid Society was the leader of the Orphan Train model. He believed that in order to give children a chance of escaping a lifetime of suffering, that they should be placed with morally upright farm families. Charles Brace’s work with the Orphan Train movement is fascinating history – living history - as the lives and legacies of his efforts continue today.

The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America Inc (OTHSA) is an organization formed in 1987 to provide a clearinghouse of information of the lives and legacy of the Orphan Train experience. OTHSA maintains the Orphan Train Riders Research Center, a museum with an archive of newspapers, census records, oral histories, letters, and photographs pertaining to the Orphan Train accounts. These genealogists and historians seek to salvage and share information on the Orphan Train riders, and the extended biological families that are alive today.

An estimated 30,000 children were homeless in New York City in the 1850s, when Charles L. Brace began this historic effort. That’s a lot of personal stories, and after a century and a half, generation after generation of families tie their roots back to the Orphan Trains. For more on the stories of Orphan Train riders, click here.

New York's Children's Aid Society Serving Children: Our Community Partners Make it all Happen!

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The Children's Aid Society in New York could not flourish without all the community agencies and organizations that it works with. These partnerships ensure that our services are as complete, accessible and effective as possible - helping to stretch our resources. Working with our partners allows for innovation in our programs as we benefit from the experiences of others.

One great example is our community schools.  Our leading partner is the New York City Department of Education. This year there are also over 100 partners in this effort, bringing fabulous results.  Leading examples include Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theatre, and Michael Roberts restaurant. For more information about community schools, please visit us here.

We are also founding members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (B&GCA) and are working more closely than ever with the Clubs' local, state, regional and national staffs. One partnership with B&GCA is at our Dunlevy Milbank Center: the B&GCA was the recipient of the largest gift made to date by Microsoft, bringing its latest hardware and software to children using our cutting-edge facility.

There are far too many partners to name individually, but our community partners include city, county, state and federal agencies and departments; hospitals; health providers; colleges and university graduate schools of social work, nursing, medicine and education; mental health providers; community development groups; service societies; parents groups; police groups; youth-serving agencies; child and family welfare coalitions; school boards; housing alliances; food cooperatives; and scores of other agencies, businesses, church groups, professional associations, task forces and volunteers.  Lots of Volunteers!

And any list of partners with the Children’s Aid Society would also not be complete without acknowledging the support of thousands of donors that help finance these important programs, helping bring brighter futures to so many youth at risk! To learn more about donations, visit us here.

JCPenney Gives Back to After-School Programs at Children's Aid Society

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Manh. Store Opening 073109_Kimora A crush of media, kids and customers marked the gala opening of the first JCPenney store in Manhattan in late July.  JCPenney Chairman and CEO Myron E. (Mike) Ullman III officiated at the opening, along with New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who shopped for a tie with celebrity designer Kimora Lee Simmons, whose Fabulosity TM line is carried exclusively at JC Penney.

Even more exciting for the 40 children from The Children’s Aid Society who attended, were the $100 gift cards they received for a back-to-school shopping spree at the store, which started right after the grand opening ceremonies concluded.

The JC Penney Afterschool Fund donated $5,000 to The Children’s Aid Society’s after-school programs, along with $50,000 to The After-School Corporation (TASC) and $100,000 to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to support the city’s Out-of-School Time initiative.  This donation established the After-School Arts Partnership (ASAP) as a means of providing children in after-school programs with greater access to New York City’s rich cultural offerings.

In addition, from August 5 – 16, the new Manhattan store will participate in the nationwide JCPenney Afterschool Round-up, in which customers are invited to ‘round-up’ the total cost of their purchases to the next whole dollar to support after-school programs. All of the Round-up donations collected at the Manhattan store will benefit The Children’s Aid Society!

Children’s Aid is looking forward to an exciting partnership with Manhattan’s new retailer.

The Children's Aid Society in New York: Hope Leadership Academy

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A new study says that for children and teens who suffer violence at the hands of peers, immediate one-on-one mentoring on how to avoid conflict and diffuse threats reduces their risk of becoming victims again. Participants who received personalized counseling and formed a mentoring relationship with counselors reported 25% fewer fights and 42% fewer injuries from fights six months later.

The Children’s Aid Society in New York knows that as members of the community it plays an important role in helping kids that experience violence and trauma. By helping young people avoid or overcome emotional problems resulting from violence or sexual abuse early, deeply set trauma later in life can be avoided.

New York’s Children’s Aid Society responded to this need with the creation of Hope Leadership Academy: a multifaceted approach to help adolescents and families cope with post traumatic stress. The Hope Leadership Academy is a teen center that gives adolescents a safe place to process their feelings on violence and victimization. It shows them how to derive strength from their experiences, to feel empowered rather than hopeless. With new skills and self-confidence, they not only make changes in their own lives, but in their neighborhoods, and beyond.

Through learning peaceful and effective solutions to violence and prejudice, HOPE participants build stronger families and safer communities. By working to reduce violence and effectively deal with issues, The Children’s Aid Society in New York is also teaching youth to handle any situation in life by learning public speaking and how to become peer educators. Lessons for a lifetime, for sure!