The Children's Aid Blog

Soul Therapy: Children's Aid Society Creative Writing Programs Encourage Self-Expression through the Written Word

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“The reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

reading wednsday

It has been said that music soothes the mind, but writing heals the soul.  Whether through journal writing or poetry, short stories or plays, or even that first novel – writing is the art which has the power to fuel our need for self-expression, creativity and empowerment.  Everyone, young or old, has a story or two to tell and the creative writing programs offered by The Children’s Aid Society provide a wonderful opportunity for young people to tell their story, express grief/frustration, foster creativity – all through the written word.

Creative writing is also an excellent rehabilitative tool.  The Children’s Aid Society’s after school programs provide students with many writing and reading opportunities:  book clubs, play- and screen-writing, drama clubs and performance poetry. Children’s Aid also has partnered with Voices Unbroken, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing underserved youths aged 14-21 (the “unheard voices”) with tools and opportunities for creative self-expression.  Through this partnership, South Bronx foster care youths at The Children’s Aid Society’s Next Generation Center (NGC) have access to experienced teachers and writers. Students attend local poetry readings, share their own creative work with peers and have exposure to new forms of literature.   Minds are opened. Souls are unburdened. And, every so often, a real artist is born.

Making Music in West Harlem at the Drew Hamilton Learning Center!

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trumpetThe Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Learning Center runs an arts-based after-school program, with a special focus on music. The overarching goal of music instruction at the Drew Hamilton Learning Center is to develop musicianship, discipline, and self-esteem; the program pursues this goal in various ways.

The 70 students enrolled in the program participate for an average of 2-6 hours per week. Students are taught music fundamentals –reading music, history, theory and related skills.


A keystone of the program is instruction in a variety of instruments: percussion, violin, bass guitar, trumpet, saxophone, keyboard and flute.  Teaching artists instruct the students in a small group setting, ultimately seeking to enable youth to create their own original music through improvisation. This DHLC after-school music program creates specific opportunities for instruction leading up to performances, promoting self-confidence and poise in each student.

The music program connects parents and other community members to the center by providing them with occasions to listen to and celebrate music though performances both within the center and in the surrounding community. Students in the performing groups, drumsuch as the Drew Drummers and the Harmony in Harlem Jazz Ensemble, share their talents throughout the community.

This past year, the students performed at the CAS 8th Annual Children’s Art Show, Make Music New York, and Harlem Week. We look forward to another year of jamming in Harlem and the inspiration that music brings to our youth.

-Mary Newcomb

East Harlem Center and the Mexican Consulate Host a Family Health Fair

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The East Harlem Head Start program partnered with the Mexican Consulate and hosted a family Health Fair this morning.

friday healthfair2

Representatives from neighborhood hospitals, clinics, and health agencies provided information and free screenings for the families.


Information tables were set up in the gym and a mobile health van was parked out in front of the Center.

health fair

In addition, short workshops focused on topics such as women's health, nutritious cooking, and health care access for immigrants.  It was a very healthy day!

Pumpkin Picking at Demarest Farms

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A perfect day for pumpkin picking!  Our very special friends at The Bank of New York Mellon hosted a trip for the East Harlem Head Start program to go visit a farm out in New Jersey.


30 preschoolers were treated to a morning of hay rides and pumpkin-patch frolicking.  Everyone got to take a pumpkin home.


Thanks to The Bank of New York Mellon, our Volunteer Services, the East Harlem Head Start staff, Demarest Farms , and everyone who made this wonderful adventure possible for the children.


We can't wait to do it again next year!

Photos Courtesy of Children’s Aid Society

The Business of Giving: From Homeless to Harvard

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With the markets about as calm as a roller coaster, what we’re thankful for is all too often an afterthought. I don’t know anyone these days who doesn’t treat their stock portfolio as a scene from a gory horror flick: “I’m afraid to look -- but I can’t help it -- oh, I shouldn’t have looked.”

But while sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, I thought about what I’m grateful for. Those people surrounding me at the table -- my wonderful wife, the kids I’m so proud of, and the grandchildren who never stop making me laugh -- top the list. But I am also thankful to have a job that I love.

I’ve spent most of my career working for the Children’s Aid Society, a New York City nonprofit whose sole mission is caring for the health, education and well-being of children. My first job with Children’s Aid was as a social worker; today, I am the (former) CEO…..

To read the full article, link here

C. Warren Moses, Former CEO

Domestic Violence-Part 4: How Can You Help

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If you know someone who you think is being abused by their spouse or partner, here's what you can do to help:

  1. Let them know you are worried about them and want to help. Don't tell them what to do or try to take control of the situation.
  2. Don't blame the victim, imply they did something to 'bring it on,' or tell them they are stupid for staying.  It's hard to understand why people stay in abusive relationships - some common reasons are love, belief the abuse will change, self-blame, and fear that the abuse will get worse if they try to break it off.  But the worst thing you can do if you want to help is to reinforce the idea that they are to blame.
  3. Help them to reduce isolation. Abusers often cut their victims off from friends and family members. Tell them you'll be there for them whether they decide to stay in the relationship or not.
  4. Connect them with a domestic violence advocate who can help them develop a safety plan. Call one of the numbers below to find out what resources are available in your area.

Finally, if you know someone who's being abusive, do not look the other way. Confront the specific behavior, tell them you are willing to support their efforts if they are willing to get help for changing but will not support abuse, and do not accept excuses, justifications or victim-blaming. Call one of the numbers below to find out how to get help for the abusive person. The Children’s Aid Society – Family Wellness Program 212-503-6842 NYC Domestic Violence Hotline 800-621-HOPE (4673) National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-699-SAFE (TDD 800-787-3224) National Teen Dating Violence Hotline 866-331-9474 (TDD 866-331-8453)

Bridging the Digital Divide at The Children's Aid Society

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Many of us remember the days when we used to write our school essays in painstakingly neat longhand….or spending the night two-finger typing on the old electric typewriter! Well, those days seem to be gone forever. In the digital era we now live in, our children can’t imagine what it would be like to function in a B.P.C. (Before Personal Computers) world! cpufri

But Children’s Aid Society students do not typically have access to a home computer. Our community schools give these economically disadvantaged kids full exposure to technology by enabling them to not only learn how to use computers, but also to advance themselves in many computer-related skills.  Thanks to our technology centers and dedicated team of professionals, Children’s Aid is able to arm students with the computer knowledge and the skill set needed to compete and succeed in this technologically advanced world of ours.

On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Frederick Douglass Center is home to the innovative Intel Computer Clubhouse, a creative space where students learn all aspects of computing – from exploring the Internet to learning about 3-D modeling, multimedia, digital music recording and even animation. It’s a fabulous environment for kids to become computer literate and to be inspired to explore technology-specific careers, in fields like engineering, computer programming, architecture, and film animation. Through this exposure to the world of high tech, our students quickly learn that there are endless opportunities for them out there – all within their grasp.  Knowledge is a powerful thing!

Domestic Violence - Part 3: The Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

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While every relationship is different, survivors of domestic violence have identified common characteristics and behaviors of abusive partners.  Knowing the warning signs can help you to avoid abusive relationships or identify abuse and get help for yourself or a friend/family member sooner.

If you recognize any of the warning signs below, consider calling the Family Wellness Program or one of the hotlines listed at the bottom of this page.

1. Extreme jealousy – when one partner wants to know who the other is with and what they are doing at all times, doesn’t trust them and might even accuse them of cheating for no good reason.

2. Isolation – when one partner wants the other all to him/herself, tries to cut them off from friends, family, and activities – might even insist they quit their job or school.

3.  Controlling behavior – when one partner tries to control the other by telling them what to do, how to dress, who to hang out with – or manipulates them into doing what they want.

4.  Fast-moving relationship – when a partner who comes on very strong, is an extreme “smooth talker” and wants to make major commitments very early in the relationship.

5.  Blaming – when one partner always seems to blame the other for his/her own behavior – “You made me do this.”

6.  History of abusive behavior – if someone has ever been abusive to a current or ex partner, a child or an animal; it is unlikely they will change without help.

7. Moodiness – someone with a “Jeckyl and Hyde” personality.

8. Put-downs – when one partner is constantly criticizing the other, putting them down and making them feel badly about themselves.

9. Entitlement – when someone believes they are entitled to be in charge or be catered to, because of gender or other reasons.

10. Intimidation and threats - when one partner uses threats or intimidating body language, punches walls or breaks things to intimidate the other. How to get help: The Children’s Aid Society – Family Wellness Program 212-503-6842 NYC Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-699-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224 TTY National Teen Dating Violence Hotline 1-866-331-9474 or1-866-331-8453 TTY Kerry Moles, Children's Aid Family Wellness Program, NYC

Next Generation Center and the Radio Rookies

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radioImagine tackling issues having to do with homosexuality, incarceration, caring for an ill parent or wondering where your next meal is coming from…and being a teen. These and other moving stories of teenagers of The Children’s Aid Society’s Next Generation Center in the Bronx are where they broadcasted on WNYC radio October 5 th through 9th during the morning news which is also posted on the radio station’s website.

Radio Rookies is a program of WNYC radio that runs one to two workshops a year throughout New York City. The program trains teenagers on all aspects of radio, from how to use recording equipment to developing stories, conducting interviews, and editing digital audio.  At the completion of the workshop, the teens have created stories that not only show off their newly acquired journalism skills, but also allows them to open the doors for the world to get a glimpse of their lives, which is not always about iPods, gossip or the latest fashion.

“I heard it on NY Public Radio and loved it so I contacted the Senior Producer, Kaari Pitkin, and invited them to do it at NGC…a year later, they contacted us because they were looking for a Bronx site and we agreed!” said Lynne Echenberg, Director of the Next Generation Center.

In a brave segment called “Best Couple,” which won her the First Hillman Foundation Sidney Award in June for socially conscious journalism, Rookie Reporter Victoria “Vikky” Cruz, a Next Generation Center participant, reports on how she and her girlfriend became the first same-sex couple to win “Best Couple” for their high school yearbook all the while keeping her sexuality a secret from her judgmental grandmother. “Not only was Vikky Cruz brave enough to tackle teenage homosexuality on public radio, she also took it on in a far more intimidating environment—high school…her commitment to honesty and justice in both of these settings earned her The Sidney,” said Charles Kaiser, Sidney Award Judge. Vikky also shared with us her journey of learning to live and cope with her mother’s physically and mentally debilitating disease Neuroacanthocytosis in her story called “My Mother’s Disease.”

If they didn’t before, these teens now know they have a voice worth listening to and stories worth sharing. Follow the link to find out more about and listen to five of the Next Generation Center Radio Rookies Giany Mejia, Marketing and Public Relations Development, Children's Aid New York

H1N1 Immunizations for all Youth in New York City Schools

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scopeWe have all heard about the H1N1 strain of flu, the so called Swine Flu, and its possible impact on New York City schools this fall. Preparation is key to prevention, and the New York City Department of Education reports that each of the city’s 1,500 public schools, including those Community Schools operated by Children’s Aid, started the year with an influenza-prevention campaign. This included posters and classroom instruction on “the basics”: covering your coughs with your elbow, and the ever-importance of washing of hands. Often. Parents were also to receive written reminders to keep their children home when they’re sick.

The New York City Health Department is also working with schools, parents and communities to minimize the spread of H1N1 among children and teachers. Key objectives include getting children vaccinated, and New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that the city will offer free flu vaccines to elementary school students. (scheduled to begin in October). docfri

New York City was the first large U.S. city to be hit hard when the H1N1 virus first surfaced last spring, when hundreds of children in the city were sickened by the disease. At the Children’s Aid Society, we know that school attendance is a predictor for future successes, and keeping children healthy is always a major challenge.

Vaccinations have been one of the most important health advances in history, reports the New York Times. The free vaccinations provided to the more than one million New York City School District students will mostly be a nasal mist, rather than a shot, according to the AP. Along with basic common sense prevention, we’ll be able to make a difference!

Correction:  Thanks to our Facebook friend Janay Bouroughs, we have changed the flu name to the correct name, H1N1.