The Children's Aid Blog

Through the Lens of a George Lucas video... Why Community Schools Work

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"Public education is the foundation of our democracy -- the stepping-stones for our youth to reach their full potential.” – George Lucas

The reason why The Children’s Aid Society’s Community Schools work so well according to considerable research - and common sense - is that children flourish when the important influences in their lives, like family, teachers, coaches, and mentors, all band together to help a child.  Teaching children to be mindful of their health through education and recreational exercise like sports and dance, while also being respectful of their mind through academic studies, trade, arts and music instruction - are all part of the community school strategy. It is also how The Children’s Aid Society has operated for over 150 years.

A film crew from the George Lucas Educational Foundation spent time at a Children’s Aid Community School, Intermediate School 218 (IS218) in Washington Heights, creating a nine-minute video illustrating the successful implementation of this powerful strategy.

The “virtual site visit” highlights the school’s comprehensive instructional program – a combination of educational, recreational and social services.

IS 218 is a public intermediate school designed, from the very beginning, to meet the needs of the entire community. Their extraordinary after-school program, for children and adults alike, is a dynamic model for other community schools to follow suit. The Children’s Aid Society’s Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools, Jane Quinn, agrees: “When I first came to this school, I noticed two things. I noticed that the children seemed happy and I noticed that there were a lot of extra adults around, and I wanted to know what was happening here and how we could make it happen in more places.”

Community schools do work, thanks to the dedication and commitment of an entire team of players and supporters – all inspired by one common goal: to help children develop and grow into productive members of the community.

Children's Aid NYC Goes Fresh in NYC!

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Food, glorious food!  It’s amazing how easy it really is to get children excited about healthy, organic food!   Bring them to the farmer’s market, encourage them to grow their own window sill herb garden, or teach them how to cook a meal from scratch – the bright colors, fresh smells and wonderful flavors will stimulate their senses and you’re giving junk food a run for its money!  You may be shaking fresh2your head in disbelief but, at The Children’s Aid Society in New York, we’ve seen this green mania with our own eyes!

At our community schools throughout the city, we teach children and their parents all about good nutrition.  We challenge them to try it out and, much to their surprise they learn that healthful food actually tastes good!  At a youth green market in East Harlem, Children’s Aid’s kids are even sharing tips on nutrition, food prep and recipes.  And these youth green markets are popping up all over. In July 2008, The Children’s Aid Society launched the South Bronx Youthmarketfresh3

We operate these markets in close collaboration with the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC) to bring fresh, delicious and healthful foods to families in low-income communities,  and showing children where their food comes from and how. The markets are run by the students themselves, at their school.  The kids are eager to learn and to taste!  Suddenly, that bag of preservative-filled potato chips seems less appetizing to them. 

And, of course, that’s the idea. And, every so often, a master chef is born. Just check out some of the culinary delights made by our very own young Next Generation Caterers. Bon Appétit!

Children's Aid Society Community School Student has the "Right Stuff"

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NASA SpaceSome kids are destined to be doctors and lawyers but according to Global Friendship through Space (GFTSE) Henry Bonilla, a rising 8th grader at the Mirabal Sisters Campus a Children’s Aid Society Community School, is "most likely to become an astronaut." Henry’s outstanding participation in GFTSE’s International Space Camp Program has earned him the highest honor bestowed upon a camper-- The Right Stuff Award.  This award is presented to one camper during each six day International Space Camp session who has displayed the characteristics of a future space explorer. The term “right stuff” was coined during the early days of NASA’s astronaut selection program to indicate an individual having the qualities needed to become an astronaut.

The Children's Aid Society Celebrates 75 years of Family Homemaker Program

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Since 1933, New York’s Children's Aid Society has provided crucial support for families facing crises in their lives.  The Family Homemaker Program is a very specialized service that was established under the auspices of The Children’s Aid Society and the Junior League of New York to meet the needs of families facing urgent circumstances and the possibility of losing their children to foster care. Family Homemaker Program is celebrating 75 years of continuous service; the oldest such program still operating in the United States.

The homemakers are certified Para-professionals, trained to take over care of the family’s children and help manage home life in times of upheaval, an important service for keeping families who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The families served are referred to The Children’s Aid Society through two New York City agencies: the Administration for Children's Services and the Human Resources Administration. Currently, The Children’s Aid Society employs 125 homemakers, serving approximately 105 families with their 315 children daily.

Areas of service include:

Household Management – from helping with children and housework, to guidance and support for parents on better ways to run the house and constructively solve problems

Family Support Counseling - providing deeper emotional support and problem-solving on a broader scale, so that families receive comprehensive and coordinated support.

Advocacy - together, homemakers and social workers help families to access services for stability, perhaps connecting them to public assistance or public health insurance if they qualify.

Our homemakers uphold Charles Loring Brace’s philosophy: every child needs a strong family in order to thrive. Keeping children and families safe and together remains Children’s Aid’s Family Homemaker Program’s mission today. Here’s to the next 75 years!

Why an Angry CEO Is the Best CEO

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When I announced my retirement earlier this year, I had one main suggestion for the committee looking for my replacement: Find someone who's "angry."

"Angry?" they said. "What do you mean?"

I mean that to lead one of the country’s largest child-focused charitable organizations, you have to have a fire inside you. You don’t want to hire the person who eases too comfortably into the leather seat, who likes gazing out the corner-office window. You want the person who sees the suffering of so many children, and is angry because it’s not getting fixed quickly enough.

I'm happy to say we’ve found that person. Richard R. Buery Jr. has committed his career to helping poor children, and therefore is no stranger to the statistics: To read the full article, link here

C. Warren Moses

Promoting Safe and Stable Families: The Children's Aid Society Provides Legal Advocacy Services for Children and Families in Crisis

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cas931We all need a guardian angel from time to time – to protect and guide us, to help us get back on track.  At The Children’s Aid Society, children and families have access to a fabulous team of dedicated guardian angels, formally called legal advocates, in the Office of Public Policy & Client Advocacy (OPPCA).

Serving all 150,000 children, youths and families at Children’s Aid in NY, OPPCA provides a wide spectrum of integrated legal, social and educational services and programs, such as assistance with domestic violence, child support and custody, juvenile justice,teen rights, immigration issues, housing, landlord/tenant issues, low-income subsidies, credit and consumer counseling, and basic “know your rights” training.

Tapping the expertise and availability of the Children’s Aid’s dynamic staff of professionals and well-established programs in all 50 sites, the OPPCA works hard to stabilize families by protecting their rights and providing them with advocacy training, so that they will be empowered  to stand up for themselves.  In cases where litigation is inevitable, the OPPCA draws from a pool of over 25 pro bono lawyers to assist their clients with legal representation.

The concept of “family” is something that many of us take for granted.  The reality is that in New York City alone, there are hundreds of thousands of families in crisis. Many of them seek assistance from The Children’s Aid Society who, in turn, is totally committed to the preservation of family. Progressive programs such as Families with a Future help families to set and achieve lifelong goals, providing them with encouragement, skills and – above all – hope.

Business of Giving: Accountability Is Key

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You know how retailers are battling it out over the few dollars consumers are willing to spend? It’s no different in the nonprofit world. Merely grabbing a donor’s attention isn't enough. We have to make a solid argument for why our cause is the one worthy of your hard-to-part-with dollar.

To accomplish this, nonprofits need to communicate to donors that they are adapting their programs and services to meet the changing face of need in today’s economy. For example, food pantries are now serving the redefined “house poor” - families who are using limited earnings to pay their mortgage and avoid foreclosure, and then have little money left for groceries once the mortgage has been paid.

Nonprofits also have to create forward-thinking, innovative programs that provide novel solutions to new problems To read the full article, link here

— C. Warren Moses

Keeping Kids on the Right Track The Children's Aid Society's Juvenile Justice Programs

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“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming." – Goethe

In New York, more than 2000 teens are released each year from incarceration within the juvenile justice system. These troubled young men and women face the formidable challenge of re-entering the community.  Most of these kids have been disappointed by adults throughout their young lives, so “trust is something that doesn’t come easily for them.  Many are simply hopeless, angry and lost, having been failed by the system and people who were entrusted with their care.

At The Children’s Aid Society in NYC, we understand their plight and employ a holistic approach to providing these youths with the tools to help them develop into healthy, productive adults.

Our innovative Juvenile Justice Programs, under the skilled direction of Ana Bermúdez, focus on the key concept of helping each youth form a trusting, lasting relationship with an adult outside the family.  The relationship with their “Life Coach” is critical, as is the hope and confidence they gain by knowing that, at the Children’s Aid, we will always be there for them – no matter what.  No expiration date.

Through programs like Community Re-Entry, Neighborhood Youth Employment Program and PINS (Persons in Need of Supervision), the Children’s Aid Society’s unique approach builds onthe strengths of these young people,  encouraging them to create a positive plan for success. Our Educational Support and Functional Family yesmentor_climber826Therapy programs are fundamental to helping kids get back on track and reconnect with their families.  Our strengths-based approach does work.  These formerly disengaged youths become engaged, and as they transition into adulthood they return for guidance or just to keep in touch. Many have even gone on to work in the juvenile justice system – their way of giving back.

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." — Hellen Keller

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.