The Children's Aid Blog

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

Mayor Bloomberg, Please Renew our Yoga Program!

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colorfulsigns-cas This past Thursday morning, the East Harlem Head Start children, staff, and parents went to City Hall to participate in a press conference supporting funding-renewal for our yoga program (which is provided free through our partnership with University Settlement). saveyoga-cas2

The trip fit in perfectly with the Civic Participation theme and related events that we've been working on with our families.

Much to our surprise, Mayor Bloomberg actually walked out of the building just as our press conference was wrapping up.

huggingkneecas31 The highlight of the day came when, of his own accord, 3-year-old John spontaneously broke from his mother to passionately hug the leg of our famous Mayor.

Everyone (including Mayor Mike) had a good chuckle.  It was the perfect example of true civic participation! Enjoy the pictures. Moira Cappio, Director of the Head Start Program, East Harlem Center

May was National Foster Care Month: The Children's Aid Society Supports Youth in Foster Care and Their Families

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New York City's Administration for Children's Services (ACS) recently marked the beginning of National Foster Care Month with a commemoration to raise New Yorkers' awareness about foster care, celebrating generous New Yorkers who have opened their hearts and homes as foster and adoptive parents.

The Children's Aid Society in New York, which partners with ACS, began its efforts to help the thousands of homeless, abused and orphaned children living on the streets of the city in 1853. That program, called the Orphan Train Movement, is still recognized as the foundation of the modern-day foster care system in the United States.

Today adoption and foster care constitute one of The Children's Aid Society's largest service divisions, and among our highest priorities, as we continue to work for the nearly 17,000 children living in foster care in New York. National Foster Care Month is a great opportunity to highlight this continuing need -- thanking foster families and social workers who care for children -- and encouraging New Yorkers to become foster parents, volunteers or mentors. Many foster care alumni have taken that crucial early support and mentoring to go on to many great things in life.

New York's Children's Aid Society finds safe and nurturing homes for more than 640 needy children a year, a powerful statement of commitment and care. In addition, we also provide many specialized services for youths and families in the foster care system. Learn more about becoming a .

Katherine Eckstein is The Children's Aid Society's New Director of Public Policy

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The Children's Aid Society in New York is delighted to announce Katherine Eckstein's promotion to the position of Director of Public Policy. Katherine's new position is part of the agency's Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy, which leads in developing, coordinating and implementing The Children's Aid Society's policy priorities and strategies. C. Warren Moses, CEO of Children's Aid Society, said of Katherine-

"After her successes in advancing our community schools policy agenda at the city, state and federal levels, Katherine is the ideal person to help us achieve greater impact in all of our policy work going forward."

New York's Children's Aid Society is one of the nation's largest and most innovative non-sectarian agencies, serving 150,000 of New York's neediest children and their families. Katherine has been with The Children's Aid Society for three years, and previously worked to broaden support for the agency's community schools. As Katherine puts it-

"We understand the real needs of the children and family we serve through our client and legal advocacy work. Our policy work will allow us to advocate for large-scale, high-impact change to really address what children and families face each day..."

Before joining Children's Aid Society, Katherine was special assistant to New York City Department of Education regional superintendent, and interim director of a community technology center. Eckstein has a BA in Public Policy from Brown University and an MA in Elementary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Congratulations!