The Children's Aid Blog

Health Disparities Can Negatively Impact Urban Youth Achievement

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In the great work of education...our physical condition, if not the first step in point of importance, is the first in order of time. On the broad and firm foundation of health alone can the loftiest and most enduring structures of the intellect be reared.” Horace Mann

Healthy bodies are a key element of healthy minds. According to a new research initiative by Columbia University’s Professor Charles E. Basch, the health conditions prevalent in today’s youth are not simply a statistic, they are a major cause of the educational crisis, known as the student achievement gap. There have been great nationwide efforts to close this gap by raising the caliber of our teachers through stringent certification, asking for higher academic standards, improving levels of accountability, and acting on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Yet, the student achievement gap – especially among urban minority youths – remains as wide as ever.

What we do know for sure is that physical and emotional health issues – asthma, visual problems, teen pregnancy, obesity, insufficient nutrition and hyperactivity – are unacceptably high and disproportionately affect low-income and urban minority youths. What we did not know before was exactly how these conditions, individually and combined, negatively impact overall academic achievement. Professor Basch categorizes five pathways through which this impairment occurs: sensory perception, cognition, school connectedness and engagement, absenteeism, and temporary/permanent dropping out.

What can we do to turn this around? Develop a multi-faceted strategy which addresses all the health priorities and their causal effects – simultaneously. The compelling research was presented recently at an event sponsored by the Teachers College’s Campaign for Educational Equity and moderated by The Children’s Aid Society’s Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools, Jane Quinn.

Additional comments from Jane Quinn, Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools at The Children’s Aid Society:

“Dr. Basch has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the integral relationship between health and education by putting rigorous science under common sense. The causal pathways analysis makes the connections clear and explicit, and Basch has offered practical ideas about ways that schools and community partners can work together to address these untenable health disparities.”

Children’s Aid Society’s Resources: An Education In Itself

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The importance of a good education cannot be overstated, and The Children’s Aid Society actively promotes education for all. As President Barack Obama said in his back-to-school address to the students in classrooms across the nation, in September of 2009; “…no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it.”

The Children’s Aid Society knows that school is the road to success, and offers a variety of services and materials to promote and support educational initiatives. Immigrant families in particular need to know that their children have a right to an education, and Children’s Aid has put together a document specifically for this group. It details exactly what is needed to register and enroll children in the public schools, as well as how to apply to receive free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches in school. Additionally, The Children’s Aid Society serves more than 2,500 preschool children, from age’s birth to five, in twelve different pre-school programs. Early childhood education has been found, again and again, to be tremendously important in the development of children, as important as issues of poverty. Moreover, The Children’s Aid Society offers programs ranging from after school homework assistance for students, to literacy assistance and GED preparation for youths ages fourteen to eighteen. With the help of Children’s Aid, children from all backgrounds receive the education and tools needed to achieve a successful future.

Kevon’s Choices

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story about Kevon Simpson and how with the help of our Next Generation Center and counselor, Leslie Smith is attending Erie Community College in Buffalo New York. The following is an excerpt from the original article, which was published in the November 30th issue of the New York Times.  


Kevon Simpson was 10 months old when his mother was gunned down. His grandmother, who raised him, was determined that he transcend the low expectations of so many people in their Bronx neighborhood.

With her support, Mr. Simpson, now 18, earned his high school diploma and graduated from Job Corps, a program run by the Department of Labor. Unsure what to do next, he sought information about joining the military from a counselor at the Next Generation Center, a Bronx facility for teens run by the Children’s Aid Society, one of seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

Read more…

To learn how you can make a difference for this family and many others, please link over to The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund or contact:

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund 230 West 41st Street Suite 1300 New York, NY 10036 (800) 381-0075

The Children’s Aid Society Cares for its Earth

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(Photo Courtesy of Ilene Pappert)

At The Children’s Aid Society, being eco-friendly and appreciating what the earth has to offer is an important value that is shared by families and staff.

(Photo Courtesy of Ilene Pappert)

From planting gardens of flowers and vegetables at our centers to recycling, being GREEN is implemented in many ways at our community centers and schools throughout the city.

(Photo Courtesy of Moria Cappio)

Photo Courtesy of Moria Cappio

In celebration of Earth Day, families at the East Harlem Center’s Early Childhood Program had Yoga class on the center’s roof top where they could appreciate the warm sunlight and give praise to Mother Nature’s blessings while learning how to stay fit with their little ones.

EcoFashions Club - (Lily Kesselman Photography)

Also, the Eco-Fashion and Green Design Club of M.S. 324, at the Mirabal Sisters Community School in Washington Heights, created wearable clothing out of recyclable materials such as newspapers, trash bags, bike parts and Metrocards. Club participants were able to strut their “recycled” stuff during the 9th Annual Children’s Art Show in February held at the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park.

Children’s Aid and FC Harlem Celebrate New Soccer Field

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Dunlevy Milbank Center participants Evan Douglas Vazquez (front), Khalil Herring, Jaelen Summers, Michael Schamburger and Pedro Marquez

“There are no ribbons in Soccer” said Irv Smalls, Executive Director of FC Harlem. Instead, to inaugurate the brand new soccer field at The Children’s Aid Society Dunlevy Milbank Center a couple of kids had the opportunity to kick the first goal. On April 9th, 2010 the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Major League Soccer, elected officials, children and parents joined Dunlevy Milbank Center and FC Harlem in celebrating the new soccer pitch located in the center’s playground.

The new mini field will serve as practice space for FC Harlem teams and youth participating in after school and Saturday programming at the Dunlevy Milbank Center. “We know young people need mentorship, support, education, and of course sports, because we know that sports are a great tool to teach leadership, to teach teamwork and to help people be healthy and happy,” said Richard R. Buery, Jr., President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society.

Pictured (left to right): Irv Smalls, Executive Director, FC Harlem; New York Congressman Charles B. Rangel; Richard Buery, Children’s Aid Society President and CEO; Ed Foster-Simeon, President, U.S. Soccer Foundation; Daniel Rose, FC Harlem Board Member and Don Garber, Commissioner, Major League Soccer.

Supplemental Report On Food And Nutrition: Harmful Health Effects Of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

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We are a nation that values convenience and speed – and all too often that means a junk food diet (food that is high in fat, added sugar, sodium and empty calories.) And, sadly, this lifestyle is easily passed on to our children. For instance: the daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and fast food has increased alarmingly among children and adolescents, over the past three decades. In a 2009 research study on The Negative Impact of Sugar-sweetened Beverages on Children’s Health, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it is noted that as children increase their intake of SSB, they typically decrease their consumption of milk, resulting in a reduction of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, folate and vitamin A.

According to the study, the health implications of ingesting SSB – which include (but are not limited to) sodas, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks – have been linked to tooth decay, anxiety, lack of sleep, weight gain/obesity, decreased bone mineral density, and type 2 diabetes. According to a recent policy report issued by the New England Journal of Medicine, the health risks posed by regular consumption of SSB provides a compelling argument for aggressive strategies to reduce the intake of such beverages. One suggestion was imposing a tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages to discourage overall consumption and promote good nutrition. Education is, of course, fundamental for children and their families to recognize the value of good nutrition and the positive impact that healthy choices have on their lives.

Stefania Patinella, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs at The Children’s Aid Society says:

“At The Children’s Aid Society, we are engaged in just such an education campaign through our Go!Healthy intiative, which teaches children and parents about wellness and the joys of healthful cooking and eating. Our programs give families the tools to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink so they can be “conscious consumers.” In one activity, youth are astonished when they measure how much sugar is in their foods and beverages, like sodas, juice drinks and cereals. In another, they learn about the marketing tricks companies use to convince consumers that products are healthy when they’re not—such as pictures of fruit or words such as “natural.” Parents and youth alike learn what too much sugar means for their health, mood, and concentration, as well as its relationship to Type 2 diabetes, a disease that is devastating many low-income families and communities. Of course, to keep every class positive and fun, we include hands-on cooking activities that empower children and parents to make healthy, homemade meals part of their daily lives. With every meal, we serve water…and for special occasions, homemade “soda”: equal parts seltzer and 100% fruit juice, with fresh fruit as a garnish!”

A Landlord’s Foreclosure Puts a Tenant in Trouble

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story about Alice Garvin and how assistance helped her move into a new apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn . Below is an excerpt from the original article.

Foreclosure has touched Alice Garvin’s life twice. The first time, four years ago, she came home to find a notice on the front door of the East New York, Brooklyn, apartment building in which she, her sons and two of her grandchildren had lived for two years.

Alice Garvin, 77, with her granddaughter Jessica Davis and great-grandson
Nahim Natoes, left, and a great-nephew, DeShawn Williams

The second time, foreclosure rescued Ms. Garvin, 77, from an apartment in a violent section of Crown Heights, an apartment she could not wait to leave because, in addition to the gunshots outside and the lack of maintenance, there were the insects.

“Bugs would fall from the ceiling,” said Audrey Henry, her caseworker at the East New York Family Center, which is operated by the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service, one of the seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

“I was lucky to be alive,” Ms. Garvin added, a hint of her native South Carolina in her voice, though she has lived in New York for 50 years.

In both cases, foreclosure was beyond Ms. Garvin’s control: She is not a homeowner, but a tenant. Though Ms. Garvin was happy to leave a violent neighborhood, she could not afford to move. For that, she needed $6,600 from The New York Times Subprime Neediest Cases Fund, which is administered by the Children’s Aid Society, so that she, her two sons, two grandchildren, a great-nephew and a great-grandson could move to a four-bedroom apartment in Bushwick in February.

Read more… To learn how you can make a difference for this family and many others, please link over to The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund or contact: The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund 230 West 41st Street Suite 1300 New York, NY 10036 (800) 381-0075 Photo courtesy of Paul Taggart for The New York Times

Help Children's Aid win $250K to send 1,000 New York City Kids to Camp this Summer

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Mission for April, support the New Worlds Project: Life Enhancing Experiences for Youth Initiative through the Pepsi Refresh Project. The New Worlds Project is an initiative of The Children’s Aid Society’s Wagon Road Camp that could greatly benefit from a $250,000 grant from Pepsi. This grant would:

  • provide 60 city kids 34 days of country day camp
  • bring 480 teens to camp for 2 and 3 day overnights
  • increase academic success and responsibility for these 480 teens
  • create healthy routines: fitness, diet, sleep, reflection
  • bring 600 youth to camp for a 1 day team building program

The Project will provide the experience of the natural outdoors with programming that promotes self-confidence, leadership, team building, nutrition, and fitness. Voting is simple and easy but you must register before you can vote:

1. You must register to vote. Register at 2. Go to to vote EVERY DAY 3. Click the “vote for this idea button” on the New Worlds Project page 4. Fill in your email address and password and click the "vote for this idea" button again (You should receive a message thanking you for your vote) 5. Go to back to EVERY DAY and vote (You will only need to fill in your e-mail address and password to log in)

East Harlem Head Start Hosts a Healthy Cooking Training for Neighborhood Home Visitors

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The family that eats well together stays well together.  The East Harlem Head Start program recently began a new partnership with fellow neighborhood home visiting service providers.  The growing community of East Harlem has seen a large increase in very young children - birth to three years old.  In response to this increase, many agencies have begun offering programs where teachers or home visitors go to each family's home to work with the parent and the baby or toddler.

Different agencies around East Harlem, such as the Little Sisters of Assumption, University Settlement's Healthy Families, the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, and The Children’s Aid Society’s Early Head Start program, all linked by the same type of work, recently began a network to discuss possible collaborations and supports.

The first joint event took place on Friday, January 22 at the East Harlem Center.  The Children's Aid Society's Go!Healthy program ran a training on Healthy Meals for the Whole Family.  The training was specific to the home visitors who worked with children birth to three years old.  Some of the topics covered were 'Ease, Cost Effectiveness and Health Benefits of Homemade Baby Food,' 'Tips for Creating a Healthy Pantry,' and where to locate neighborhood resources such as food stamps and farmer's markets.

The home visitors that attended were then able to practice making a number of healthy recipes such as lentil soup, homemade applesauce, and banana-berry smoothies.  The goal was to train the home visitors in these healthy recipes and then have them go out into the community to teach the families.

Children’s Aid Brings It Home for Families In Need

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Home. It’s something many take for granted – the security in knowing there’s a warm, comfy place to call their own. In New York City there are many families for whom “home” means living in their car, temporary shelter – or worse. They may have lost a job or been evicted from their apartment. One thing is certain: they need immediate assistance. The Children’s Aid Society of New York is committed to helping these at-risk children and families within our community to get back on their feet so they can pursue productive lives, without the constant fear of losing the roof over their heads.

At times, this can be a daunting task, however Children’s Aid’s Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy (OPPCA) is staffed with dedicated staff who are trained and equipped to counsel families in crisis – from landlord/tenant conflict resolution and eviction prevention, to assistance with emergency shelter or temporary/transitional housing placement. Most importantly, we seek to educate these families – to help them know their rights and the resources available to them.

For families who find themselves homeless, Children’s Aid will help them find temporary/transitional housing, like the Carmel Hill Project and the Pelham Fritz Transitional Apartments to help families get back on their feet. As always, our primary goal is for children to feel safe, enjoying the most basic of pleasures – a place they can call Home.

New York City also has an eviction prevention program in place, called Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS). The program assists families with paying their rent arrears and providing subsequent income supplement for families receiving public assistance. To qualify for receiving aid from FEPS, families must meet the program’s criteria, and once approved, the families can receive the supplement for a maximum of five years.