The Children's Aid Blog

New York's Children's Aid Society Fights Stress and Generations of Poverty

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In the 1850s in New York City, orphan asylums and almshouses were the only "social services" available for homeless children. But Charles Loring Brace, the founder of  The Children's Aid Society, was determined not to choose between the squalid slums and New York City streets or the orphan asylum. He was convinced that the institutional care of the day stunted and destroyed children, and decided that all children needed families in order to grow into happy and productive adults.

Sociologists have studied and described the constant stress of poverty. By lifting a generation of New York City children out of the stress of poverty, The Children's Aid Society was lifting future generations from poverty too. The challenge remains today, as reported in a Cornell University Study, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The studies found that there is an adverse relationship between poverty and memory, demonstrating that the stress of poverty can affect the way that a child's brains develops.

Believing that healthcare, education and a wholesome family atmosphere were the keys to brighter futures, The Children Aid Society's progressive ideas have translated into far-reaching services and reforms for poor and homeless children, working women and needy families. Through the work of The Children's Aid Society, needy New York City children and families have avoided much of the daily stress and suffering of poverty, and over the last 150 years, generations have been lifted up.

Children's Aid Announces New CEO

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The Children's Aid Society is excited to announce the appointment of Richard R. Buery, Jr. as our new President and Chief Executive Officer. He will succeed C. Warren "Pete" Moses, who will retire after our annual meeting in October. Buery, 37, will be the organization's first African-American leader.

richard-r-buery-jrHe is currently the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Groundwork, Inc., a nonprofit organization established to create transformative change for families living in public housing in Brooklyn, New York.  Growing up in one of New York City's most underserved communities, Buery was profoundly affected by the different opportunities available to young people he grew up with in East New York, Brooklyn and those he went to school with at New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School.

During his entire career, he has demonstrated a great commitment to social innovation on behalf of underserved communities. As an undergrad at Harvard College, he co-founded the Mission Hill Summer Program, an enrichment program for children in a housing development in Boston. After graduating from Yale Law School, he co-founded iMentor, a mentoring program connecting middle and high school students with volunteer mentors through online and in-person meetings.

"For over 150 years, The Children's Aid Society has been synonymous with innovation, effectiveness, and zealous advocacy on behalf of New York City's children," said Buery. "I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this institution, and look forward to working with Children's Aid's board, staff, and - most importantly - the families we serve. I am fortunate to be taking the reins when Children's Aid is in a position of relative strength. These are difficult times, but it is precisely during times like these that we must focus on what is most important - investing in the health, happiness and well-being of our children."

"I am very pleased that Richard Buery will be joining and leading Children's Aid," said Pete Moses.  "He believes in change driven by impact on the lives of our children. I know that he has the compassion, commitment to the poor, skills and leadership ability to direct the agency and is excited that Children's Aid is able to provide comprehensive supports to have a transforming impact on families. I am confident that the staff will be excited to meet and work with him."

Photo by Andrew Walker

Children Among Hardest Hit by Recession

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The economic downturn makes the need for The Children's Aid Society in New York more urgent than ever. CBS News' Children of the Recession series reports that child abuse is spiking, summer jobs for youth are more urgently needed and are becoming scarcer, and economic stress is hampering children's performance in school. Perhaps most startlingly, it notes that one in 50 school-aged children is now homeless. Yet, as President Obama has reminded us via the Huffington Post "The homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good."

The recession has not created issues like child homelessness - it has only made them more prevalent among the middle class.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Goldman Sachs predicts the unemployment rate will rise above 9 percent by the start of 2010, thrusting even more New York families and children into deep poverty, homelessness and worse. In harrowing first-hand accounts, ABC News tells the stories of such child victims of the recession in their own words.

Over the last 150 years, The Children's Aid Society has served the most pressing needs of children through supportive housing services as well as emergency assistance, health services, health insurance enrollment, after-school and legal advocacy.  Now more than ever, your help is necessary. Volunteer or donate today.

Mentoring Self Esteem and Building Success in Life with The Children's Aid Society in New York

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Educators and parents agree that high self-esteem and respect for others helps youth accept responsibility for their actions, and take pride in their accomplishments. Positive self esteem in teens helps gives them control of their lives. Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., a well known psychotherapist, defines self esteem as 'being able to experience oneself as...coping with the challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.' That sounds a lot like Charles Loring Brace, the founder of New York City-based Children's Aid Society, who believed that children had the right to a happy and productive life.

Mentoring programs have proven to be especially helpful in fostering self-esteem.  Through mentoring, self esteem develops and responsibility for oneself, family and community follow.

Youth Empowerment for Success, or the YES Mentoring Program, was founded in New York in 1992 in conjunction with The Children's Aid Society to address the needs of the adolescent males coming through the Family Court system. YES for Girls was created in 1997. The award-winning YES Program is a unique collaboration that addresses the educational, social and emotional needs of this at-risk population. By fostering pride and self-validation, YES mentors guide youth towards positive self-identity.

Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the harsh challenges of the world. Kids and teens who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. You can help kids become involved in this experience - YES is looking for energetic, committed men and women to be part of the YES team. For more information, click here.

The Children's Aid Society Kids and Music: Nourish the Mind and Soul

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singingWe all know that music soothes the soul, but - what about the mind?  Well, recent neuroscience research studies have found that children who play musical instruments are more focused, perform better on intelligence tests and have advanced cognitive ability, compared to children without any music instruction. This is not news to The Children's Aid Society, where music has always been a fundamental tool we use to help children and teens explore the freedom of creativity - individually and as a team.

Children of all ages have been enjoying the music experience through innovative after-school programs like The Children's Aid Chorus, Harmony in Harlem, drumming groups and music recording studios.  Within these programs, children of all ages can explore all types of music - whether it's a gospel song or moody jazz on a tenor sax.   Budding composers and recording artists can write, record and produce an original piece of music composition at actual recording studios in either the Frederick Douglass Center or Dunlevy Milbank Center. notes

Music brings people together - crossing all boundaries of culture, race and economics - The Children's Aid Chorus Program is a perfect example. It comprises 19 vocal ensembles with over 350 chorus participants aged 5-18.  The award-winning choristers have had the opportunity to tour across North America, perform on television and at famous, historic venues, sing for dignitaries and collaborate with composers. In fact, each year at its Spring Concert, The Children's Aid Society Chorus debuts new commissioned work by an American composer.

Yes, at New York's Children's Aid Society, we know that music nourishes both our kids' minds and souls.  We see it in their smiles and in their bright eyes - each and every day.

For more information on any of our music programs, please call (212) 533-1675

Children's Aid/AileyCamp: Dance and the Power of the Self

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New York's Children's Aid Society provides several types of summer camp experiences in and around New York City, providing all-day adventures for children ages 5-14. The activities are designed to emphasize creativity, skill, youth development and social learning - while still remembering that summer is meant to be fun.

One of the more unique opportunities for developing self-confidence and creativity is the Children's Aid/AileyCamp, a singular experience that provides underserved middle school students with the power of expression of dance and art.

Children's Aid/AileyCamp is an innovative six-week summer dance camp that also uses dance as a vehicle for developing a sense of worth and confidence for underserved youth. Creative expression and critical thinking skills are developed: empowerment that carries over to other activities and walks of life. Students begin each day with the AileyCamp Daily Affirmation-"I will not use the word can't to define my possibilities."

Alvin Ailey was a visionary dancer and choreographer who founded the world renowned Alvin Ailey Dance Theater fifty years ago, changing forever the perception of American dance. Today the legacy of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater continues with extraordinary artistry from the current company's dancers and Artistic Director.  Students need no prior dance experience to attend Children's Aid/AileyCamp. Once involved, they experience beauty, spirit, and passion that knows no bounds.

The students develop a strong sense of self and self-expression; within this unique opportunity, teens learn and use dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem. What a fantastic message to learn as a young person making his/her way in the world!

During the summer of 2007, the highly successful Children's Aid/AileyCamp expanded to a second Children's Aid Society site, on Staten Island. (The original location remains in the Mirabal Sisters Campus community school in Washington Heights.) The camps' final, emotional performances in August stand as strong testimonials to the power of the arts to change lives.

The Children's Aid Society's Camps Combine Educational and Cultural Experiences with, "Good old summertime fun"

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In 1873 in New York City The Children's Aid Society leased and then equipped a large house on Staten Island, establishing the first "Fresh Air" type of vacations for city children and mothers. The rural surroundings offered an escape from hot city streets and stifling tenements that the children faced every day.

Then, in 1884 The Children's Aid Society developed summer health and vacation homes in Brooklyn, New York's Bath Beach and on Coney Island to help poor, sick children recover from illness.The sea air was considered an effective cure for the diseases and malnourishment of city life where children lived in unsanitary and overcrowded tenements.

New York's Children's Aid Society today continues not only help to keep children safe, but introduce engaging and stimulating activities at camp. It's important to have fun, but also to try to counter the "summer slide," when students lose educational ground during summer vacation. Learning is fun and invigorating at these many camps, including:

Country Day Camps and City Day Camps - These programs combine summer activities with field trips to recreational, cultural and historic destinations, bringing children from different neighborhoods and cultures together.

Dance Camp - Alvin Ailey Camp combines typical day camp activities and field trips, along with the unique opportunity to learn and use dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem. Creative expression and critical thinking skills follow.

Respite Camp - A year-round Respite Camp for physically and developmentally disabled children from low-income families. Respite campers participate in activities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them because of their disabilities and limited financial means.

Taking Time to Honor Academic Achievers and Civic Minded Youth

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A real sense of family prevailed in the Con Ed auditorium on the evening of June 18th as an eager crowd gathered for the annual Children's Aid Society E.X.C.E.L. ceremony honoring high school and college graduates. Students' families were in attendance, in addition to the families formed at Children's Aid community centers and schools across the city - support networks of peers and staff that have proven invaluable in the lives of many teens.

Quenniqua Martinez, 17, Children's Aid's Youth of the Year and a member of the Frederick Douglass Center since age 6, said, "There is always someone there to talk to and someone to support me when my family can't."

The Children's Aid Society's E.X.C.E.L. (Educational Excellence Creating Empowered Leaders) is a comprehensive educational and life skills program designed to engage students, ages 14-21, in a breadth of services geared towards preparing them for college and promoting their future success.

In an emotional ceremony, 48 exceptional graduates were recognized for their achievements, ranging from academic excellence to overcoming obstacles to demonstrating leadership and community service.  The young peoples' hard work and perseverance were lauded and accomplishments celebrated.  Children's Aid's CEO, C. Warren Moses, praised the "beautiful, smart articulate young people" gathered for the ceremony.

As college costs rise and aid to low-income students declines, higher education is increasingly out of reach for many youth. To help ease the burden of these escalating costs, fifteen graduating high school seniors received scholarships provided by Children's Aid, individual donors and corporate sponsors.

As he presented a scholarship named in honor of his father to the college graduate with the highest grade point average (Wendy Flores), former mayor David N. Dinkins told tales from his own college days and emphasized the importance of education.

At the end of the evening, the graduates were excited for the new adventures and challenges that lay ahead.  The Children's Aid Society wishes them the best of luck!

Photo Caption: Bob Stern congratulates Quenniqua Martinez, winner of the first Jean L. Stern Memorial Scholarship.

New York's Children's Aid Society Teens Speak Out-On Education

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Fourteen teens from community schools and centers across The Children's Aid Society visited City Hall on April 30th

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said "Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education."  Well, intelligence and character were certainly in abundance when local teens from The Children's Aid Society community centers and schools voiced their opinions, insight and concerns on educational issues at a recent visit to City Hall.

These articulate young men and women participated in an interactive discussion with New York City Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development, Dennis Walcott, on topics such as municipal government control of the NYC school system, parental involvement, overcrowded classes and gang violence.  It was a win-win exchange of ideas. The students gained an appreciation for the role that government plays vis-à-vis their education, as well as a sense of empowerment in knowing that their collective voice is being heard. The Deputy Mayor was duly impressed by the young people whose educational best interests he, in his official capacity, is entrusted.

This visit to City Hall grew out of the fifth annual Youth Speak Out on Education Conference, held in February 2009 and presented by Children's Aid and the Audrey Miller Poritzky Education Fund for Children. Students researched, wrote and performed lively presentations on a topic of their choosing - the New York City school environment and academic success. As in years past, Deputy Mayor Walcott attended the Speak Out and invited these motivated teens to City Hall for a more in depth conversation.

A Holistic Approach to Keeping Bullies at Bay

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As any student, teacher or parent knows, bullying can have a huge impact in the way students view the school environment. The news that next month the American Academy of Pediatrics will revise their policies on the pediatrician's role in youth violence to include a section on bullying, gives weight to the idea that bullying is an issue that needs to be dealt with on all levels, including medically.

Children's Aid uses a holistic approach to combat bullying in schools. Each of The Children's Aid Society's 21 New York City Community Schools offer social work and/or mental health services, as do our 6 community centers. According to the New York Times, The American Academy of Pediatrics' new policy statement emphasizes the importance of the watchful eye of a physician. When both the medical and mental health are integrated into schools, as they are in The Children's Aid Society Community School model, school officials can provide immediate attention for suffering kids, the bullied or the bully.

Activating the bystanders and empowering students to speak up about bullying is the model of Norwegian professor Dan Olweus that is recommended in the revised American Academy of Pediatrics policy and exactly what The Children's Aid Society gives support to. Events such as the recent Bronx Youth Council conference on violence allow the students themselves to discuss these issues and foster an environment of community responsibility.

In February at the 5th annual Youth Speak Out on Education, described the effects of bullying and ways to combat it. Encouraging and open dialogue about bullying, allows students to guide each other on how to deal with bullies, either on the more obvious personal level or when they see it around them, making a more accountable community.