The Children's Aid Blog

Foster Fridays: Meet Bendu Konneh

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Some people have a natural instinct to think of others. Bendu Konneh is one of those people.

“I wanted to help,” said Bendu, when presented with the idea of becoming a foster parent. “It’s good to help people. Someday, I might need help.”

She had already raised her own daughter, but Bendu was involved with an organization that provides services for women from Africa living in the Bronx. She learned about becoming a foster parent and the organization referred her to Children’s Aid.

Bendu, a home health worker, brought a young woman and her infant son into her home in 2013. She gave the woman, now 19, her bedroom and instead slept in the living room. First and foremost, Bendu wanted to make sure the woman and her child, now two years old, felt at home. They have family dinners together, and Bendu brings the mother and son to other family events. She also wanted to make sure the young mother would finish high school to better provide for her family. She’s now in 11th grade and on the path to a degree.

Bendu is getting much from being a foster parent. And there are hundreds more children who could use the kind of home and support that Bendu is offering. Read more to learn about becoming a foster parent.

From the Associates Council: Escape with Audrey!

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Ciao de Roma! It’s that time of year…when we celebrate the Associates Council of The Children’s Aid Society with the 18th annual fall festa, “Roman Holiday.” Like Princess Ann, you can escape the mundane day-to-day in exchange for an evening of charming camaraderie, delicious aperitivos and antipasti, and the opportunity to raise awareness for Children’s Aid foster care programs.

All of our fundraisers feature a spectacular raffle, and this year is no exception. Check out just a few of our amazing prizes this year:

Princess Ann Raffle Tickets
(Tickets: 1 for $30)

An exclusive chance to get a VERY special prize... The "Porto Rotondo" Audrey bag in black, is the perfect bag for the fashionista in you. This chic bag, featuring Audrey Hepburn, comes in cotton canvas with black vacchetta handles and trim. Measures 18" x 10" x 6.75"

 

 

Joe Bradley Raffle Tickets
(Tickets: 1 for $10; 3 for $25; 10 for $75)

To name just a few...

Relaxation, rejuvenation, and renewal are just a raffle ticket away. Everyone can use a little pampering  so try your luck at winning a signature facial or massage from Red Door Spa.

Or enjoy Date Night! Taste the signature wood oven pizza by famed pizzaillo Federico Crociani along with the delicious small plates, meat and cheese boards, or tasty gastropub inspired fare from Carroll Place in Greenwich Village when you win this gift certificate!

There is, of course, much more…so join us at Bread & Tulips (located at 365 Park Avenue South) on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:00 p.m. to win these fabulous prizes, all in support of the foster care programs of Children’s Aid. Tickets are available on-line and at the event. If you can't attend you can still buy raffle tickets and win!
 

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Halloween with Victor Cruz

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On Saturday, October 25, more than a dozen students from our Hope Leadership Academy in Manhattan were invited to attend the Victor Cruz Foundation's "Halloweenland," an interactive Halloween experience focused on sports and science education. They had an opportunity to play catch with  Victor Cruz and his New York Giants teammates Mark Herzlich and Julian Talley,  shoot hoops with New York Knick J.R. Smith, and test their goal-scoring skills at soccer and New York Rangers hockey stations. They also learned about the science of sound with Sean Combs's Revolt TV. The kids also had a chance to try their hand at spooky movie makeup and pumpkin painting, and to participate in a costume contest.

Thank you to Time Warner Cable and the Victor Cruz Foundation for making this event possible for our kids.

A Delivery of Costumes to the Dunlevy Milbank Center

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Costume company BuyCostumes recently arrived in New York after traveling all the way from Wisconsin as part of a charity tour. Along the way they visited various organizations and groups, donating costumes to populations in need to ensure that everyone enjoys Halloween in style.    

As part of their final stop in New York, they visited Children’s Aid’s Dunlevy Milbank Center yesterday. A large group of BuyCostumes staff members dressed up and handed over boxes of costumes to nearly 50 youth from our Early Childhood programs. After accepting the gifts, some of the kids had the opportunity to try the costumes on, excited over their new trick-or-treat attire.

Thank you to BuyCostumes for making Halloween a memorable and fun-filled event for our youth!

Happy Halloween!

From the Associates Council: Roman Holiday

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In the busy season of New York holiday parties, friends, and food, the Associates Council of The Children’s Aid Society will host its 18th Annual Fall Fundraiser, Roman Holiday (yes, Audrey Hepburn style!), on Wednesday, November 12, from 7-10 p.m. at Bread & Tulips, a charming Italian restaurant in Gramercy on Park Avenue South.  Guests will enjoy tasty Italian fare and a selected, complimentary bar sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, with beer from Southampton and Weihenstephan breweries, and wine from Tiziano. Proceeds from the fall event will benefit The Children’s Aid Society’s foster care program.

Recently, the Associates Council had the privilege to hear Michael Wagner, the director of permanency at Children’s Aid, speak about the variety of services within the foster care program, and how they affect the thousands of children who go through the system each year.  Our support will not only strengthen these programs financially, but it also will increase awareness about the importance and reach of the Children’s Aid foster care program. At this time of year as we give thanks, we remember the children and families in need. We hope you can join us to support this necessary program—every dollar does make a difference!

For more information and tickets, please visit: www.theacstop.org. Hope to see you there!

Domestic Violence Awareness Month - Part II

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As Domestic Violence Awareness Month continues, we would like to remind you of the ways in which the young people we work with are affected by domestic violence. The statistics we presented in our last posting demonstrated the wide-reaching impact of domestic violence. These next facts focus on teens:

  • 1 in 10 teenagers in New York City schools reports experiencing physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship within the past year
  • 1 in 3 teens reports experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average

We all know adolescence can be a difficult time, and we recognize the importance of supporting young people as they work through this stage of development. As young people push boundaries, separate from caregivers, and establish independent identities, these developmental tasks can create additional risk factors for experiencing intimate partner violence. We also know that adolescence covers a wide age range, and it is important to note the research suggesting that tweens (11-14 years old) are not only dating but are also experiencing abuse by dating partners.

So what can we all do to help?

  1. Identify when a teen is experiencing dating violence. Use our screening tool to guide your conversation with the young person. Or better yet, contact the Family Wellness Program for assistance in incorporating regular screening into your work with all teens.
  2. Know the warning signs. Teens who are being abused by a dating partner or witnessing domestic violence at home will often exhibit behavioral changes. If you notice a teen has suddenly become withdrawn or isolated, is struggling with school, or is acting out in aggressive ways, take a moment to check in with that young person about the relationships in her/his life.
  3. Start the conversation. Teens are receiving all sorts of messages about what dating and relationships should look like. Be proactive and start a conversation about healthy dating and positive relationship values. Or contact Julia Kirchhoff (jkirchhoff@childrensaidsociety.org) to schedule a workshop with our Teens Against Relationship Abuse (TARA) initiative.
  4. Be ready with resources.
    1. Family Wellness Program, TARA initiative (212) 503-6842
    2. Day One, www.dayoneny.org, (212) 566-8120
    3. Break the Cycle, www.breakthecycle.org
    4. Teen Dating Violence Hotline, (866) 331-9474, www.loveisrespect.org

Lights on…Across the City

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Yesterday, hundreds of children and their parents at 11 of our sites across the city gathered to send a public message about the the importance of after-school programming in their life. From marches to rallies to information sessions, these grassroots activists wanted our elected leaders to know that supporting after-school activities helps children stay safe and succeed in school.

Elected officials showed their support of by attending some of the events. Senator Gustavo Rivera encouraged C.S. 211 students to continue to let their voices be heard. Similarly, U.S. Congressman Rangel greeted students at the Dunlevy Milbank Center and encouraged them to continue to work hard and succeed in school.

Thousands of children benefit from Children’s Aid after-school programs that feature athletics and physical activity, homework help, cultural enrichment, and many other programs.

This year, New York City redoubled its commitment to ensuring that young people have engaging after-school programming when Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the first 45 of a promised 100 new community schools. This initiative will bring vital programming to youth in the hours after school as well as deliver key health and social-emotional services that help children from lower-income families succeed academically.

Lights On Afterschool, an Afterschool Alliance event now in its 15th year, is a nationwide rally designed to highlight the importance of after-school programs in keeping children safe, educated, and meaningfully engaged. One million Americans are estimated to be participating in over 7,500 events across the country.

Next Generation Center Unveils New Mural

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This summer youth from our Next Generation Center in the Bronx had the opportunity to participate in Project Rebuild. Facilitated by a $10,000 grant from the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation, Project Rebuild is part of Kevin Durant's Strong and Kind  movement.   Youth participated in various activities that included the planning and completion of a mural led by muralist Darwin Bharath. They also learned the essentials of good nutrition by attending cooking classes and trips to the farmer's market. Their cooking skills were put to use by preparing and distributing meals to their South Bronx community.

Thank you to our youth, who embodied the spirit of the Strong and Kind movement by showing that a little kindness helps to make a community stronger.

Hundreds of Teens Attend College Fair

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The Health and Wellness Division—through the Well-Informed on Sexuality Education, Too (WISE-2) program—hosted its first College Fair at the Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts/Fredrick Douglas Academy II Campus on October 8. More than 700 students had the opportunity to speak with 22 college representatives and 12 career schools and  college readiness organizations. Youth could choose any two of several after-school workshops on topics such as SAT/ACT prep, facilitated by the Princeton Review; college essay writing, by Project Reach;  financial aid, run by the NYS Higher Education Services Corporation; personal budgeting, especially during college, facilitated by the CAS HOPE Leadership Academy Peer Educators; and managing college stress, by Project Reach. 

The WISE-2 Program is part of the Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) Program that provides age appropriate, evidence–based pregnancy, STI, and HIV prevention programming in schools and after school settings in Harlem and the South Bronx.  An important aspect of the program is adolescent development including preparing adolescents for college. Youth who have college and career aspirations are more likely to make responsible decisions regarding their sexual health.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

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The Family Wellness Program would like to invite all CAS programs and staff to join us in recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Domestic violence is a complex problem that affects many of the families we work with at Children’s Aid, and it can have long-lasting effects on children’s ability to succeed and thrive.  Domestic violence—also known as relationship abuse or intimate partner abuse—is a pattern in an intimate relationship in which one person attempts to gain and maintain power and control over the other person using coercion, entitlement, physical, emotional, sexual, or financial tactics.  Domestic violence affects children and families in innumerable ways and with concerning frequency.  Some examples:

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime, and 1 in 3 teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.
  • In 2013, New York City police responded to an average of 765 domestic violence incidents per day; the city’s Domestic Violence Hotline answered  more than 270  calls per day. But most incidents of domestic violence still go unreported.
  • Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30% to 60%).
  • There was a history of domestic violence in the families of  86% of children killed last year, according to the child fatality review.
  • In New York City, 25% of homeless heads of household became homeless due to domestic violence.

In order for the children and teens we work with to succeed, we must support them and their families in finding long-term safety, stability, and healing.  Our in-house DV experts at the Family Wellness Program are always available as a resource for CAS staff. Please feel free to call us at 212-503-6842 or email Kaylinp@childrensaidsociety.org for information or a case consultation, or to schedule training for your program staff on identifying and responding to domestic violence in families you work with.
 
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we will be posting ideas and suggestions on Charlie of small but important things you can do as programs and individuals to be part of the change, creating communities where violence and abuse are not accepted or excused.
 
Meanwhile, see attached flyer and Save the Date for "Shine the Light in Harlem," a walk and speak-out to raise awareness about domestic violence, on October 27 at 5:30 p.m.