The Children's Aid Blog

With a Front-Row View of Poverty, She Needed Help

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story by Jennifer Mascia about Yolanda Clinkscales balancing a full-time job and motherhood and still needing help. Below is an excerpt from the original article:

Shaquille White and trophies, at home in Manhattan. His mother, Yolanda Clinkscales, received assistance paying off a large Con Ed balance when surgery forced her to take time off work.

For more than half her life, Yolanda Clinkscales has balanced a full-time job with the demands of motherhood, and in all that time she has never needed a handout.

A longtime employee of the city’s Department of Homeless Services, Ms. Clinkscales, 45, already knew how easily a person could slip into poverty. Then it happened to her.

When she needed surgery and quickly used all of her sick days, she had to take an unpaid six-week leave and found herself in the uncomfortable position of asking for money. Though she earns $2,126 a month as a clerical associate — one of dozens of positions she said she has held at the department — she quickly fell behind on rent. She pays $774 for the subsidized two-bedroom Hamilton Heights apartment she shares with her son Shaquille White, 12, just seven blocks from where she grew up.

An aunt stepped in and lent her $2,000 for back rent — “She’s letting me pay her back $200 a month,” Ms. Clinkscales said — but there was still the matter of a $609.31 Con Edison bill.

In April she approached the Carrera Program, an adolescent outreach program at Shaquille’s charter school that has formed a partnership with the Children’s Aid Society, one of the seven beneficiary agencies of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Within days she received a $100 voucher for groceries from Pathmark; two weeks later the agency paid her electric bill.

When asked whether it was difficult to ask an outsider for financial help, she nodded solemnly.

“Sometimes you have to put your pride aside,” she said.

Though she is still hindered by sciatica, bursitis and a herniated disc, ailments that forced her to take another unpaid week in June, Ms. Clinkscales regularly tends to a gaggle of nephews and grandchildren, who treat her apartment as their local headquarters. On any given afternoon she will come home from work to find rambunctious pint-size relatives scampering in and out of her living room.

“My sister lives on the sixth floor, and my mom lives on the fifth floor,” she said in gravelly tones as she bounced her 21-month-old grandson, Misoun, on her knee, her eyes sparkling. He climbed off her lap and began stomping repeatedly on one of her sofa pillows. “They use my son’s room as a playroom,” she said of her grandson and his cousins.

Though Shaquille’s bedroom — with its bunk beds, sky-blue walls and posters of Bow Wow and Shaquille O’Neal, after whom he was named — is the main draw for his cousins, the centerpiece of Ms. Clinkscales’s tastefully decorated living room is Shaquille’s collection of trophies, some three dozen in all, dating from age 6 and commemorating victories in football, baseball and basketball. Half a dozen medals are slung around the trophies, and plaques line the wall.

Read full article…

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 Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times

Children’s Aid Fights for Children’s Support from Both Parents

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One of the most effective ways of raising the standard of living for children in New York City is by insuring that they receive adequate financial support from both of their parents. The Children’s Aid Society offers advice and assistance to parents who are seeking court-ordered agreements, relating to the financial and medical support of their children.

In New York State, the Family Court presides over matters relating to child support; Children’s Aid offers assistance to those who need to go to court to obtain child support. Brochures and information available from Children’s Aid helps educate families about who is responsible for paying child support, how to obtain a court-ordered child support agreement and what services are provided by the City’s Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE).

OCSE services include: determining the location of the non-custodial parent, a summons service, assistance with establishment of paternity, child support, medical support orders, and collection and enforcement of those orders.

By law, both parents are responsible for the support of their children, even if the parents are not married to each other, or are minors. There are, of course, times when a parent cannot afford to make monthly payments, particularly in these difficult economic times. In certain situations, courts are able to order modifications of support orders.

For all parents, custodial and non-custodial, information about their rights and about the Family Court system is of utmost importance. Fortunately, The Children’s Aid Society is helping to educate those parents … and in turn is helping New York’s children attain a more just standard of living.

Fashions that Look Good and are Good for the Earth!

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The 9th Annual Children’s Art Show at the National Arts Club in New York City provided a real feast for the eyes of everyone who packed the opening:  186 artworks by 200 young artists (ages 3 – 18) in every conceivable medium: oils, watercolors, photography, pencil, wood, plaster, clay, chalk, cardboard, paper, and this year, dominoes (creating a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr.!).

The proud parents, young artists, Children’s Aid Society staff, Board members and guests who attended the reception on Wednesday, February 24 were in for a treat: a show of eco-fashions – dresses created from recyclable materials including MetroCards, newspapers, plastic trash bags and recycled fabric. They’re great dresses: slinky cocktail outfits created and modeled by members of the Eco-Fashion and Green Design Club of M.S. 324 at the Mirabal Sisters Campus, a Children’s Aid community school located in Washington Heights.

One dress was said to contain 1,000 MetroCards. Another comprised dozens of copies of the New York Post folded into a retro beauty of a dress. The students have focused on these outfits since September 2009. They are the product of design, and collaborative stapling, pinning, measuring and gluing, all under the guidance of club director Crystal Chaparro, herself a visual artist and vegetarian caterer who promotes green values, natural living and sustainability.

“Crystal has created an open and nurturing space where all students have the opportunity to shine,” says Marinieves Alba, community school director at the Mirabal Sisters Campus. And at their fashion show, these students were beaming with the confidence and self esteem that are boosted when the arts are integrated into the school day and blossom in the minds and hearts of young people. Photo by  Lily Kesselman

Finding a Surprise After Refinancing a Mortgage

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Carol Schlossman received assistance in paying $10,000 in mortgage arrears.

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story by Jennifer Mascia about Carol Schlossman and how she received help with paying her mortgage that was in arrears. Below is an excerpt from the original article.

To Carol Schlossman, Wachovia is a four-letter word.

“I had very good credit — until Wachovia,” she said recently as she rifled through a folder of papers, souvenirs of her dizzying odyssey through the subprime mortgage meltdown.

In 1998, her cousin, Arthur Schlossman, now 66, bought a two-family house in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, for $240,000 in cash, earnings he had banked before the onset of severe schizophrenia. Ms. Schlossman, 62, moved in and assumed the role of his full-time caretaker — a former office associate at the New York City Department of Education, she was waiting tables until a heel spur forced her to stop working — and in return he signed over the deed to his house.

Three years later, she borrowed against the equity in the home to remodel the kitchen and catch up on credit card debt. Over the next five years she refinanced and borrowed three times, and each time the arrangement worked out well for her, lowering her monthly payments.

Read full article

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 Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

The Children’s Aid Society Champions Access to Special Education

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New York City is home to thousands of children with special needs. These young people require educational programs which address their needs, programs with individually monitored plans, adapted materials and equipment, and a physical environment to help them to grow into self-sufficient, functioning young adults.  For these children, the individual attention required to help them flourish is not always available to them in a classroom setting.

"Special needs includes children with physical and learning disabilities, as well as emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders. These children require an Individualized Education Program, (IEP) to provide an appropriate and effective educational experience.

The Children’s Aid Society brochure, Special Education: Access and Eligibility, supplies families with eligibility requirements for special education services per the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), including the spectrum of programs, funding and an explanation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IDEA was passed in Congress to protect the rights of students with disabilities, requiring schools to evaluate and educate children who qualify for special services. Upon meeting the requirements under IDEA, these students are placed in an appropriate, specialized program – their IEP – at no cost to the parents.

By law, the parents are required to be included with the planning of their child’s IEP. The program works towards providing the least restrictive environment, so the child can experience as much inclusion into General Education as possible.

Our dynamic programs, such as the Rhinelander’s Children Center’s Saturday program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and the Respite Services at Wagon Road Camp for developmentally challenged kids, are specifically designed to serve our special needs children. All children deserve an appropriate education, and Children’s Aid supports that with services and advocacy!

For more information, contact The Children’s Aid Society at (212) 358-8930.

Teen Access to Healthcare is a Priority for Children’s Aid

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As a society, we place great value on access to health care. While many advocacy groups promote health care for babies and young children, teenagers are sometimes forgotten. In fact, teenagers are less likely to see a doctor than any other demographic of the U.S. population. Teens have a distinct set of physical and emotional health-related issues, and The Children’s Aid Society offers assistance to them. In New York, teens have a right to receive several confidential health and family planning services. The parameters of a teen’s healthcare rights are outlined in a Children’s Aid’s advocacy brochure, “Teen Access to Health Care and Family Planning.” The pamphlet discusses:

  • Informed consent and confidentiality
  • Which medical services and treatments a person under the age of 18 can consent to in the state of New York without parental permission
  • The educational rights of pregnant teens
  • Medicaid Family Planning Benefit Program (FPBP)

In addition, Children’s Aid has developed preventative health programs for teens and adolescents, and offers access  to two teen health clinics where teens can find medical services and important answers to questions in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere. These programs and facilities give teens the tools to make good choices and to remain healthy. To become healthy adults, teenagers need education and access to healthcare; Children’s Aid is making that happen.

Children’s Aid Society Celebrates African-American & Dominican Heritage Month

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Coconuts! Coconuts were everywhere, strewn across the floor, sitting under handmade palm trees, by beach chairs that lounged in front of the wall-length mural of the beach that, to anyone who has been in the city for the last few months, is just as good as the real thing. At least I didn’t have to clean out sand from my shoes.

This year’s African-American & Dominican Heritage Celebration at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Community School in Washington Heights offered a tropical escape from the crisp air and slushy streets. Students, parents and staff from eight Children’s Aid Society community schools in Washington Heights, East Harlem and the Bronx celebrated their heritage on Friday, March 5th.

The school doors opened to a lobby full of paintings, ceramic statuettes, live music by The Ebony Hillbillies and a variety of foods, including fish in coconut sauce the and the Dominican Republic’s traditional dessert made of beans called Habichuelas con Dulce. One could really feel the tropical culture; Children’s Aid staff were dressed in authentic African attire, and sarongs, large brightly colored hats and flip flops.

The evening’s performances opened with the Dominican Republic’s National Anthem and was followed by over 100 performers showcasing African-American and Dominican inspired moves. The students, ages 5-18, performed a variety of dances from hip-hop to merengue.

A touching moment came when students from I.S. 166, wearing “I Love J.O.” t-shirts, dedicated their performance to their former Community School Director Jobis Ozoria, who passed away last December.

"The African-American and Dominican Heritage celebration is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Richard Negron, Director of The Children’s Aid Society’s Community Schools. “It is wonderful to see the community come together and students, their families, Children’s Aid staff and our Department of Education partners working to put the event together. Seeing the auditorium at the SU Campus filled to capacity is energizing."

Photos by Ben Russell

Children’s Aid Report on Arts Education Benefits: MOTIVATION, IMAGINATION, EMANCIPATION.

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Across the country, educators, government leaders and psychologists laud the value of an arts education. The arts are a great vessel for tapping into a child’s creative energy and boosting their self-confidence. Studies show that visual and performing arts play an important role in the child’s cognitive ability to read, write and do mathematics.

A recent paper published in the Psychology of Music concluded that when elementary school children were enrolled in a music curriculum, they tend to perform better in terms of language and literacy in comparison to children not routinely trained in music. Additionally, students incorporating keyboard instruction as part of their music program demonstrated a notable improvement in their vocabulary and verbal sequencing, as they progressed to advanced (and more complex) levels in keyboard theory and practice.

Research indicates that students exposed to arts programs tend to do better on standardized tests than their non-arts peers. For those kids living in troubled homes, who may be subject to experiencing emotions of anger or grief, the arts provide a cathartic release. Art therapy is an excellent outlet for troubled teens who otherwise may not have an outlet to vent their innermost emotions and fears.

Art presents an opportunity for the overstressed child to express his or her thoughts in a non-verbal way. At–risk children tend to flourish in arts studies, making them less likely to cut classes or quit school altogether. Thanks to community-based programs and other advocates and benefactors, the arts have found their way back to the educational stage!

Marjorie Caparosa, Arts & Leadership Coordinator, East Harlem Center, Children’s Aid, weighs in on the topic:

Providing programs that encourage children to express themselves through the arts is perhaps the most valuable gift we can offer our youth. Here at East Harlem Center our curriculum is designed to inspire creativity while allowing children to articulate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. With our multidisciplinary approach to programming, participants flourish as they learn about different cultures, holidays, artists, literature, etc. through the arts. Visual arts, dance, music and drama promote teamwork and leadership skills as well providing an outlet for our youth to express themselves. East Harlem Center’s young artists celebrate their creativity and build self-esteem through their participation in arts programs at our site.

Children’s Aid Report on Talking With Your Teens About Sex Month

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March is National Talk with Your Teen about Sex Month. Though any month is the right time to have “the talk,” the purpose of this commemoration is to remind and encourage parents to open the lines of communication with their children regarding this subject.

The Guttmacher Institute reports that nearly half of teens between the ages of 15-19 have had sex at least once and according to the Center for Disease Control, teen pregnancies are on the rise once again. The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the industrialized world; NOW is the time to start talking to your teens about sex.

Important tips for parents to remember:

  • START EARLY. Talk with your children early, using age-appropriate language and examples. Waiting until adolescence may be too late.
  • Be honest about your own feelings of difficulty discussing such a sensitive and intimate topic.
  • Be realistic about the disadvantages of engaging in sexual activity too early, including sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and the possibility of becoming a single parent. Equally as important are the advantages of waiting to have sex, such as being able to finish school and meeting career goals.
  • Reassure your children that you will be available whenever they need to talk. Expect them to come to you with follow-up questions.

Dr. Michael A. Carrera, Director, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, Children’s Aid Society says, "Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their own children, they have no choice about it; their only choice is how well or poorly they do it."

Dr. Carrera  recommends the following books:

It's Perfectly Normal by Robbie Harris What's Happening to my Body: Book for Boys and What's Happening to my Body: Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras, What's Happening to Me? and Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle.

The Children’s Aid Society 9th Annual Children’s Art Show

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Dozens of youngsters, from tiny preschoolers to shy teens, walked cautiously into the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park on the evening of February 24th. Keeping close to their parents, some still wearing their iPod earplugs, they entered the main gallery and found black walls and spotlights highlighting artwork of all techniques, from watercolors to dominoes.

Once the children located their pieces, they stayed close, eager to show them off to anyone who walked by. The walls looked dull, if only for a moment, compared to the young faces glowing with excitement, accomplishment and pride throughout the room.

The 9th Annual Children’s Art Show showcased over 150 pieces of art by children ages 3-18 and was open to the public from February 23rd – 28th. The show featured artwork  of students from Children’s Aid Society from this fall and winter programs. For the first time, the reception featured a fashion show from the Eco-Fashion and Green Design club at the Mirabal Sisters community school campus in Washington Heights.

“Wait until the art show, wait until the art show” said Mr. Richard R. Buery, Jr., President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, repeating words he heard regularly since joining the agency. “I was blown away!”

Photos by Lily Kesselman