The Children's Aid Blog

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

Volunteers Make a Difference

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Pictured (from left to right): Aaron Ackerman, Amber Weiss, Alexandra Gold, and Toy Drive Committee co-chair Annabelle Torgman

During the holiday season, more than 125 people came together for an evening of fun and camaraderie, raising both money and toys benefiting New York City children and families in need of a helping hand. The 13th Annual Children’s Aid Society Toy Drive Party is the continuation of a strong tradition that began more than a decade ago by caring volunteers and young professionals committed towards our mission of helping those youth become healthy and productive adults. This year, guests, friends, and supporters raised more than $6,700 and donated over 100 toys and gifts towards making the holidays a little brighter for our kids.

Hosted at the fabulous Joshua Tree, guests attended the “Party with a Purpose” and enjoyed a wide selection of appetizer favorites and drinks like the Christmas Kiss and Snow on the Beach while dancing to classic 80’s tunes. They also purchased raffle tickets and participated in a party staple, the Triple Chance Raffle. This year’s raffle saw the largest and most eclectic assortment of prizes in recent years, with a list of more than 25 items up for grabs including, two roundtrip JetBlue tickets from New York to any US city; two tickets to the Lion King with Backstage Passes; a $600 Lela Rose Cashmere Sweater; and a Victoria’s Secret Mega Gift Basket.

While guests laughed, danced, and even belted out a song or two during the night, the purpose for the party was never far from their thoughts. The crowd listened intently as comments by Children’s Aid Chief Operating Officer, William Weisberg and Associates Council President Amy Kohn reinforced the need for ongoing support to keep quality programs and services like academic tutoring, mentoring, college prep, and medical and dental services from being eliminated due to inadequate funding.

Despite the serious undertone of the party, everyone remained optimistic and energized throughout the evening as they did their part to make a lasting impact on the lives of families and children in need. This year’s event was truly one to remember.

On behalf of our children and families, we would like to give thanks to all of the wonderful guests, donors, sponsors, and contributors that made this event such an overwhelming success.

Scott McLeod
Director, Office of Volunteer Services
The Children’s Aid Society

Richard R. Buery, Jr. to receive 24th Annual Ellis Island Medal of Honor!

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On February 2, The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) announced the first group of recipients of the 24th Annual Ellis Island Medals of Honor at The Children’s Aid Society headquarters in New York City.

This award honors those who exemplify a life dedicated to hard work, self-improvement, community service and who preserve and celebrate the history, traditions, and values of his or her ancestors.

Richard R. Buery, Jr. is one of 95 individuals who will receive this prestigious award at an Annual Gala Awards Dinner on Ellis Island on Saturday, May 8th, 2010. He is the son of Panamanian immigrants. Much to our CEO's delight, Michael J. Piazza, former catcher for the New York Mets, is among the recipients.

Cooking is an Art and the Meal is your Masterpiece

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image005Over the past 8 weeks parents in the Frederick Douglass early childhood Head Start program have been participating in the Go! Healthy curriculum sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society. Parents delight as they come to our center for 2-3 hours to learn how to cook healthy meals that they can prepare quickly for themselves and their families. From pesto pasta salad, vegetable dumplings with a ginger soy sauce and pizza to granola, frittatas and burritos, all parents agreed that the meals were easy to make and delicious. Amazingly, all recipes are made from scratch and only take 20-30 minutes to cook on a make-shift portable stove top.

After each meal is complete, our parents come together to share in the savory dishes and talk about cooking strategies. For example, we talk about ways to save money on ingredients. We also discuss how to engage children in the cooking process. This might entail reading labels or talking about mathematical quantities such as half and quarter cup. Mothers also agreed that this is a great way to get children to try new foods.

Everyone who participated felt that this was the best cooking class they’ve ever participated in. Thanks to Naxielly Dominguez for facilitating the course! As she always says, “Cooking is an art and the meal is your masterpiece”.

Margaret Caspe, The Children’s Aid Society in New York

Children’s Aid-Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program Recognized in Education Week

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In the March 1st issue of Education Week, an essay by Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution and Jon Baron of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy about Head Start points to several examples of research-proven social interventions that work, and includes The Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program as a shining example!

The article mentions the program’s amazing results: “40 percent to 50 percent reductions in teenage girls’ pregnancies and births” to make the point of the program’s effectiveness. The article also notes that “such instances of proven effectiveness are rare … because rigorous evaluations are still uncommon in most areas of social policy, including education.” The authors also note that “evidence-based reforms could help [federal social programs] evolve to become much more effective.”

The fact that our teen pregnancy prevention program is proven-effective helped it meet Top Tier evidence of effectiveness standards by The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy late last year. This designation means that the Children’s Aid Carrera program could potentially receive public funding for the first time in its existence; the program could thus expand greatly in coming years.

I’m proud that our program was mentioned in the Ed Week commentary as proven-effective and even more proud that the program meets Top Tier evidence of effectiveness. Certainly, there will be more news about this program to come!

Richard R. Buery, Jr.
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Children’s Aid Society

Children’s Aid Report On The Benefits Of Sports For Kids

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image008No one will debate the importance of physical activity to our health and emotional well-being. And sports are a great way for kids to let all that excess energy out, keep physically fit, increase their concentration level and build self-esteem. All this, while developing teamwork, cooperation and discipline, and having fun to boot. Research from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) suggests that physically active children and adolescents also flourish academically.

According to Mayo Clinic research, encouraging young children to engage in sports will give them a “head start on lifelong fitness” and helps to prevent obesity. To avoid injury and to be sensitive to the child’s physical ability and maturity level, it is advisable to enroll them in age-appropriate sporting activities.

The Mayo Clinic classifies this demographic into 3 age groups: ages 2-5, 6-7 and 8+. The preschoolers and kindergarteners, with their limited attention span, should do unstructured exercise like running, climbing, playing catch and tricycle riding. The 6-7 year olds are more coordinated and can take direction well, so sports like softball, martial arts, gymnastics, track and soccer are ideal. For the 8 and over crowd, most organized sports – including contact sports – work well.

American youths take their sports seriously: there are 30 to 45 million kids aged 6-18 participating in one or more school and/or community-based athletic programs.  And sports provide a positive psychological effect on children – they are less likely to be depressed or anxious.  An old adage is well in play here: a fit body begets a fit mind!

Additional quote from Kelsey Stevens, Director, Fitness & Recreation Programs, Children’s Aid:

These avenues are challenged through basketball, baseball, tumbling, sports management, swimming and a host of other activities. These activities provide a wide range of developmental processes such as hand-eye coordination and the social atmosphere.  Many of our youth strive on being competitive but with the understanding of doing your personal best. Though the aforementioned caters to our extramural teams, our intramural activities add to our focus of sports and fitness. Some of those activities are flag football, dodge ball, kickball, color call, volleyball and a host of other interactive games. Through these avenues we continue to develop their social interaction, sportsmanship, academic awareness, cardio, stamina, flexibility and a desire to accomplish a goal. Some of the methods we use to approach, recruit, involve and engage kids in sports are the benefits of social interaction, intramural and extramural games, a friendly and caring atmosphere, informative and knowledgeable staff as well as providing  the opportunity to engage them in discussions about being a student athlete and what it takes to be successful in any objective.

Community Schools: Rooted in Research

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communityA new book based on 15 years of data from public elementary schools in Chicago verifies the approach used by The Children’s Aid Society in its community schools in New York City since March of 1992. Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2010) outlines five critical ingredients of effective school reform:

  • Strong principal leadership that is focused on instruction and inclusive of others;
  • A welcoming attitude toward parents and formation of positive connections with the community;
  • Development of professional capacity, such as teacher professional development and fostering of collaboration;
  • A learning climate that is safe, welcoming, stimulating and nurturing to all students; and
  • Strong instructional guidance and materials.

This formulation mirrors The Children’s Aid Society’s “developmental triangle,” published in our 2005 book, Community Schools in Action: Lessons from a Decade of Practice (Oxford University Press), which calls for a strong instructional program, expanded learning opportunities through enrichment and services designed to remove barriers to children’s learning and healthy development. Children’s Aid conceptualized the triangle after reviewing scores of existing research studies from multiple disciplines, concluding that effective educational reform strategies needed to address both teaching (excellent instruction, rigorous curriculum, timely assessments aligned with instruction) and learning (student health, wellness and engagement; plentiful opportunities to apply academic knowledge through challenging enrichment activities; support and encouragement from parents).

The community schools strategy applies this research through a comprehensive, integrated approach to education that extends the hours, services and partnerships of traditional public schools. Community schools are open all day and well into the evening, six and even seven days per week, year-round. They offer before- and after-school programs, summer camps, adult education, parent involvement and leadership, early childhood, medical, dental, mental health and social services. Many supports, services and opportunities are available to community residents, including adult education and community-wide celebrations and special events. The results from the work of The Children’s Aid Society and our colleagues across the country are powerful—improved achievement, better student and teach attendance, increased parent engagement, decreased community violence. Why isn’t every school a community school?

Jane Quinn
Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools
Director, National Center for Community Schools
The Children’s Aid Society

The Children’s Aid Society Celebrates Black History Month

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historyThroughout the city, The Children’s Aid Society is celebrating Black History Month. Children and staff are honoring Black heroes and she-roes and learning about their contributions to science, art, politics and technology.

The youth at the Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem are studying Marcus Garvey’s life story and have created a bulletin board in honor of Black History Month. They also held a Trivia Night, a fun way to test their memory skills.

At the Drew Hamilton Learning Center, classrooms and an entire corridor have been decorated for Black History month. A bulletin board in one of the classrooms features photos of African American leaders alongside photos of the center’s two- and three-year-olds dressed up as future versions of themselves (pictured at right) – among them a police officer, president and animal doctor. image004 These famous role models help the children envision a bright future full of big plans.

Many sites are also taking their creativity to the stage. Youth at the Frederick Douglass Center have created exhibits throughout the building and will put on a short play for friends and family. The East Harlem Center will close out the month with a “Colors of Our History” performance. Photos by: James Powell and Casper Lassiter for The Children’s Aid Society