The Children's Aid Blog

Children's Aid Youth Councils Prepare for their Annual "Make A Change" Conference

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If you visit a Children’s Aid Community Middle School in the next two weeks you will hear the din of young people engaged in community organizing and youth leadership. The CAS Youth Councils from SU Campus, Mirabal Sisters Campus, CIS 166, IS 98 and Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School are preparing for their annual conference. Every year students join together to bring attention to the issues they are seeing and experiencing in their community. This year they are focusing their advocacy efforts on child abuse, domestic violence and animal cruelty.

“We want to address how abuse affects everyone in the family, including the dog,” said youth developer and former youth council member, Dezirae Alamo.

Since the students identified the conference topic in December, the Youth Councils have been meeting two to three times a week to prepare workshops, research policy, meet with mental health professionals, invite guest speakers and create information flyers relating to these important issues. As a youth led conference, the students will be greeting the guests, doling out the lunch and facilitating the workshops. The “Make A Change” Conference will also offer workshops for parents, facilitated by Children's Aid Foster Care and Family Wellness Program. The conference was held on Tuesday, April 6th at CIS 166 located at 250 E 164th St from 10:30 AM till 3:30 PM. The Children’s Aid Society Community Schools Youth Council Conference is open to community residents; please register by calling Stacey Campo at 718-378-2871 or emailing staceyc@childrensaidsociety.org.

Stacey Campo
Director, Youth Development

Report On School Absenteeism: Early Intervention Is Key To Academic Success

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Regular attendance in school is crucial to a child’s ability to learn, grow and thrive. It forms the foundation for further academic and social development. This is why chronic absenteeism in school needs to be addressed from the very beginning – kindergarten. Studies released by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) highlight the adverse affect of chronic early school absence, most notably in the child’s diminished educational progress in the primary grades.

In a September 2008 report from NCCP, Present, Engaged, and Accounted For, researchers Hedy Chang and Mariajosé Romero conclude that low income children with the highest rates of absenteeism in kindergarten ranked at the bottom of the their class academically in future years. Further, the report finds a link between chronic absence in students’ early years and a number of negative outcomes later in life – including truancy, delinquency, substance abuse and dropping out of high school. School absenteeism has a far-reaching impact on a child’s academic progress and future.

 

Images Courtesy of Nccp.org

So what are the contributing factors to chronic absenteeism? Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absence in the United States. Also impacting attendance are important socio-economic factors, such as low income, troubled and unstable family life, behavioral problems and cultural adaptation issues.  A strong partnership between the community, families, teachers and counselors can make the difference in the lives of children by providing strategies to address the problem of chronic absenteeism.

“Chronic early absenteeism represents a pernicious and hidden problem. Young children who miss a lot of school are headed down a road of great disadvantage, especially if they fall behind their peers on the critical task of learning how to read” says Jane Quinn, Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools at The Children’s Aid Society. “Fortunately, by shining a light on this problem, schools can join forces with community partners who can help them address the root causes of chronic absenteeism in the early grades—most likely health or family problems.”

Chang and Romero urge that school districts look at the attendance patterns of individual students to assess the extent to which chronic absence is a problem in schools.  The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School conducted such an analysis of NYC’s attendance data in 2007-2008 and found that one in five students in grades K to 5 were chronically absent.  In New York’s poorest neighborhoods, the rate was as high as one in every three students.  The New School report concludes that community schools – schools that organize and integrate community resources into the core instructional program – are well-positioned to not only identify students who are at risk of being chronically absent but also respond to their multi-faceted needs.

“Community schools” are lauded nationwide as a method for integrating social services, health care and other supports into the public education system. They rely on formidable partnerships between public school principals and the leadership of community-based nonprofits, such as the Children’s Aid Society in New York.

Strengthening Schools by Strengthening Families, Center for New York City Affairs, The New School

Children’s Aid Nurses Donate Their Time in Haiti

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How important are vacation days to you? Think about it. You work hard and look forward to your time off, to kick back and relax. Now imagine giving up your vacation time to work under very difficult conditions. On Monday, March 29th, three nurses from Children’s Aid’s Medical Foster Care team traveled to Haiti to provide nursing care and humanitarian aid to the people who have been devastated by the recent earthquakes. The nurses, Geralde Sully, Ixleine Dufrene (both of whom are Haitian) and Olabisi Olowoyo are donating eight vacation days for this mission. They have set up a Tent Clinic in Thomonde where they will triage patients and provide first aid care. They will have to work with the sunlight, unless there is a generator to provide additional light during the evening. It is truly an admirable act for these women to sacrifice their hard earned vacation time to extend their services to the people of Haiti. “The nurses in the Medical Foster Care program are challenged daily with the provision of health coordination and maintenance of health, through triage, education, assessments and support, for some of NYC's most fragile children” said Sonya Maxwell, Nursing Supervisor, Medical Foster Care Program at Children’s Aid. Maxwell Continued,“When nurses like Ixleine Dufrene, Olabisi Olowoyo,and Geralde Sully, all nurses who are passionate about their work with our population of children, decide to do something extraordinary and extend that passion beyond the borders of the U.S., it makes me very proud to be in the company of individuals whose care and commitment for humankind comes from the heart and soul.”

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