Our Voice

The Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellowship: Facing Uncomfortable Facts to Fight Poverty

Annie E Casey photoIt is a great honor to be a part of The Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellowship, a results-oriented executive leadership development program that asks—and expects—fellows to make a major contribution to the broader population within 16 months. This class of fellows is made up of 16 community leaders who hail from all over the country and from various sectors including housing, juvenile justice, legal advocacy, child welfare, youth development, and more—serving the common goal of reducing poverty. In April, I had the pleasure of attending the first weeklong meeting of the fellows in Baltimore. I left confident that The Child Center of NY is well-poised to face the most pressing community issues head-on and reach real, meaningful solutions to the overarching problem of poverty.

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Statement Regarding Proposed Cuts to Funding for Summer Programs

Statement by Traci Donnelly, CEO and executive director of The Child Center of NY

Lynn Edmonds Queens Tribune

Photo by Lynn Edmonds/Queens Tribune. Councilman Rory Lancman and school children decried budget cuts to summer camps in Kew Gardens Hills on Monday.

We are disappointed to learn that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget proposal does not contain summer program funding for 31,000 middle school students. We strongly advocate for the restoration of this funding as soon as possible.

The Child Center of NY’s Summer Enrichment Camp at Parsons Community School is one of more than 400 sites throughout the City that would be affected by this cut. Without this program, upwards of 100 9-15-year-olds from some of the poorest neighborhoods will have nowhere to go during the summer months while parents who can’t afford other options work or attend school. To leave these children—and thousands like them—unsupervised, unchallenged, and without any sort of structure for two months straight benefits no one. If the mayor restores this funding, these children could spend the summer staying active, both physically and mentally, as programs like ours provide challenging learning opportunities, enrichment activities, and a sense of community. It is difficult to see how this would not be a good investment in the city’s present and future. We must prioritize all our children, and ensure equal learning opportunities for those who need them most.

We urge the mayor to fully restore this crucial funding and to do it soon. Last year, we received very late notice that our funding was restored. Although we applaud the Mayor’s office for ultimately restoring the funding, the late notice placed an undue burden on our families; it also adversely affected our program administrators and staff, as it gave them little time to hire and plan for an intensive summer camp, and many part-time staffers secured other summer employment because of the uncertainty. We hope the mayor will do the right thing and amend the executive budget to reflect restored funding to these programs in a timely manner.

Further Reading

Extended Day (afterschool) and Summer Learning Opportunities
Summer Programs Are Feeling the Heat, Queens Chronicle
Little-Noticed Funding Cut Highlights Existential Problem for Community Schools, Politico

NYC Takes Action on Mental Health Care

clasped-hands-541849_1920We seem to talk about mental health only following a massive tragedy, like the community shootings we’ve all grown too accustomed to seeing—and even then, we only talk about it for a day or so. And doesn’t it seem like you never hear about any changes following the media frenzy about behavioral health needs? Yet for all this silence, around one in five Americans experiences a mental health problem in a given year. That’s a big number—more than 43 million people.

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Staff Spotlight: Chuck Caputo

Associate Executive Director for Behavioral Health Services


staff-chuck-caputo

Q What brought you to The Child Center of NY?

A: My previous experiences have been in behavioral health, quality improvement, and services to children and families (including foster care and adoption). Most recently, I was at another organization overseeing outpatient clinics, mobile crisis, PROS [Personalized Recovery Oriented Services], and home visiting services, where I used data and metrics to help ensure that we were meeting financial and quality outcome expectations. I was attracted to being presented an opportunity to do some of that same type of work here at The Child Center. And as a longtime advocate for children and families, I was particularly drawn to the mission and the amazing work that The Child Center accomplishes throughout Queens.
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The MYLC: Time to Help Youth Put Idealism and Anger into Action

mylc-main-poster-final-1From Occupy Wall Street to the Black Lives Matter protests, it’s clear that today’s youth are demanding change. Less clear are the avenues young people can take to make a tangible difference on the issues they care so much about. That’s why The Child Center of NY is excited to partner with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the Youth Development Institute on a new initiative called the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council. The MYLC will enable teens throughout the five boroughs to work on a specific policy change and present a plan to the mayor. It’s a unique opportunity for youth from all types of backgrounds to learn to put their idealism into action.

Twenty young people will be chosen to serve on the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, but, as Tracy Garcia, DYCD ‎Director of Service Learning Programs, puts it, “We’re not only involving the most articulate youth in their high schools or most active youth in student government.” Continue reading

Encourage Diversity in STEM by Teaching It Right

STEM boy

New York City’s public school students return to school today. While their parents have spent the weekend stocking their kids’ backpacks with new pencil cases and notebooks, let’s hope their teachers have stocked their classrooms with toothpicks, cork, coins, and other everyday materials. The reason is simple: These materials can be used in hands-on experiments that encourage trial and error and the application of complex concepts. That’s the right way to teach STEM to tomorrow’s leaders, and it needs to be an integral part of schools and after-school programs—especially those that primarily serve minorities, low-income students, and other groups typically underrepresented in STEM fields.

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Why the Jamaica Now Leadership Council Matters

jamaica now

Jamaica, Queens has been a part of my life for over two decades. I’ve spent nearly 30 years both working and living in and around this community. As The Child Center of NY’s Associate Executive Director for Youth Development and Community Engagement, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing it not only from my own perspective, but also from that of the next generation. I’ve seen firsthand that Jamaica’s young people are very talented, willing to work hard, and eager to make the most of any opportunity to make a better life for themselves when opportunities are given to them. Such opportunities have been admittedly scarce for them, but a new effort seeks to change that.

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Spotlight: Maalika Rastogi

maalika

Maalika Rastogi The Child Center Board of Directors since 2010 and Asian Outreach Advisory Board Chair since 2006

WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE CHILD CENTER?
I believe strongly in giving back to the communities I come from. The Child Center of NY allows me to do so on two levels. My work with The Child Center enables me to give back to the geographic community where I was raised and the cultural community with which I identify.

As a first-generation Indian-American who grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, I was lucky to have grown up in a close-knit family, well adjusted to life in America. I did not experience the kind of economic, social or cultural challenges that many new Asian immigrant children and families are currently experiencing.

Unfortunately, others who grew up like me don’t even realize that such problems exist in our community. And in general, there tends to be a large misconception about Asian Americans —that we are all over-achievers, and doing just fine — but the reality is changing. I felt that it was important to bring attention to the struggles of low-income, at-risk Asian immigrant children, and the important work The Child Center of NY is doing to help these children and their families get their lives back on track. The Child Center is the only agency of its kind that has built both the trust and cultural expertise required to serve the diverse Asian immigrant community in the greater NY area.

WHY SHOULD OTHERS GET INVOLVED?
Anyone who believes that every child deserves a fair chance to succeed in life, should learn more about The Child Center and see how he or she can get involved and support the cause.

I find it extremely rewarding to hear the turnaround stories of children who were severely struggling in school, deemed lost causes at home, or being abused by their parents, and to know that my work and support has contributed to such positive change.

The Asian Outreach Advisory Board, which I chair, is always looking for talented, passionate and energetic new members. Our focus is to fundraise for and increase awareness about The Child Center and its Asian Outreach program.

To get involved, please contact me at mnrastogi@yahoo.com.

Will Mayor de Blasio’s new budget save COMPASS?

don't close compass

Students on their way to a rally to save their after-school program.

On June 30, nearly 2000 kids will lose the safe, welcoming place they go to every day after school.

COMPASS, the after-school program started by Bloomberg, was never meant to be a permanent part of the city’s programming. But the city may have underestimated how important these programs would become to the kids they serve.

Providing individualized tutoring and homework help, plus a full slate of enrichment activities to help students find their talents and develop social emotional skills, these programs were desperately needed community resources in underserved neighborhoods, and a waitlist quickly formed. But unless the revised budget, scheduled to be released tomorrow, provides funding for the programs, they will be cut.

letter to save compass

Maya Abigail, a student at PS 273, woke up on a Saturday and wrote this letter on behalf of her after-school program.

The 17 locations serve 1900 students citywide. Two locations–PS 96 in South Ozone Park and PS 273 in Richmond Hill–are a part of The Child Center’s youth development programs, and students here have been mounting a campaign to save the programs. They’ve written letters, painted posters, held rallies, marched on Queens Borough Hall, and shared videos and images online.

“It is very scary not knowing what lies next for us,” said Shantryce Hare, the director at the COMPASS program at PS 96 in South Ozone Park. Continue reading

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