The Children’s Aid Society and Nora at Rise

Sorry for the delay in updating posts, yes I am STILL in New York City. The last three days have gone in a New York minute, due to my sister visiting and Columbus Day its been a catch up on sightseeing, i’ve almost forgot i’m living in one of the most exciting cities.
Towards the latter half of last week I visited another institutional establishment which underpins child welfare in the US, The Children’s Aid Society. And then finished the week with afternoon tea in the lobby of Ace hotel on Broadway with editor of RISE magazine a periodical that publishes stories for parents by parents. This completed my week of reporting on the work done by CWOP I visited on Wednesday.
The Children’s Aid Society is one of the largest NGO’s in New York, similar to the Catholic Charities they have been around for over a century providing help and support to the poor in New York City. The Children’s Aid Society was founded in 1853 by Philanthropist Charles Loring Brace. Due to the effects of mass immigration and industrialisation in New York he created the ‘Orphan Trains’ to transport the thousands of abandoned and abused children out to the West for a better hope of life. Continuing in this vein and like the Catholic Charities a lot of work is done with foster and adoption agencies in the city, as well as mental health services.
They have 12 sites over the city; community centres, head start and early head start services and health clinics.
I visited the large Victorian offices in downtown Manhattan, and met Moira Cappio, Deputy Director of Early Childhood Programs. She explained the mission of the charity is ‘cradle to college’ and that the families are supported through the early start and head start programs. They maintain links with the community, elementary schools and child minders by providing a consistency of support through the transition stages of moving through pre K, Kindergarten, Elementary school and onwards. I balanced this with another interview the next day with James Langford Director of Quality Improvement at their other site just a few blocks across town. This is another tall street lined business block. Before meeting James I looked around the reception area which looked like a bright colourful doctors waiting room. It is furnished with comfortable looking hard wearing chairs. A glass door leads outside into the shadowed courtyard with a climbing frame and a slide. I asked the receptionist where all the families are, she it gets busy at 3pm that’s when all the children come to visit their parents after school.
I meet James, he has had 40 years of experience working in the industry, as Director of Quality Improvement, he has a more realistic view of the way looking at family support over the years He believes research in early intervention is more important than it’s ever been. He tells me about his contacts with Barnardo’s in the UK and how they are frequently visit their New York offices for insights. He reels off academics names and sends me documents and papers from various evidence based research on the email as we speak. He sends me a picture of him too, playing the guitar to the children at one of their elementary schools.
He is proud of the work Children’s Aid Society has achieved but worries about cuts to funding, especially the impacts of the economic shut down as it’s federal money which funds all Head Start programs in the country. I left with a lot to think about and a lot to read.

Afterwards, I met Nora McCarthy, the editor of the Rise Magazine an online and printed magazine for parents by parents. The content compliments the work carried out at CWOP in advocating for families who are involved in the welfare system. http://www.risemagazine.org/pages/about.html
Since 2005 they have published a tri-annual printed and online version. Starting out with 5000 copies it quickly increased to 12,000 and now reaches 15,000 parents and practitioners. I am attracted by the overall design; an easy on the eye calming green layout. Nora says that’s pretty much how the design started and it’s not changed over the years.
I was so interested in her perspective of working with parents and their stories. She says her role is to get the stories out of the parents and it’s a process that takes around 3 months to bring the stories to fruition.
There is a power dynamic here correcting the mainstream perceptions, writing true stories about true people instead of sensationalists headlines that only come through to the public. It validates parents life’s and stories and who they are.
Not only is it a therapeutic exercise for families it also helps professionals to understand peoples experiences. A brilliant medium to help people understand their situation and readers to appreciate them too.
I got some really good insight into using this medium as tool to help gain community engagement which I’m hoping to apply when I return.

Sent from my iPad

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