Archive for the ‘Protecting and Nurturing Children and Youth’ Category

Cardinal Dolan Visits Lavelle School for the Blind

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

NOTE: All photos require the written permission of copyright holder Maria R. Bastone for usage. NO MODEL RELEASES; NO SALES; NO TRANSFER OF RIGHTS TO THIRD PARTY. EMBEDDED COPYRIGHT INFOR MAY NOT BE REMOVED. Client will indemnify photographer from any usA Bronx school that helps some of the most vulnerable residents in the city is celebrating 110 years, and that makes it a fitting time for a visit from the Archbishop of New York, reported Erin Clarke on this recent NY1 television broadcast.

The Lavelle School for the Blind had humble beginnings when it opened more than a century ago.

“It was run by the Blauvelt Dominican congregation and their dedication to the students, their commitment to helping people with severe disabilities,” said Claire Lavin, president of the board of trustees at the Lavelle School for the Blind. “They started with one blind person in someone’s apartment, and from that, it grew into a whole school.”

On Thursday, (September 11, 2014) Cardinal Timothy Dolan stopped by the school in the northeast Bronx.

“In love and compassion, teaching, healing, they do it splendidly,” Dolan said.

Though Lavelle isn’t a Catholic school, it was started by nuns and it falls under the umbrella of Catholic charities and Archdiocese institutions. This year, it’s celebrating 110 years of giving not only blind students, but also those with multiple disabilities the skills to stand on their own and be successful.

“I not only had an academic education, but I had a lot of other skills and things to back me up to be able to go out and then be the only blind child in athat was in my neighborhood,” said Carmen Rico, an alumnus of the school.

Rico said the school gave her the confidence to go on to the College of New Rochelle and Columbia. Then, she became a teacher for blind students.

“The kids are learning basic skills that translate to real work in the future,” said Gary Weir, transition coordinator for the Lavelle School for the Blind.

“I’m working with clothes and in pocketbooks,” said student Rosa Santos. “It makes me feel good. I get paid.”

This holistic approach to education piqued the interest of Dolan on his visit.

“There was sort of a sense of pride and joy and ownership in the students,” Dolan said. “They weren’t numbers. They weren’t clients. You could tell they were part of the family. There’s a sense of love and warmth and self-help and helping one another. That moved me very much.”

Just like in 1904, when the Blauvelt Dominican sisters started Lavelle, today, it’s caring for and helping its students achieve fulfilling lives.

Catch the broadcast on NY1.

Learn more about the Lavelle School for the Blind, an affiliate of Catholic Charities NY.

Bullet in His Calf, Carlos Barely Made It

Monday, September 15th, 2014

By Alexandra Starr

New York Magazine

Carlos, a soon-to-be-19-year-old from Honduras, is most fond of pastimes and people who bring on temporary amnesia. His former girlfriend, Maria, was one such happy distraction. He plays soccer every Saturday in the Bronx at Mullally Park, just a few blocks from Yankee Stadium. That helps, too. “I concentrate so much,” he says, “that I forget about everything else.”

Most of the memories Carlos would like to lose come from the trip he made from Honduras to the United States as an unaccompanied migrant two years ago. He fled because it was his best chance of having an adulthood. His hometown San Pedro de Sula has the highest homicide rate in the Americas. Once, gang members on motorcycles arrived at a park where he had been playing soccer and opened fire. A mushy white scar on his right calf records where a bullet pierced his skin. At 15, he saw a close friend shot in front of him. As a witness, Carlos would either have to join the gang responsible or be murdered. He went to live at an aunt’s house, an uncle’s, another aunt’s — at each, gang members arrived, threatening him. “I told my mother that if I was going to die, it would be trying to get out,” he says. She gave him $150 and he boarded a bus to Guatemala…

More than 10,000 unaccompanied child migrants were apprehended at the border in June 2014 alone. A public relations campaign warning Central Americans against the journey, combined with a Mexican crackdown on migrants boarding la Bestia, helped reduce the number of arrivals by two thirds by the end of the summer. Nonetheless, advocates estimate that some 74,000 children and teenagers will cross into the United States this year. That’s almost double the figure from 2013. Aside from Texas, New York has taken in more of these kids than any other state.

In part because of geography, Carlos stands a better chance than most of being permitted to stay. As a Central American, he is entitled to a court hearing to determine if he will be deported. (Mexican children, in contrast, can be screened and sent back by border patrol agents.) And, in a break with the past, the Office of Refuge Resettlement — the part of the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for the unaccompanied migrants — is picking up the tab for legal representation of children who are housed in their juvenile shelters in New York.

Because Carlos was released to his grandmother in New York City, it also meant he could access a medical and legal clinic operated by Catholic Charities, the Children’s Health Fund, and Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Every other Wednesday evening at the hospital, he and other unaccompanied teenage migrants in the city can receive medical check-ups, attend a group counseling session, and meet with an attorney.

Read the full story in New York Magazine

First-Day-of-School Giggles

Friday, September 12th, 2014

139_KenChildStudyCtr_06.19.14_TinaBuckman

By Alice Kenny

There is nothing like the first day of school.

And for these little preschoolers that attended Kennedy Child Study Center for the first time this past Monday — some developing typically, others with special needs and most from financially struggling families  — September 8 was a fantasy come true.

Dressed in their first-day finest of sleeveless shirts and shorts on this warm, sunny morning, they giggled as they herded into their primary-colored classrooms.

“Kennedy Child Study Center (KCSC), a Catholic Charities affiliated organization with locations in Manhattan and the Bronx, was thrilled to welcome over 300 students today for the 2014-2015 school year,” said Jeanne Alter, the agency’s Executive Director.

11For over 50 years, New York preschoolers have come to KCSC for evaluation; special education preschool; speech, occupational, and physical therapy; family support services; and much more, including the center’s recently added Universal Pre-K program for typically developing four-year-olds at its Bronx site.

“Students also benefit from our focus on healthy eating, exercise, technology-aided learning, and other initiatives that mark KCSC as a leader in early childhood special education,” Ms. Alter added.

Learn more about the Kennedy Child Study Center and the children at the heart of its work by visiting the website and following on Facebook.​

Haircuts, Pizza and Socks: Back-to-School Basics for These Bronx Boys

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

haircutBy Alice Kenny

Led by Catholic Charities staff, boys from the low-income Highbridge Gardens neighborhood in the Bronx crossed the East River, hiking over the Madison Avenue bridge that separates them by income, race and expectations from affluent Manhattan.

Their back-to-school adventure included free haircuts — high tops, Mohawks and zigzag parts, whatever they wanted — at the All Star Barbershop in Washington Heights.  It also included pizza and ice cream, t-shirts and socks and tips from barbers who remember what it’s like to struggle.

For many of their Manhattan peers, this may seem like only the basics for expensive back-to-school prep that extends to designer clothing, tutors and college-planning consultants.  But for these Bronx boys, ages 10-18 who mostly hail from single-parent families in a local housing project, it was essential.

The day’s adventure was one of many children participating in Catholic Charities Highbridge Gardens Cornerstone Alianza Division took part in during its free, seven-day-per week summer program. Catholic Charities Alianza Division provides a variety of services for youth ages 5 to 21 years old, promoting a world view that extends far beyond the streets where they live.

Immigrant Daughter’s Tearful Journey from Guatemala to N.J. Ends with Dad’s Hug

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Tyson Trish/Staff Photographer

BY MONSY ALVARADO

STAFF WRITER

THE RECORD

The last time she saw her father was more than four years ago when he bid her farewell for better job opportunities in the United States. On Thursday, 14-year-old Elizita hugged her father tight at Newark Liberty International Airport as tears rolled down both their cheeks…

Whether Elizita will be allowed to stay in the country, and for how long, will depend on the immigration courts and what sort of relief she will pursue to stay. For example, some children seek asylum and must prove why they would be eligible for that status.

The reunion is one of thousands that have occurred in airports across the country since a surge of unaccompanied minors have entered the country illegally through the southwest border.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who crossed the border were apprehended by authorities from October 2013 through June 2014. The influx of illegal crossers who are minors has led to a debate as to what the country should do with them and whether they should be sent back home, or be allowed to stay.

Meanwhile, in Newark on Thursday several leaders of community organizations that work with immigrants and members of local churches gathered to figure out ways they can help the newly arrived children being held in temporary shelters who don’t have family in the country and are in need sponsors.

Many of the children, mostly from Central America, are fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty and to join a parent in the United States.

“These kids are really fleeing very real violence,” said Morgan Alen-Schouten, a guest speaker at the event who is a staff attorney in the Unaccompanied Minors Program at Catholic Charities Community Services of the Archdiocese of New York and who said she had met with more than 15 children in the last week. “These kids are fleeing the equivalent of war zones, some very violent places.”

Read the full story in The Record.

College Student Takes Time Off to Feed the Hungry

Monday, September 8th, 2014

DSC_7288By Alice Kenny

Danica Brown, a recent graduate of George Washington University and current student at Howard University Law School, shares her life-changing experiences from working this past summer at the Catholic Charities Feeding Our Neighbors emergency food program.

Check out excerpts from her first-person account:

Supervising teenagers this summer gave me a reality check on the real issues my peers face every day. It taught me responsibility: I realized that, within the connection we formed, they are looking to me for guidance and what I say could possibly impact their decision making so I need to heed my responsibilities and lead by example.

I cannot reiterate how thankful I am for this summer opportunity. The importance of food pantries in the fabric of middle class America is not the typical image that comes to mind when we think about food assistance programs, but this summer it was a reality. Yes we served a great amount of low-income families but also working moms and dads, who although are putting out their greatest efforts, do not make enough to place a balanced meal on the table.

With Danica’s eyes now opened to the very real need around us, she has become determined, she says, to extend what she learned beyond this summer and beyond New York.

The lessons I learned this summer didn’t stop with me returning back to college. This semester I am taking a Special Topics class: Sociology of Food: School Lunch Policy. Now that I am President of the Black Student Union at George Washington University we are doing several community service projects at local soup kitchens and food banks around DC.

Read her full article and more in the PTS Newsletter.

Shootin’ School – and That’s the Good News

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

shootin school 2014 picture 1st week

By Alice Kenny

It may be time for a new name – but certainly not a new focus – for the Shootin’ School, a program that partners with Catholic Charities CYO in Staten Island to help children perfect their basketball moves while encouraging them to rally around those in need.

Throughout the summer, children grades three through eight participated in four-day clinics to perfect their layups, free throws and all-round basketball shooting. Several of the children come from low-income families. They received scholarships so they could play with their classmates and peers.

Then, last week, on the program’s final day its founder, Anthony Passalaqua, provided the players with pizza lunch in return for food they brought to help replenish the Catholic Charities food pantry in Port Richmond.

Potential Pope Visit ‘a Blessing’ for New Yorkers

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

By Mike Vlensky

Wall Street Journal

“Catholic New Yorkers expressed high hopes after Pope Francis said Monday he might visit New York City, which would mark the first papal visit since 2008,” reports Mike Vilensky on August 20, 2014 in the Wall Street Journal.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, an umbrella organization that encompasses 90 agencies serving people throughout the New York Archdiocese, said the new pope’s messages on peace and inequality have spurred a renewed enthusiasm and commitment among donors and charity workers alike.

‘There are no plans yet,’ said Msgr. Sullivan of the possible New York trip, but the tradition has been that if a pope comes to address the United Nations, he usually also makes side trips into the community.

Among the projects on Msgr. Sullivan’s wish list: taking the pope to see children who have fled desperate situations in Central America, visits to homeless shelters and to meet ‘New Yorkers who struggle to have a decent meal at the end of the day.’

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

Expedited Immigration Hearings in NYC for Minors

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

A federal immigration court in Manhattan that usually deals with fewer than 100 new children’s cases a month is getting a lot busier, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Twenty-nine minors who entered the country unaccompanied by adults appeared Wednesday before Judge James Loprest, Jr., some with attorneys, others with family by their sides. Six-year-old Gabriela and her brother Brandon Lopez, 15, were among the minors hoping to be allowed to legally stay with family already living in the U.S.

The siblings participated in the first day of surge docket hearings at federal immigration court. The “surge docket” is an initiative by the federal government to help expedite the legal process for the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been processed into the system since October.

The minors are fleeing poverty, gang-violence and death, say advocates from the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

AILA is one of five groups handling unaccompanied minor cases. The others are the Legal Aid Society and nonprofits Catholic Charities, Safe Passage, and The Door. The groups have been preparing for a surge in cases since they learned 3, 347 unaccompanied minors had arrived in the state since January. New York is second to Texas with the most cases.

Gabriela and Brandon needed to leave their home country to get away from extortionists, said their father, 35-year-old Emerson Lopez.

“I began to hear rumors that they were going start charging rent for each head,” Lopez said, referring to his children.

“In my home country, they call them ‘heads.’ They treat people as if they are cattle, and that’s when my wife and I made the decision to send for them,” he said.

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

Find out more about the help Catholic Charities provides in the Latin Post.

In Court, Immigrant Children Moved to Head of the Line

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Yovany’s first opportunity to face the United States justice system came late on Thursday morning, more than a month after his journey from Guatemala ended in an American detention center near the Southwest border, reports Kirk Semple in The New York Times on August 14, 2014…

Yovany was among 55 children who have come before the judge this week as part of a new accelerated court process, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America…

Before the surge of unaccompanied minors became a crisis for the Obama administration, the immigration courts in New York, among the nation’s busiest, held four special juvenile dockets every month for children facing deportation. In coordination with court officials, a coalition of groups — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Charities Community Services, Legal Aid, Safe Passage Project and the Door — provided screening and free legal representation to the children…

Immigrants’ advocates in New York learned only at the end of July that the Justice Department had scheduled the new juvenile dockets starting this week. The groups, already overstretched, rushed to develop a plan of action…

The special dockets unfolded this week on the 12th floor of 26 Federal Plaza, a hulking federal office building near City Hall. The children, most accompanied by relatives, began to gather in the hallway outside Courtroom 31 by 8 a.m., an hour before the hearings were to begin…

On both days, Elvis Garcia Callejas, a representative from Catholic Charities, used a white board to present the families with a primer, in Spanish, on how the court works and on possible avenues of relief they might pursue to avoid a deportation order.

Most of the defendants appeared to be teenagers, although there were children as young as 4. Two young sisters wore matching striped dresses.

“The judge is not going to rule today,” Mr. Garcia Callejas clarified…

Justice Department officials said they had a mandate to ensure that children went before an immigration judge within 21 days of being placed in deportation proceedings. They plan to hold the special dockets as often as necessary to reach that goal.

Read the full story in The New York Times.