News and Resources

Campaign for Children Seeks Funding for Early Childhood and After School Fixes

Tuesday, March 17, 2015



In response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Preliminary Budget for FY2015-16, The Campaign for Children is seeking several budget adjustments to address what they argue are critical issues in both the early childhood and after school services networks in New York City. 
 
“Early Learn providers’ largest concern is with the compensation of their staff. Early Childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals of any field and the situation for Early Learn teachers and staff is particularly stark,” said UNH’s Gregory Brender.  “Many Early Learn staff cannot afford health insurance due to the employee contribution. Moreover, their salaries are considerably lower than similarly credentialed teachers in the public school systems. These disparities will only grow if the wages of Early Learn teachers continue to stagnate.”

Read the full article here.  

It Could Be You: Documentary Makes Poverty Relatable

Thursday, October 16, 2014


On Octber 7, UNH, with the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, sponsored a screening of American Winter and a community forum, titled “Thawing of the American Dream.” Broadcast journalist Hugh Hamilton moderated the panel discussion. 

Panelist Ken Walters, Director of Members Services at United Neighborhood Houses of New York, said that his organization doesn’t approach his the poor as “clients” but as partners in an effort to engage leadership through advocacy, like testifying at city hall. He said that even the most hard-nosed politician would find it difficult not to be moved by face-to-face encounters. 

Read more about the event here. 


There's Still Time to Enroll Your 4-year-old in Pre-K This Fall

Friday, October 10, 2014
 

It's not too late for parents to enroll their 4-year-olds in free full day pre-K programs at public schools or nonprofits for this school year.The de Blasio administration — whose ambitious pre-K expansion aims to draw 53,000 kids this year — is letting centers continue enrolling kids past the traditional Oct. 1 deadline because there are still scores of open seats.

"We think the extension is a prudent decision given that this is the first year of this large expansion, and we want to ensure that every family has the opportunity to enroll their child in a program that fits their family's needs," said Gregory Brender, a policy director at United Neighborhood Houses, an umbrella group for the city's settlement houses, many of which offer pre-K programs.

Read the full article here. 

Famed Chef Marcus Samuelsson Visits Citi Field

Thursday, July 31, 2014
New York Sportscene
Citi held its third Citi Kids event of the 2014 season at Citi Field on Wednesday with celebrity chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson. He spoke  to 150 students from United Neighborhood Houses  and Jackie Robinson foundation scholars about his personal life story, before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, prior to the Mets taking on the Philadelphia Phillies.

Read the full article here. 

Advocates Argue Advantage Awards Reveal Need for More Funding

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Advocates used Governor Cuomo's announcement last week of $10.9 million in grants for Advantage After School Programs as an opportunity to point out that funding for these and other youth programs has actually declined in recent years and that the awards themselves demonstrate the need for additional investments in these types of programming.

The New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) noted that the FY2014-15 state budget included $17.7 million for Advantage. This was down 37% from the $28 million which had been allocated to the program annually prior to the ecomic crisis and subsequent recession.  The loss in funding has cost almost 8,000 students the opportunity to participate in programs. Overall, funding for New York’s three major afterschool funding streams remains 40% below pre-recession levels.

Only 68 of 281 applicants for the latest round of Advantage After School funding actually received grants—fewer than a quarter of the applicants. Several programs that had been receiving funds were cut, which will leave them struggling to still serve students.

"There are a lot of programs that used to be there for students that aren't operating anymore," agrees Gregory Brender, Policy Analyst with United Neighborhood Houses.

Governor Cuomo proposed $160 million in new afterschool funding in the FY2014-15 executive budget, which would have created opportunities for more than 100,000 students. That funding was not included in the final budget.  NYSAN says this was a huge missed opportunity to provide new options for some of the 1.1 million students in need of a safe, educational place to go after the school day ends—and for their families, too many of whom face painful choices when they cannot afford safe afterschool options.

Read the full article here. 

The Summer Surge: Mayor Sends in Services to Keep City Safe

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

 
Last week, the de Blasio administration announced a $210.5 million comprehensive, citywide plan to make the City’s neighborhoods safer and reduce violent crime in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments.  While the bulk of the overall investment consists of funding for repairs, maintenance and physical improvements to enhance security at NYCHA buildings – as well as redeployment of 200 Police Officers -- the new initiative also includes a $15.6 million allocation of new funding to expand community center activities and other key programs in NYCHA projects this summer.

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to increase public safety in NYCHA developments presents a meaningful and progressive response to one of the City's most challenging problems,” said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH). “This plan depends heavily on community-based organizations including the settlement houses who are members of United Neighborhood Houses.  The Mayor’s plan to expand nighttime and weekend youth programs and Summer Youth Employment slots will make a difference for thousands of young people.”

“The Campaign for Summer Jobs applauds Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of 850 new SYEP slots this summer for young people in public housing,” said Gigi Li of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition and Gregory Brender of UNH, co-chairs of Campaign for Summer Jobs.  “These jobs will give valuable work experience and a paycheck to young people throughout the City…  We are thrilled that more young people will have this opportunity.”

Read the full article to see the response of UNH and partner organizations. 

Big Dreams for New York's Youngest Children: The future of early care and education

Monday, June 23, 2014

On June 17, UNH Policy Analyst joined a panel of experts in early childhood education to discuss the future of subsidized child care for younger children as New York City prepares to launch Universal Pre-K for 4-year-olds.

A link to the livestream and a summary of the event is below:

With the creation of EarlyLearnNYC in 2012, New York City reinvented its system for subsidized early care and education for children from low-income families. Officials sought to ensure high quality, developmentally smart care--but a string of financial and logistical hurdles posed difficulties for many of the nonprofit organizations that run these programs. Today, some thrive while others have lost their contracts or struggle to remain open. Now, as the city launches an expanded Pre-K network for 4-year-olds, what will happen to subsidized child care for younger kids? Can the reform vision of EarlyLearn be put fully into action, and sustained? A conversation with experts in the field, and the release of findings from a new Center for New York City Affairs report on early care and education.

Watch here! 


Advocates Urge City to Add Adult Literacy Funding

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Over 100 students, teachers, and advocates rallied outside of City Hall yesterday to urge Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to restore funding for adult literacy, High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation, and English classes. Students and supporters from across the City, joined by a number of City Council members and other city officials, were brought together by the New York City Coalition of Adult Literacy (NYCCAL), an umbrella advocacy group dedicated to preserving and promoting access to literacy services across the City.

“After years of the City failing to include funding for community-based literacy programing in the baselined budget, this year represents a critical opportunity for Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to break from the past and create a new and robust learning infrastructure," said Kevin Douglas of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), one of the rally’s organizers.

Full article here.

Youth, Advocates and Elected Leaders Rally at City Hall for Jobs Program

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Campaign Launches Effort to Create 100,000 Summer Youth Jobs

New York, NY (May 20, 2014) – Today supporters of the City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) spoke out about the current youth unemployment crisis and their desire to see the successful jobs program expanded. The six-week, minimum-wage part-time program is open to youth between the ages of 14-24, with some 36,000 participating each summer. However, advocates from the Campaign for Summer Jobs point to the 100,000 other youth who are turned away from the program every year for lack of funding.

Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH) stated, “With 100,000 youth turned away every year from the Summer Youth Employment Program, the City must do more. We know well the benefits of helping young people to engage in a positive work experience over the summer months: it’s good for them, good for their families, good for their communities and good for the economy. As a leader of the Campaign for Summer Jobs for the past fifteen years, UNH looks forward to working with the new administration and City Council to expand SYEP to serve 100,000 youth by 2018.”

Gigi Li, Co-Chair of the Campaign, said her organization, the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition (NFSC), is fully behind the effort: “NFSC is proud to embark on a 5 year expansion plan to reach 100,000 SYEP slots in 5 years. Reaching this goal will be a win-win-win for youth, families, and CBOs throughout all of our neighborhoods. These additional jobs represent investment in young people and economic development for communities throughout New York City.”

The vision of the Campaign is for the program to be able to serve at least 100,000 youth each summer, within the next five years, and they are calling on the Mayor and City Council to invest an additional $14.2 million this year as a first step. Many members of the City Council seem to agree the time is now.

“The young people of our communities understand the benefits of staying on a positive path and, when given an opportunity, will choose to participate in constructive activities rather than fall subject to negative influences on our streets. Our children want to work to be independent, to save for college, and to support their families,” stated Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Chair of the City Council’s Youth Services Committee. “The Summer Youth Employment Program is often the first time that many young New Yorkers are able to create a real resume, to gain work experience in a desired career field, and to be exposed to the routine of being fully employed. Investing in the Summer Youth Employment Program is an investment in the futures of our young people. I applaud the efforts of the Campaign for Summer Jobs and will continue to support them in their efforts to expand this program to more of our youth.”

Jennifer March, Executive Director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York added “For the youth who are lucky enough to literally win the SYEP lottery, a summer job helps them gain critical work experience and learn about financial management, as well as provides them and their families with additional income that is then a boost to the local economy. A five year plan to reach 100,000 youth each summer is an immeasurable investment for today’s youth—who are tomorrow’s workforce.”

Recently the program faced the threat of fewer jobs as a result of declining federal and private support, as well as the recent hike in the state minimum wage. Although advocates say they supported the increase from $7.25/hr. to $8.00/hr., they say the increase also means more dollars are needed to maintain the jobs program.

Council Member Margaret Chin, a member of the Youth Services Committee, supports the effort to expand the program, and recalled her own days as a youth worker: “When I was seventeen, I participated in SYEP, so I know from personal experience the importance of having paid summer work experience. In today’s world, summer jobs have become a necessary experience for our young persons to learn important skills that will enable them to find employment after graduation. We are glad that the city and state have committed funds to continuing the Summer Youth Employment program this year, but it is important that the city, state, and private sector commit resources to begin expanding the program so that 100,000 youth can participate each year.”

Several youth leaders at the Campaign launch described the value of the program in their own words. Ricardo Luciano, a 17 year old senior at The Children's Aid Society's Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, added “As a young person myself, I understand the importance of having a good resume to present to future employers. Every day, I see my peers struggle to find jobs. I see them struggle to be taken seriously. As young proactive adults, we want to be able to provide for not only ourselves, but for those we care for.”

Leaders from the City’s non-profit sector say they came together because they see the difference the program makes is real, and long term. Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) said “FPWA is proud to support the Campaign for Summer Jobs’ proposal to expand SYEP for our City’s young people. Given that youth between 16 and 24 years of age have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment, increasing investments in the SYEP program will help to propel them towards economic mobility and security. We strongly urge the City to embrace the expansion plan so we may reach the goal of 100,000 SYEP jobs over the next five years.”

Her remarks were supported by the testimony of one youth who says her SYEP experience led directly to additional employment. Stephanie Ruiz, a senior at Fort Hamilton High School who participated in SYEP through Center for Family Life in Sunset Park in the summer of 2013, now works for the agency: “After the summer, I got hired for the school year after school program, working in the office. During the school year more doors opened for me and I started working as an Assistant Group Leader. It changed the person I was for better. I learned how to communicate, how to work with and help kids, and how to really challenge myself. One of the most important skills I learned was leadership. I never thought that I would be a leader to anyone, and now I believe I am—I learned that I was capable of speaking out and to using my voice.”

In the City Council’s response to Mayor de Blasio’s first Preliminary Budget released in February of this year, they called on his administration to invest an additional $14.2 million in SYEP in order to create 10,000 new Summer Jobs. Underscoring the need for these resources, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who sits on the Council’s Youth Services Committee, stated “The Summer Youth Employment Program empowers youth ages 14-24 to secure employment and obtain skills that they can utilize in their academic and professional careers. New York City youth and young adults rely on this program, which has undergone a steady decline of job opportunities. It is imperative that we preserve and expand the capacity of this program by increasing city, state, and federal funding to ensure that all of our youth can learn financial responsibility, contribute to the economic development of our city and state, while serving their communities.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) also supports the expansion, stating that “Summer employment is a major opportunity for growth among our youth population. I join my colleagues and all of the advocates here today in calling for the City's budget include all the 46,000 Summer Youth Employment slots so that children have the chance to both earn money and learn about responsibility over the summer."

With the Council and Mayor now engaged in budget negotiations that must yield a final agreement by July 1, 2015, the message from 20 year old Christina Lantigua, a group leader with one of SCO Family of Services’ summer camps is short and sweet: “So I ask you Council Members, go back to the Mayor, look over the budget and find the money to increase jobs in the Summer Youth Employment Program.”

UNH responds to FY 15 State Budget

Monday, March 31, 2014

Although there remains tremendous unmet need in services for New York City’s children, youth, immigrants and older adults, United Neighborhood Houses is pleased that the NYS FY2015 budget includes several positive investments that will improve the lives of residents in vulnerable and low income communities. The investment of $300 million to make Universal Pre-K truly universal in New York City is a historic victory for New York City's children and families. In addition, the $34m expansion in the Child Care Block Grant (CCBG) will also help ensure that parents are able to go to work while their children are in safe settings. We are encouraged by the $5m increased investment in the Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) program which will allow greater numbers of older adults to age with dignity in their homes, and also applaud the $1m expansion to the Settlement House Initiative, which provides settlement houses with the flexibility to meet evolving community needs.

However, UNH is deeply disappointed in the failure of leadership that resulted in the DREAM Act not being included in the final budget. As a result, thousands of immigrant youth without documentation through no fault of their own will continue to face significant financial barriers to pursuing a higher education after succeeding in high school. This represents a missed opportunity for New York to capitalize on their talents and potential. In addition, by not investing greater resources in Adult Literacy Education (ALE) and the transition from the GED® to the Common Core-aligned TASC™ examination, immigrants seeking to improve their English skills, and other adult education students hoping to earn their high school equivalency diploma will continue to face class shortages.

Also of significant concern to UNH is the nominal increased investment in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). While the $2.5m increase will help retain some youth jobs, thousands more will be lost in NYC at a time when over 100,000 youth in the City are already turned from the program annually, as the State did not fully account for the impact of the increased minimum wage on the program.

Email Eling Tsai at etsai@unhny.org for more information.
www.unhny.org