NYC to Cover 2012 Summer Camp Tuition Costs for Special Needs Children


camp-hascIn March, Mrs. Leah Steinberg, Director of Project Learn, Special Education Affairs of Agudath Israel of America, started getting frantic calls from parents of special needs children who had been advised by the New York City Department of Education that, commencing this year, summer placements – such as Camp HASC, Mishkan and other similar programs – would no longer be approved for parents seeking tuition reimbursement.

The situation was critical, since the changes would affect our most vulnerable children and their families. And history had indicated that a decision of this sort, once it was rendered, was etched in stone. The feelings of frustration and helplessness among parents, schools and community leaders were almost palpable.

Mrs. Steinberg embarked on a tireless campaign to get the Department of Education to rescind its decision. It was totally unacceptable, she argued, that parents and families, already stretched to the breaking point, would suddenly be disqualified from receiving the support they had come to rely on for so many years enabling them to send their children to nonpublic summer programs. And so began a series of meetings with the Department of Education as well as outreach to government officials all designed to yield the desired, desperately needed decision that, at least for this summer, the placements would be approved.

Earlier this week the NYC Department of Education reversed its policy decision and approved the placements for the upcoming summer season of 2012. This policy reversal, while only for this year, will affect an estimated 160 children and their families for whom the expensive summer tuition costs would otherwise be beyond their means.

“It is always gratifying to accomplish on behalf of our precious children and their families. It is especially gratifying when those children have special needs. Thanks to the Department of Education staff as well as all the elected officials, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Councilman Erich Ulrich who worked with Mrs. Steinberg to make this happen” said Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Vice President for Community Services for Agudath Israel of America.

Mr. de Blasio said, “Parents of children with special needs spent so much time and energy jumping through hoops to get their children the services they deserve. It’s a daily battle they need our help to win. I am so happy we could work on behalf of these parents with Agudath Israel of America to ensure that their children will spend this summer in high-quality, culturally-appropriate programs.”

The impact of the Department of Educations turnaround was articulated by a grateful school principal in an email to Mrs. Steinberg:

“Last night, I stayed in the office long after our phone call, calling each parent and telling them the good news. It was one of the most enjoyable things I have done in a long time! The parents were so excited, so elated, each one telling the story behind the story of why it was so important for the child and them to have this time in camp. From the child who eats and sleeps much better in the mountain air, and one whose asthma and allergies would keep him indoors all summer from the humid city air, to a parent with an ailing mother whom she could care for in the summer while her child is in camp. Its amazing how many lives are being impacted from this one change. Parents who were dreading the summer, as well as helping borrow and raise funds for camp are relieved. These children will get to run in the fresh air, roll in the grass, away from traffic, confined spaces, and safety hazards. Parents will get much needed and deserved time to recharge. And you were the Aibishters shliach to make this happen. What a zchus! ”

A very grateful Mrs Steinberg exclaimed “I applaud this decision by the New York City Department of Education. Over the years, my experience has been that if at all possible the Department will do what it takes to help our children. Thank you, once again, for going the extra mile. I also would like to express my gratitude to all the government officials who stepped forward.”

Project Learn (Limud Educational Advocacy and Referral Network) advocates on behalf of children with special educational needs with city, state and national government officials, assists parents and schools who require guidance and proper referrals in accessing services, and helps establish special education programs in a growing number of yeshivos.

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. This is wonderful news – but then why do I still receive so many letters from organizations asking to “sponsor” a child in camp???

  2. Thank you for your straight-forward and honest reporting! Special thank you to Mrs Steinberg at the Agudah for this tremendous accomplishment.

  3. Chochom, are your letters from these kinds of camps? Maybe there are kids who have just been dx who don’t yet have the paperwork, or kids with borderline diagnoses who don’t qualify for aid yet such services are appropriate and available for a fee.

    Maybe you can come up with a few such scenarios yourself.