September 20, 2018 Meeting Notes
Welcome. This meeting was held at the Children’s Center of Hamden, 1400 Whitney Avenue. President Dave Bechtel called the meeting to order about 7:10. He welcomed everyone and thanked the Children’s Center for hosting the meeting and providing the snacks and beverages.
- Michael Ross has resigned as Chair of the Library Committee
- At the Board of Ed Operations committee meeting on Monday, September 24, there will be a presentation of the revised report from the consultants working on “Rethink, Restructure, Revise” plan for Hamden schools. The meeting will be at 7:00 pm at the Hamden Middle School.
- There will be a Town-Wide Forum on LED Streetlights – Sat. Sept. 29, 2-4pm, Hamden High School. Room C-107.
Committee Updates. WCA committee updates included:
- Music Committee. Dave reviewed the very well attended summer 2018 series. He also reported that Jan Kazienko, who has chaired the music committee for several years has resigned and Deidre Dolan will be the new chair. New committee members are always welcome so think about it and watch for meeting announcements later this year.
- Library Committee: WCA vice president Connie Mattheson reported that in July, the Committee members presented a check to the Library Director and Board for $2,350, proceeds from the Books and Booze fundraiser for the Whitneyville Branch Library. The Committee will meet in October to make plans for this year’s events and to choose a new chair. Any new members are welcome.
Program: Dave introduced the program, noting that the Children’s Center is a very visible part of our community and yet many of us don’t really know what they do. He introduced Dan Lyga (Chief Executive Officer), and turned the program over to Dan. Dan introduced Cheryl Smith (Chief Operating Officer), Sarah Lockery (Director of Development and Community Relations) and Detective Stephen Rossacci (Hamden Police Department liaison to the Children’s Center).
Dan started with the history of the Children’s Center, showing the evolution of locations and services provided for the past 185 years:
- 1833: Began as an orphanage, New Haven Orphan Asylum, the first child caring facility in Connecticut;
- 1925: Moved to current location in Hamden;
- 1940’s-50’s: Added medical care for children with polio;
- Served as adoption agency for a period of time;
- 1960’s – 1980’s: Added treatment for children with behavioral health and substance abuse issues: and
- 1990’s – 2005: Provided services and treatment with heavy emphasis on residential treatment. (100+ youth sleeping onsite and 45 day-program slots.)
Cheryl provided more detail on the programs and services provided in recent years and helped us understand how the evolution of research and theories of treatment impact what services and programs the Center provides.
- Currently (2018) has 47 beds and almost 100 served in day programs. This clearly demonstrates the shift from congregate care to day programs since 2005.
- Currently there are nine discreet programs currently administered by the Children’s Center.
- Program types vary from Clinical Day school, to Outpatient Substance Abuse to Crisis Stabilization and full Residential Treatment.
- The number of clients, the age ranges, and the gender vary by program.
- The average stay varies from 3 days to 12 months and one small group home serves adult women as long as needed.
- The Center also offers a number of programs for the children in addition to treatment and school. These include culinary arts, music and a gardening/ healthy eating / farmers’ market activity.
Detective Rossacci explained his role as police liaison officer. He discussed his types of engagement and interaction with the children and the Center and clarified what the police can and cannot do:
- Clarified laws regarding stopping juveniles. Per a 2005 law, staff at the Children’s Center are not allowed by law to physically restrain youth from leaving unless they are a threat to themselves or others. That is why people may see staff following a young person trying to convince them to return to the Center.
- Shared broader juvenile justice problems seen statewide, including auto thefts related to gang activities and how police departments are responding.
- The Children’s Center has been partnering with Hamden Police Department – assigning an additional officer in the neighborhood every evening starting at 6 pm. The officer checks in with the 24-hour onsite supervisor and is the first point of contact for any concerns from The Children’s Center or the 911 operator in Hamden.
- Steve repeatedly encouraged everyone to call the police, any time you see something that doesn’t seem right – whether related to the Children’s Center or not.
Dan opened up the floor for questions and a very engaged audience responded. For almost an hour, Dan, Cheryl, Steve and Sarah answered questions. The conversation and discussions ranged from very specific questions about the Children’s Center of Hamden to the broader topics of children’s services and juvenile justice, nationally or at the State level in Connecticut.
Information was shared about Connecticut state departments that were, or are, involved including the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Division of Court Support Services (CSSD). The team explained how these are evolving at our State level and what has happened in the past year, what is happening now, what is not happening that should be.
- The closing of Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) resulted in lack of locked juvenile facilities in the state. The State did not plan adequately before closing the facility. The responsibility shifted responsibility from DCF to CSSD.
- The State issued a request for proposals (RFP) for private facilities to meet the need for approximately 60 beds. Only one response was received and it was not acceptable. The state is drafting a new RFP. Juveniles impacted currently held in prisons or are being referred to other programs across the state.
- The Children’s Center did not submit an RFP. They do not have the appropriate facility for the population from CJTS or those juveniles requiring a locked facility. The Children’s Center does not plan to serve that population. In the interim, they have been asked to take clients and these will be considered on a case by case basis and will not be accepted until a full assessment has been completed.
What has the Children’s Center done in addition to the relationship with the police?
- Instituted monthly meetings with community, police, and elected officials. (This meeting is one of the results of those meetings.)
- Installed additional cameras in common areas.
- Installed delayed crash bars on doors in cottages with frequent runaways.
- Is using special activities/trips, etc. as incentives.
- Created work programs for youth.
Where do we go from here?
- Communicate your questions and concerns – the sooner the better. Ideas and suggestions welcome. Call or email The Children’s Center any time:
- Cheryl Smith at email@example.com or 203-248-2116 x269.
- Dan Lyga at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-248-2116 x202
- Any time day or night, you can call the 24-hour Supervisor On Site at 203-627-2273.
- Rossacci urged residents to call 911 if there is an immediate concern about crime (rather than the Children’s Center). “We’re here to serve you.”
- Advocate for a full continuum of care at the state level. Speak to and write your legislators – state and local. “We know the economy is a huge issue, but how are we making sure our youth and our communities are safe?”
It was agreed that the meetings which include the Children’s Center, the police, community groups and local elected officials will continue. Information about the Children’s Center and advocacy opportunities will be shared by newsletters, on websites and social media and in future WCA meetings as necessary or appropriate.
Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 9:05 pm.