August 14, 2017
By Pamela McLoughlin
Boys & Girls Village Monday broke ground on an 8,300-square-foot expansion of the Charles F. Hayden Therapeutic Day School, but no gold-shovel-wielding official there said it better than former student Chase Brown.
Brown, 18, of West Haven, said he couldn’t make it in the public school because he had issues that needed personalized attention. He entered Boys & Girls Village at age 15, had a “breakdown” the fourth day of school that sent him to a residential program elsewhere for a year and, still, “BGV” took him back to complete high school, Brown said.
It was at BGV — because they never gave up on him — that Brown learned “coping, life and job skills.” Today he has a job, offers for two other jobs, and a scholarship to a two-year college. Brown hopes to study graphic design and coding.
It is successes like Brown’s that have driven the school to become one of the best known special education schools in the state.
The growth resulted in BGV adding eleventh and twelfth grades in recent years and created the need for more space. Hayden school has used “temporary buildings” for some classes and offices.
As a therapeutic school, the program focuses on special education, emotional, behavioral and academic growth, with the goal of returning students to a mainstream setting.
State Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz — BGV is partners with DCF — was among the dignitaries who shoveled the ceremonial first dirt.
“It really does take a village. … It’s about partnership,” and Boys & Girls Village has answered the call for so many, Katz said.
Katz said when she took office 6½ years ago, she was contacted by Dr. Steven M. Kant, a psychiatrist who also is president and CEO of Boys & Girls Village, who called her to ask, “What do you need?”
Katz said told him almost 400 children in need of therapeutic and special education services were being sent out of state. Katz said she didn’t like that because Connecticut is one of the richest states and rather than be sent out to other jurisdictions, those children should have the opportunity to be treated and educated in their home state where they would likely naturally settle and raise their own families.
Boys & Girls Village answered the call by expanding services — and now its campus. Katz said today there are only six students out of state.
A $2 million grant from DCF will fund expansion of the therapeutic day school.
In addition, construction of a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility for treating and housing some of the state’s most vulnerable youths will take place as part of the overall expansion project.
Construction of the new program building will be funded, in part, by a $2.16 million state grant. BGV will match that grant, drawing on capital support from its donors.
The work is scheduled to be done in phases and is expected to be completed in 2018. The teardown began this summer.
Kant said that when he first showed Katz the “temporary buildings” on campus, she said, “My kids are not going to be educated in trailers.” Kant said that’s how deeply Katz cares for the children in Connecticut.
The new behavioral health facility will allow expansion of programs and services, including a 16-bed children’s psychiatric care unit; a 12-bed residential treatment program for boys; in-home treatment and family reunification programs; and specialized training for foster and adoptive parents, according to a press release from Boys & Girls Village.
Kant said recently the facility has almost doubled in size “in terms of our school, our staff, and our offerings of sophisticated programs and services.
“This new facility is crucial to supporting that growth and allowing us to connect a greater number of children and families in Connecticut to the valuable care and support our agency offers,” Kant has said.
Boys & Girls Village, which has a partnership with DCF, serves at-risk youth from Fairfield and New Haven counties. When founded, the organization housed at-risk boys, but today serves both genders.