National Adoption Month has been recognized in the United States for over 30 years. Each year, events are held around the country to celebrate adoptive families. This year, the Administration for Children & Families of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has declared “Supporting and Promoting Sibling Connections” as the theme of National Adoption Month. As the Administration notes, siblings have a unique bond. Research has shown the critical nature of sibling bonds and their importance for children’s development and emotional well-being.
FCA’s 2013 Annual Report highlighted a unique adoption story, in which two daughters from the same birth mother were adopted by different families, but raised as sisters. In honor of National Adoption Month and its unique theme, we would like to again share their inspiring story.
“Families come in different shapes and sizes.” This is what Kelly Moore has told her daughter, Caroline, whom she and her husband, Jim, adopted domestically through Family & Children’s Agency’s Adoption services seven years ago.
From left to right: Aislyn, Siobhan, and Caroline.
While families do come in different packages, the story of the Moores is particularly unique. When Caroline was four years old, Jim and Kelly’s caseworker at FCA informed them that Caroline’s birth mother had another daughter who was also adopted. Caroline not only had a sister, but a sister in Fairfield County.
It was then that the couple met John and Lisa Reilly who had adopted their daughter, Aislyn, also through FCA. After one dinner together, both couples knew they wanted their daughter to grow up knowing her sister. The girls met for the first time when Aislyn was just 7 months old at the Maritime Aquarium on Oct. 17, 2009. Four years later, Aislyn, now 4, and Caroline, now 8, are practically inseparable.
“We celebrate all birthdays and family parties together, and never miss a Christmas,” said Lisa. “It’s very important to us to establish traditions for them.”
Two years ago, John and Lisa welcomed another daughter by birth, Siobhan, who—if you ask Caroline—is also her sister. Although raised in separate households, the girls are growing up sharing a bond that many children of adoption yearn for throughout their whole life. This past year, John and Lisa have even moved to Redding so their daughters may grow up in the same school system.
The questions children may have surrounding their adoption may change as they grow and develop mentally. Aislyn, however, who has since birth regarded Caroline as her sister, seems content with her family’s extension.
“I asked Aislyn once what she would like to tell her cousins about her sister, Caroline,” said Lisa. “She looked at me and said, ‘I’ll just tell them that we come from the same woman’s belly, Mommy’.”
Brian Vendig, President and Managing Executive at MJP Associates, a wealth advisory firm, is the newest addition to Family & Children’s Agency’s (FCA) Board of Directors. Brian has been an active member of FCA’s Junior Board since its inception in 2013. A resident of Fairfield, where he lives with his wife, Michele, and two children, Brian brings with him over 15 years of financial management experience, as well as an inherent drive to raise awareness of FCA’s work.
Brian Vendig, President and Managing Executive at MJP Associates, a wealth advisory firm, is the newest addition to Family & Children’s Agency’s (FCA) Board of Directors.
Brian is a graduate of Bucknell University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a major in accounting and a minor in economics. Prior to joining MJP Associates, Brian spent over eight years with Xerox Corporation, a venture capital firm and a “Big 4” public accounting firm.
He first joined the Junior Board of Directors when the group was founded in 2013. In its first year, the Junior Board focused its fundraising efforts on FCA’s Homeless Services programs, hosting a number of activities including a barbecue for clients and A Taste of Fairfield County, held at Aitoro in Norwalk. This year, the group has focused its efforts on FCA’s After School Program, hosting an ice cream social for students, book drive and sponsoring the second annual A Taste of Fairfield County, to be held November 13.
“My involvement with Family & Children’s Agency has been an extremely enriching experience,” said Brian. “I have a greater appreciation for members of our local Connecticut community that deserve and need additional support to overcome life’s challenges. My involvement with FCA to date has spanned from interacting with clients to fundraising events, and I am looking forward to expanding my connection.”
“Brian has shown a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and commitment since his involvement with FCA began, and we are thrilled to have him join our Board of Directors,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO of FCA.
The After School Program is once again lucky enough to have the Rowayton Arts Center fund a six-week art program. In addition to art expression, students will learn how to be art docents to describe their work to the public. Please join us in supporting the After School Program students for the Expressive Arts Class gallery opening!
On Wednesday, Oct. 29, a free mental health screening will be offered at Family & Children’s Agency’s 140 Water St. location in Norwalk from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The event is part of a mental health screening series sponsored by the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, Inc. throughout the month of October in conjunction with National Depression Screening Day. Screenings are offered free of charge and are open to the public.
“These free events are designed to raise awareness of the importance of regular health checkups, promote early detections, and provide materials that support wellness,” said Margaret Watt, Executive Director of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, Inc.
Information will be provided on a variety of mental wellness areas including stress management, sleep hygiene, mood-boosting foods, resilience and mindfulness. Visitors will take a free mental wellness screening and then chat about the results with a clinician and get a referral, if needed. Healthy snacks and activities will also be provided. In addition to mental health screenings, the Norwalk Community Health Center mobile bus will also be available on site and open for the public.
The Connection, Inc. was awarded the 2014 Family Strengthening Award by Family & Children’s Agency (FCA) on Oct. 21 at FCA’s annual meeting, held at Silvermine Golf Club in Norwalk. For more than 40 years, The Connection, Inc. has been one of Connecticut’s leading
Peter Nucci, Jr., President and CEO of The Connection, Inc. (third from left) accepts the FCA Family Strengthening Award with The Connection, Inc. staff and FCA President & CEO Robert F. Cashel (far left).
private, nonprofit human service and community development agencies. Each month, thousands of people throughout Connecticut are assisted by The Connection, Inc.’s diverse behavioral health, family support and community justice programs. These programs reunite families, break the generational cycles of abuse, create safer communities, and assist with mental illness and addiction issues.
Since 2004, FCA has partnered with The Connection, Inc. to provide a Supportive Housing program through FCA’s Family Support and Intervention services for families referred by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF). Services provide families with case management and other support that helps them access and retain appropriate housing that is safe, affordable and promotes family stability. During this partnership, which spans over a decade, over $3 million has been allocated to FCA for these support services.
“One of the hallmarks of the Supportive Housing program has been the close working relationship between the staff of The Connection, Inc. and FCA,” said FCA President & CEO Robert F. Cashel. “Throughout our relationship, staff from both agencies have worked together to provide appropriate housing and support for families.”
The Family Strengthening Award at FCA recognizes and celebrates individuals or organizations in the community whose outstanding contributions have dramatically impacted FCA’s ability to strengthen and stabilize families and offer help in all phases of life.
Family & Children’s Agency (FCA) presented Sharon Sullivan with the Anne C. Cary Volunteerism Award at its annual meeting, held Oct. 21 at Silvermine Golf Club in Norwalk. Sharon first became introduced to FCA in 2003 and became quickly involved by leading a shoe-drive for clients and donating to the Agency’s Campership Program. She has been an active member of FCA’s Board of Directors since 2004 and served as the Board Vice-Chair from 2005-2012.
Board of Directors member Sharon Sullivan accepts the Anne C. Cary Volunteerism Award with FCA President & CEO Robert F. Cashel.
Sharon’s involvement with FCA has spanned from governance to fundraising. She has served on numerous Board committees including the Board Executive Committee, the Board Development & Nominating Committee, and the Development & Marketing Committee. She brings a fresh perspective to each. She has a keen eye for marketing and has been an instrumental leader in FCA’s rebranding and visibility efforts throughout the years. In addition, Sharon and her husband, Jeff, have been significant financial supporters of FCA and have generously donated copious auction items to the Agency’s annual Benefit. Throughout the years, she has donated hundreds of tickets for shows at the Westport Country Playhouse to FCA families. Sharon has an inherent passion for bettering the lives of children and families, which is something she has shared with her entire family. Her daughter, Samantha, was a mentor to students when she was in high school and taught hip-hop classes to students in the After School Program.
“Sharon’s charity and vision have been a tremendous asset to myself and FCA as a whole,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO.
The Anne C. Cary Volunteerism Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated the highest level of volunteerism on behalf of FCA. The award is named in honor of Anne Cary, who has been involved in every aspect of volunteerism at the Agency for more than 25 years. Anne was also a Board member during the 1990’s and currently serves on its Advisory Board.
Another year, another great Minks to Sinks sale! Thank you to all who donated, consigned, volunteered and shopped this past week!
Minks to Sinks, often referred to as the greatest treasure hunt in town, will kick off its fall sale this weekend on Saturday, Oct. 4 at the corner of Danbury Road (Route 7) and School Road in Wilton. An auxiliary of Family & Children’s Agency (FCA), Minks to Sinks holds two tag sales per year offering an incredible variety of clothing, furniture, kitchen items, art, books, athletic equipment, toys and more. Proceeds from each sale benefit FCA.
Minks to Sinks has its roots in Wilton, having taken place since 1931. Today, the sale brings out nearly 200 volunteers from the Wilton community, many of whom have been involved in Minks to Sinks for over 30 years. During the semi-annual sale, volunteers work tirelessly to price, ticket, organize and display the thousands of items that are donated or consigned for the sale. Volunteers don the trademark red, white and blue striped aprons.
“Family & Children’s Agency’s relationship with Minks to Sinks dates back as far as the 1950s. In that time period, Minks to Sinks has donated roughly $2.9 million to FCA,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO of FCA. “We are grateful each year for their wonderful work.”
Minks to Sinks sale hours are:
Saturday, Oct. 4th: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 5th: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 6th : 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Sunday and Monday dates are half-priced bargain days, with all items for sale at 50 percent off the marked price. On Monday, all shoppers may fill a bag with any merchandise at the sale for only $7.
September 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month, a period to applaud the gains made by those in recovery as we would those who are managing other health conditions. National Recovery Month emphasizes that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover. Family & Children’s Agency (FCA) offers Project REWARD, southern Fairfield County’s only outpatient substance abuse facility specifically designed for women. This month, FCA celebrates the achievements made by those in Project REWARD and encourages other women battling substance abuse to take the first step toward recovery.
“Project REWARD offers a continuum of care with a variety of outpatient options,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO of FCA. “This program provides the support and safety that an all-women’s program can ensure.”
Project REWARD has been serving clients since 1993. All clients who are referred to the program meet privately with a clinician for a comprehensive evaluation to determine the appropriate level of care. The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for three hours, with less-intensive programs offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Project REWARD is unique in that it provides both child care and transportation for those within our catchment area of Norwalk, Darien, Wilton, Greenwich, New Canaan, Stamford, Westport, Wilton and Weston.
“Women feel more comfortable opening up and sharing in a gender-specific environment,” said Elizabeth Murdoch, LCSW, Director of Behavioral Health at FCA. “This individualized attention allows the staff to help the client determine triggers and stressors to help prevent relapses.”
In addition to relapse prevention, group discussions focus on co-occurring mental health issues, anger management, domestic violence, parenting, mindfulness, relaxation, co-dependency issues and nutritional education. Women in the program have access to a psychiatrist for an evaluation and, if needed, medication management.
FCA believes that mental health and addiction recovery is essential to overall well-being, and supports the efforts being made around the country during National Recovery Month.
Family & Children’s Agency is thrilled to share that it was listed as the number one Work Place in Fairfield County in 2014 for mid-sized companies by Hearst Media Services. This is FCA’s first year being included on the Top Work Place list, and we are both honored and proud to have placed first out of 10 in this category.
The Top Work Place competition is conducted through an independent employee surveying company. Seventy-four companies throughout the region participated in the survey this year. FCA had a 68 percent response rate among employees, and FCA employee responses greatly surpassed national averages in terms of employee satisfaction, such as encouraging new ideas, being well-informed, conducting work efficiently and feeling that senior management understands what is going on.
As noted in the article written by the Connecticut Post, staff feedback is valued highly at FCA. “We have a culture that really looks to bring in employees at all different levels into the organization,” said FCA’s President & CEO Robert F. Cashel.
More than $100,000 was raised at Family & Children’s Agency’s (FCA) annual Golf & Tennis Classic, held Sep. 8, 2014 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield. Mark Brown, of Wilton, and Jamie Bergin, of Darien, chaired the golf tournament, while Stephanie Mercado and Mary Cahill, both of Wilton, chaired the tennis portion of the event.
“The Golf & Tennis Classic continues to be a tremendous success each year for Family & Children’s Agency,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO of FCA. “We are so grateful to our sponsors and players who supported the event this year. We are proud to say that 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to helping clients.”
Corporate sponsors, participants and donors for the golf outing included Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Bloomberg Tradebook, cg42, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Hillhead Capital Inc., The Hour Publishing Company, HSBC, Idelle Labs, Jefferies, KCG Hotspot, Maplewood Senior Living, McMahon Ford of Norwalk, MJP Wealth Advisors, Morgan Stanley, Nomura Securities International, Inc., People’s United Bank, RBS, Stein|Troost architecture, UBS, Weeden & Co. LP and Xerox Corporation. Individual sponsors and donors included Deanna and Jamie Bergin, Tammy and Mark Brown, Jill and Alex Dimitrief, Jay and Mark Lux, Kathleen and Peter Murphy, Barbara and William O. Murphy, and Friends of Family & Children’s Agency.