The third week of April is recognized nationally as the Week of the Young Child, a period to celebrate and increase attention on early childhood programs and services that meet the needs of young children and their families. This year’s theme, as deemed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is “Celebrating Our Youngest Learners.” Many events will be held throughout the greater Norwalk region this month, and to kick off the week Family & Children’s Agency’s (FCA) Family Support & Prevention services held a Literacy Day on Friday, April 10. This annual event was hosted by students and volunteers from Pear Tree Point School in Darien.
Pear Tree Point School students read to young children on Literacy Day.
“It’s so important to read to young children, even at early ages,” said Mary Kate Locke, Director of Adoption and Prevention Services at FCA. “These early years help shape their learning and development. Literacy Day created a fun environment for families with young children to come together and promote reading.”
Approximately 20 students from Pear Tree Point School and adult volunteers hosted the event at Christ Church in Norwalk, which included a healthy lunch, crafts and live music for children to sing along. Students from Pear Tree Point School paired off with families with young children and read stories aloud.
In addition to Literacy Day for FCA families, other Week of the Young Child sponsors in the greater Norwalk region include the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, Norwalk Public Library, Norwalk Early Childhood Council, Norwalk School Readiness Providers, and Norwalk Early Childhood Office. Visit their websites for upcoming events and activities.
Family Support & Prevention services FCA provides support and guidance to parents and their young children through the Nurturing Family Network, Fatherhood Initiative, Maternal Outreach and Mentoring Service (MOMS) program, Healthy Start and Child FIRST. The program’s trained staff educates parents so they can build a strong foundation for their family’s growth. All programs are offered free of charge in English and Spanish to families in the Greater Norwalk area and are on a voluntary basis.
For more information, please contact Mary Kate Locke, Director of Adoption and Prevention Services, at (203) 855-8765 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your honoree will receive a card with this painting created by a client in the Community Connections Center Art Program at Family & Children’s Agency for adults experiencing homelessness.
Honor someone in your life this Mother’s Day by supporting at-risk mothers and children in our community. With your donation, Family & Children’s Agency (FCA) will mail someone you’d like to honor a card that showcases artwork by an Agency client.
Sent in early May, the notecard will explain that you have chosen to honor them by making a donation to support programs at FCA that benefit at-risk mothers and children in our community.
Some ways in which your donation can support mothers and their children are:
In-home instruction for a first-time mother and her infant
Educational resources for a parenting group
Pre-natal education to increase the incidence of full-term, healthy births
Prevention programs to reduce childhood abuse and neglect
$50 – 1 Honoree / In Memory Card
$100 – 3 Honorees / In Memory Cards
Thank you to everyone who supported Fairfield County Giving Day!
Previous post: Thursday, March 5 is the second annual Fairfield County Giving Day, powered by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. It’s 24 hours to give where you live. Be a part of something big and support Family & Children’s Agency and help turn your $10 donation into $25,000.
Fairfield County Giving Day will be held from 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. on March 5. Hundreds of nonprofits throughout Fairfield County will be competing for a grand prize of $25,000. The organization with the most donations wins, so whether you give $10 or $100, you can help make a difference! Contact Janina Serrao, Director of Development, with any questions regarding your donation at (203) 855-8764 or email@example.com.
“I’m so happy that I’m able to give the gift of tranquility,” said Angelina Vescio, Family & Children’s Agency Community Connections Center Relief Worker. This “gift of tranquility” is something so simple, yet significant, to clients experiencing homelessness: crocheting.
This past June, Angelina was speaking to a woman at the Community Connections Center of her love for crocheting and she had expressed an interest in learning about the craft. Quickly after, a weekly crocheting class evolved with the number of attendees increasing each week. Angelina plays calming, classical music during the classes and makes the environment as therapeutic as possible.
The Community Connections Center allows men and women experiencing homelessness to receive case management, vocational counseling and support during daytime hours. For many, the ability to focus their energy on crocheting is incredibly beneficial and relaxing.
“The people in this group have found a new passion in life,” said Angelina. “It’s amazing how something as simple as crocheting has impacted their lives and allowed them to have a better outlook on life and experience calmness.”
Many clients have spoken to Angelina about the benefits they’ve experienced with this class. Individuals with insomnia and depression have found that this exercise helps them relax and feel rewarded by creating something with their own two hands.
To donate crochet needles and yarn to the Community Connections Center, please contact Chris Jachino, Director of Homeless Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (203) 855-8765.
The Summer Enrichment Program, a component of the After School Program at Family & Children’s Agency (FCA), has received a $20,000 grant from Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (FCCF). The Summer Enrichment Program serves Norwalk youth four days per week over the course of six weeks during the summer break.
Students and high school volunteers from FCA’s Summer Enrichment Program this past summer took a virtual trip around the world participating in cross-curriculum learning while strengthening their character.
“Fairfield County’s Community Foundation has been a longtime supporter of Family & Children’s Agency, in particular our services for youth,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO of FCA. “Last year, the Summer Enrichment Program expanded to serve 30 middle school youth. Funding for this program is critical to ensure the Program’s continuation and growth.”
The Summer Enrichment Program provides students with ongoing opportunities for daily reading and learning during the summer months. The Program offers educational, hands-on activities for students to explore interests, develop new skills and participate in learning not typically offered in a classroom setting. The Summer Enrichment Program is a component of the After School Program, which helps provide a successful transition into high school for 50 Norwalk middle school youth.
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues impacting the community. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds or contribute to existing funds. The Community Foundation is in compliance with the Council on Foundations’ national standards, and has awarded $180 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. For more information, visit www.fccfoundation.org.
January is National Mentoring Month. Mentoring has been a core component of Family & Children’s Agency’s (FCA) Youth Development program for over 40 years. FCA offers site-based mentoring services to students in the After School Program, a program for 50 Norwalk middle school youth on the Norwalk Community College campus. Mentoring programs have the proven ability to increase positive academic outcomes, self-efficacy and social skills, while also decreasing engagement in negative behaviors. For this reason, pairing a mentor with youth in the After School Program will further strengthen their positive development. Utilizing NCC as a home-base allows each student’s academic progress to be tracked, FCA staff to maintain regular supervision with each match, and enhance the experience for both the mentors and mentees through the variety of academic, cultural, recreational and career resources available.
This is the story of Monica, and how a mentor has radically impacted her transition into high school.
Within moments of meeting, it was evident that Monica was unique from most 14-year-old girls who have just entered high school. She wasn’t boy crazy, giggly or fawning over teenage fashions. While sitting across a table at Norwalk Community College (NCC) from her mentor, Elizabeth, Monica exuded an introspective, wise-beyond-her-years demeanor, thoughtfully answering questions and reflecting on her experiences in the After School Program at Family & Children’s Agency.
Monica, right, sits across from her mentor, Elizabeth.
“It’s unusual for someone at her age, or any age, to have so much insight into their feelings,” said Elizabeth, a volunteer with the After School Program and a member of FCA’s Junior Board. Elizabeth began mentoring Monica in October of 2013, when Monica was in eighth grade.
Although calm and composed on the outside, Monica abounds with creativity. Her imagination manifests itself in her well-worn sketchbook with packed pages of drawings. These aren’t just any cartoons, however. She creates complete characters with personalities and plotlines, such as the Halloween “Spook Crew” or the friendly dragon with a penchant for hoarding snacks. Even a question as simple as, “What’s your favorite animal?” led to a whirlwind discussion of the fascinating distinctions between mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates—a species most adults haven’t given thought to since grade school. (After a careful process of elimination, however, she did declare the alpaca to be her favorite.)
This pensive, imaginative manner, however, has often made Monica feel like an outsider among her peers. Although she’s enjoyed her years in the FCA After School Program and has made many friends, she still struggled with self-confidence.
This began to change, however, when Monica met Elizabeth last fall. The mentoring relationship began organically as Elizabeth started helping Monica with homework. It wasn’t long after that they were fully integrated in the mentoring component of the After School Program, meeting once a week on the NCC campus. The two worked on academics, participated in planned activities and often just talked about anything and everything going on in Monica’s life.
According to Monica, she connects with adults more easily than her peers.
“I’m more comfortable talking to an adult with life experiences than some of my friends that don’t actually understand what I’m going through,” said Monica.
The mentoring partnership has continued for the last year as Monica entered high school in Norwalk. Although she admits she had a great deal of anxiety about the first day of high school, she quickly found a group of friends with similar interests and passions, such as art. In addition to joining an anime club, she is part of the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA), a six-year program that allows Norwalk high school students to also take courses to earn an associate degree through NCC. Monica remains part of the Alumni component of the After School Program, as well.
The core mission of the After School Program is to ensure students have a successful transition into high school. The staff of the Program, however, recognizes that a successful transition entails far more than academics. The Program fosters an environment that provides creative outlets and identifies students, such as Monica, who would benefit from one-on-one attention from a mentor. FCA Mentoring Coordinator Anne Schneider said that Monica has flourished emotionally and socially since she’s been matched with Elizabeth.
“‘Confident’ was a word I would have never used to describe myself before,” said Monica.
Although Monica remains connected to FCA through the high school component, Anne strongly believes Elizabeth and Monica will remain connected for many, many years to come.
Family & Children’s Agency wishes you health and happiness in the New Year! Here is a look back on 2014–from holiday parties to graduations, from summer picnics to Halloween, this year has been a great success. Thank you for your continued support in helping us to build better lives.
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Family & Children’s Agency would like to thank everyone who donated to this year’s Thanksgiving meal basket collection drive. More than 175 meal baskets with grocery store gift certificates were collected and distributed to FCA families for the holidays. In addition, thank you to those who provided food for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal for Homeless Services clients.
Students from St. Patrick’s of Redding Religious Education program donate Thanksgiving Meal baskets.
As you gather around your table this Thanksgiving, know that others are enjoying a meal because of your generosity!
“Adoption is more than a moment in time,” says Natalie Jackson, Assistant Director of Adoption at Family & Children’s Agency (FCA). Families formed through adoption or guardianship sometimes face unique challenges later in life, such as talking to your child about adoption, child development, or transitioning from foster care to a permanent home. In addition to offering domestic and international adoption services, FCA offers the Adoption Assistance Program (AAP), a grant funded program through the University of Connecticut Health Center, which provides comprehensive assessments, education, brief counseling and referral services to adoptive families free of charge.
“Adoption is a lifelong journey that brings both joys and personal growth,” said Robert F. Cashel, President & CEO of FCA. “The Adoption Assistance Program is an incredible resource to families facing unique challenges to receive the support they need.”
The range of services provided by the Adoption Assistance Program vary greatly from minor questions to more complicated challenges, such as behavioral issues derived from abuse or neglect a child experienced with their birth family. A social worker provides a comprehensive assessment to determine how to best meet the needs of both the child and family. All inquiries are confidential.
National Adoption Month has been recognized throughout the month of November for 19 years. Each year, events are held around the country to celebrate adoptive families, finalize adoptions and raise awareness. This year’s theme is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections,” which encourages states to make a reasonable effort to place siblings in the same foster care, kinship guardianship or adoptive placement to provide ongoing interaction between siblings.
FCA offers domestic, international and post-placement adoption services. FCA is one of only two Hague Accredited international adoption agencies in the state of Connecticut. Free informational seminars are offered each month at FCA’s Hartford and Norwalk offices.