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The Children's Center of Hamden Helps Youth Reach for their Dreams

By S. Mathur

The Children's Center of Hamden is located next to Lake Whitney in Hamden CT, on a beautiful ten acre campus. The nonprofit agency offers residential and non-residential treatment programs for children and youth with learning disabilities, substance abuse problems, and other behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric issues. The Center has a long history of serving the Greater New Haven area, since its founding in 1833 as The New Haven Orphan Asylum with the mission to "relieve, support and educate children who are friendless and destitute."

Todd Johnson, Chief Administrator of Support Services, says that the Center has been been remarkably successful in fulfilling this mission: "We consistently demonstrate our ability to adapt to the times and the needs of youth and their families - and have been doing so for over 180 years. We engage more than 150 highly skilled childcare workers, masters level therapists and teachers to provide quality treatment, care and education in an encouraging and trauma sensitive environment."

With about 170 youths enrolled in the Center's programs at any given time, staff are able to give them personalized attention and encouragement. The entire treatment process is family-centered and family members are engaged through visits, communication, family therapy, recreation services and program-wide family events. Johnson says that "Families are involved in the treatment planning process, team meetings, family sessions, and discharge planning. Most youth return to their families and so the family's involvement is considered paramount to the youth's success. Many youth and families have grown apart during their difficult times and so repairing their relationship becomes part of the process."

Whitney Hall School is a special education program for children grades K-12. It enrolls children from the community as well as from the residential treatment programs. The Center and the School have many success stories to share, which provide a picture of a caring staff encouraging the youth to reach for their dreams despite the roadblocks they may face. Former students write:

"My teachers labeled me as a person who could make it out there. They always had very high hopes for me."

"My plan was to get back into my school system, get a steady job and go on to college. I got a job washing dishes at an area restaurant, got my high school diploma and went on to college. I am now an executive chef managing a $4 million restaurant."

One program that has been particularly successful is the Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program for children and youth in the Greater New Haven area between the ages of 12-17 years. The teens live at home and come to the center three times a week for an individualized treatment plan that helps them to identify and achieve their goals.

The Center relies on support from the local community, including Quinnipiac University, Hamden Rotary, Hamden High School, the Hamden Woman's Club and many other local businesses, organizations and individuals.

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