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Connecticut Magazine - Boys & Girls Village Provides Behavioral and Educational Support to At-Risk Youth

9/30/2015

Boys & Girls Village Provides Behavioral and Educational Support to At-Risk Youth


BY KATE HARTMAN

Boys & Girls Village Provides Behavioral and Educational Support to At-Risk Youth


The Organization:  Boys & Girls Village
The  story: Mental health issues have been a hot-button topic over the past few years, cropping up when tragedy strikes and quickly fading from public discourse when the most recent wave dies down. But there are organizations like the not-for-profit Boys & Girls Village that are on the front lines, dealing with and assisting youth in need every day, whether the public takes notice or not. 

The Boys & Girls Village, which has facilities in Milford and Bridgeport (at bottom), was founded in 1942 by Sheriff Edward Slavin and Daniel J. Adley as a “work farm for first-offenders.” The model has changed over the years. Today, efforts are divided between providing behavioral health and educational programs and permancy planning for at-risk youth. 

“In some ways it’s carried through the same mission and philosophy and concept it started with 75 years ago, yet it’s dramatically different in sophistication,” explains President and CEO Dr. Steven Kant. “When kids have significant difficulty, [what] is the best way for them to get treatment? Kids should get treatment in their community as close to home as possible. We want young people to develop those ties.”

The organization focuses on at-risk youth up to age 18. Almost all of the children being assisted are on some form of state assistance, such as Medicaid, or are involved with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, and have often experienced trauma, abuse or neglect.

“Any child, even with a significant behavioral health component, needs family or caring adults. They need a quality education and they need to achieve emotional stability,” says Kant. “We have woven those strands together.” 

The staff, which has grown to about 215 child psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and other trained professionals, works intimately with the kids and their families. 

“We have 350 kids in care on any given day and we see around 750 kids per year,” says Kant. “We always say multiply that by five or seven to say how many lives we’ve touched, including the family.” 

Each child’s care experience with the Boys & Girls Village is highly personal due to the wide variety of programs, including outpatient clinical services, intensive in-home child and adolescent psychiatric services, day treatment services, therapeutic foster care and adoption services. 

The organization also operates a 16-bed hospital alternative and a 12-bed residential treatment facility called Safe Haven, which is for boys between the ages of 11 and 15 with problem sexual behavior. The private, special education Charles F. Hayden School assists students from ages 5 to 18 with a student-teacher ratio of 4:1. 

“We would like to add a wing to the school for 11th and 12th grade,” says Kant. “To do this kind of programming, you need sophisticated infrastructure. We don’t have any more space on the grounds [for] staff and children.”

Kant also sees the potential for a special education vocational school for young adults ages 18 to 21 that would help satisfy the “pressing need” of transitioning kids from the organization’s services into adulthood.  

Boys & Girls Village has undergone major growth in the past several years, expanding programs and staff to meet the ever-increasing need for mental health services. The organization survives through three sources of funding—municipalities with special education budgets, health insurance and grants from the Department of Children and Families. They also receive some monies from fundraising. But like many other organizations, “we’re outstripping our financial limitations,” says Kant. 

“[It can be] hard to explain the difficulties these kids have and the level of sophisticated care we provide here,” he adds. “We want people to know what we do, but we go to great lengths to protect their privacy.

“Unlike adults, it’s not about curing a kid. It’s about getting them back on a growing path,” he continues. “What does that child need? How do you keep them moving forward?” 

bgvillage.org

Link to story:
http://www.connecticutmag.com/Blog/Connecticut-Today/September-2015/Boys-Girls-Village-Provides-Behavioral-and-Educational-Support-to-At-Risk-Youth/


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Boys & Girls Village, Connecticut Department of Children and Families Celebrate Partnership with Tour of BGV’s Renovated Office in Bridgeport
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