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Waterford - The Waterford Country School, which provides services for children with special needs, acquired Connecticut Adoption Services earlier this year to prevent the organization from dissolving and to continue its mission of providing adoptions, counseling for the birth parent and in-home therapeutic services for families.
"It was just very exciting that they approached us," school Executive Director William Martin said of Connecticut Adoption Services. "We knew them for a long time, and we tried to preserve everything that they had, including their board president and one of their board members."
Martin said his organization historically has been about filling the service gaps. Waterford Country School decided to keep the nonprofit adoption agency running because its services are needed in the community and the organization pairs well with the school's therapeutic foster care services, he said.
The school acquired the agency in April, and it now shares infrastructure with the school's Norwich satellite office, as well as its payroll and personnel staff. The school also retained some of agency's staff.
Waterford Country School, a nonprofit that occupies 350 acres, aims to support children with special needs and strengthen families with an array of services.
Originally called the Home School and founded in New York City by Ettie Thomas Schacht, the school was built in Waterford in 1947. The New York school closed in 1968 and all operations were consolidated in Connecticut.
Today, the school has 14 programs, including a school for students in third through 12th grade, a residential treatment program and a therapeutic foster care program.
The school provides classroom and individualized instruction and teaches skills such as conflict resolution to about 75 to 80 children. The residential program provides therapeutic services to 35 to 40 children who cannot stay in their communities because of trauma, abuse or serious behavioral problems. Based out of Norwich, the therapeutic foster care program trains foster parents for children who have special placement needs.
Waterford Country School has not operated as an adoption agency previously, but on occasion some children in therapeutic foster care are adopted by their foster parents, Martin said. Connecticut Adoption Services fits into the school's mission because much of the training that goes into preparing therapeutic foster care parents is similar to the training for people who are adopting foster children, Martin said.
In 2012, Connecticut Adoption Services provided 20 private or infant adoptions and five foster child adoptions.
Waterford Country School's annual budget is $14.8 million and now includes $219,000 for Connecticut Adoption Services. The nonprofit receives $90,000 to $100,000 in annual donations and now will aim to raise an additional $75,000 to $80,000 for Connecticut Adoption Services' Project Connecticut's Child program, which provides services for families before, during and after adoption.
The adoption agency had been facing difficult financial circumstances for several years, said Sandra Couillard, the former executive director who is staying on as the organization's assistant program director under the school's jurisdiction.
In the past, Connecticut Adoption Services received funding from the state Department of Children and Families and focused on finding parents to adopt minority children. Over time, that funding was eliminated and the agency had to raise money and rely on service payments from adoptive parents and on the occasional contract from DCF to place a child who needed additional support, she said.