When kids are separated from their parents and put into the care of another family member or into foster care, it is difficult for everyone involved. Now, there is a new resource to make it a bit easier.
The new Quality Parenting Center has opened its doors in Manchester. The facility is the first of its kind in Connecticut.
The center offers a safe, home-like environment for reunions between moms, dads and kids who are not living together.
The home is filled will comfortable couches, books and toys, as well as art on the walls. If families didn't know better, they might feel like they are reuniting in their own living rooms.
The center is located in a historic house with an expansive lawn that also allows for outdoor reunions. It was once a group home for six girls and a residential rehabilitation center.
Now, The Village for Families and Children, a human services organization, is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families to launch this new program.
Vanessa Dorantes, DCF Commissioner, was on hand for a ribbon-cutting Thursday.
“This evolution has taken this beautiful edifice from a group home to a way that we normalize parent and child interaction with each other, build up parental capacity. You know, this last year, year-and-half, has had deleterious impact on all of our families. Some of our families need a little bit more support," Dorantes said.
The beautiful setting eases the stress of visiting a DCF office, while the program focuses on children's needs. The ultimate goal is reuniting kids with their parents.
“We know that for kids, if they have been separated from their caregiver or entered into foster care, kinship care, that transition can be very traumatic. And having regular consistent visits, in a place where the family feels respected and honored, is really, really important," Sandy Kyriakopoulos, with The Village for Families and Children, said.
Visits are already happening. The facility opened its doors on Oct. 1. Staff said there have been several babies reuniting with their families.
To schedule a visit, a parent just needs to work with their contact at the Manchester DCF office. The Quality Parenting Center is open seven days a week.
On top of reunions, parents will also have access to trained coaches, who will help them before, during and after visitation. They can additionally utilize services that will help them address issues with mental health, substance use and recovery, and finances.
The entire program is working toward the ultimate goal: reunification.