Posts By: Elena French

The Founders Park Project

Posted on September 24, 2020. Category: Uncategorized

During these time when outdoor spaces are not just nice but necessary, we’re going back to our roots! Our Founding Family envisioned a school  that used the outdoor environment and animal interaction as essential to learning. Waterford Country School still embodies those values. Now more than ever, we realize how essential safe, fun, outdoor spaces are for our kids. 


Founding Family: Henry and Ettie Schacht and their children Rita, Babette and Herb and their families created and carried the vision for Waterford Country School

The park is named for and dedicated to those people responsible for the creation of Waterford Country School, most notably Henry and Ettie Schacht, and their children Herbert Schacht and Rita Saunders and their families. The Schacht and Saunders families have been involved with Waterford Country School for almost 100 years!

Founders park will serve as the outdoor recreational center for all of the programs at Waterford Country School.  It will feature a new colored paved surface for basketball, a backstop for baseball and kickball, a teen playground, decorative fencing, lighting and several gathering areas for socializing and activities. This is the central hub of our Quaker Hill campus and our children have used it for celebration, socialization and play every day. 

To date, we have raised $35,810 towards the project and still need $64,000 more to complete the funding.  Our vision is to complete the project this year, we need to raise those funds in the next six weeks. Every donation counts towards completing this project and honoring the roots of Waterford Country School. 

Campaign Period: 6 weeks

Estimated Cost: $100,000

Amount to raise: $64,000


Make checks payable to: Waterford Country School, 78 Hunts Brook Road, Quaker Hill, CT 06385  ATTN: Founders Park


Summer Camp Success!

Posted on August 18, 2020. Category: WCS News

We are so happy to announce that despite all of the obstacles of 2020, Camp Cuheca  was able to operate above the predicted capacity throughout the summer and had no COVID related incidents. We wanted to be able to offer outdoor activity for kids (and respite and relief for their parents) and this summer was a huge success.  This was an extremely challenging project due to COVID, many longstanding summer camp programs in CT could not operate this summer. Our summer camp success is a good indicator of how we will continue to manage the campus in this COVID cautious climate. Congratulation to all the camp staff for an awesome summer!


“I would like to give a huge thank you to WCS staff and campers for a tremendous summer to remember – a summer unlike any other! Thanks for being awesome!” – Ben Turner, Outdoor Education Director


“Thank you all for a wonderful summer and for keeping a positive attitude with the changes that this summer brought along…hope to see you in the summer of 2021!” Tina Cote, Camp Director


From a Camp Cuheca parent

“N has for years shared with us the emotional struggles he experiences specific to severe anxiety, distress, fear and worry in connection with his school avoidance and opposition to school primarily, but also to other outside extra curricular activities such as Swimming, Gymnastics and Horseback riding. 

Since starting Camp 2 1/2 weeks ago I have not once experienced N to be resistant or opposed to attending. Not once!!!

One week as I watched my son as he got out of the car to join Counselor Kyle and the rest of the group and I saw him eager and excited to start his day at Camp.

He was joyous and excited. 

He was showing confidence and certainty in how he carried himself. 

He held no anxiety or worry at all.

He felt safe and like he belonged. 

You guys ROCK and have given me back not just a part of the old N I remember from a few years ago, but also pieces of happiness and real joy that I have never witnessed N to have consistently for any lengthy period of time up until he started at Camp Cuheca. 

I wanted to share this and say thank you – THANK YOU – THANK YOU!” 

Graduation 2020

Posted on June 25, 2020. Category: WCS News

What a tumultuous year it has been.  No one knew when we turned the corner of 2020 that we would suddenly be operating with a world that was shut down, social distancing and being given a crash course in virtual learning. 

As with everything, we’ve done our best to deliver education, compassionate therapy and help to our children and families during this time of uncertainty. When it became evident that we would not be able to hold all the usual spring events, the Talent Show, Awards Day and spring field trips, the Education team starting talking about graduation. 


After much planning, we were able to hold an outdoor graduation ceremony following all social distancing guidelines and precautions for our 5 Seniors on June 18, 2020. All of our other students received their awards and recognition personally from their teachers and were commended for their diligent efforts even as the way we though of “schooling” changed. But those Seniors…we really didn’t want to let them go with the fanfare they deserved. 

Quoting from the 2020 yearbook, Executive Director Bill Martin said “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. We have certainly seen storms this year, but today we dance.”

The five Seniors were recognized by their individual strengths: Sam’s gifts for art, music and culinary skills…a protector at heart. Tabby, a helper and great friend with a heart of gold. Jacob, a resilient and independent spirit. Shyhiem, friendly and outgoing, with a smile and contagious laughter. Nate, gifted with an amazing sense of humor and the ability to put people at ease. It was so wonderful to hear from their teachers as they watched them grow over their high school years. 

Shyhiem gave a speech recognizing his teachers, peers and family members and the impact they had. His rousing and fun rendition of the song “Lean on Me” put a smile on everyone’s face. For many of our teachers and staff members who have been distancing and working from home as much as possible, this outdoor event was one of the first times they’ve been able to see each other since March, when the pandemic shutdowns hit. The joy in our field near the climbing tower was real and hope-filled. To be able to finish a year with all of it’s challenges, with triumph and celebration, was good for all involved.  

As each family with their graduates gathered their gifts and awards and made their way to their cars, they were greeted on the drive out with waving, cheering, honking teachers and staff….a parade of well wishers ushering them into their future as young adults. 


“Thank you for all you have done to help our son.  He received so much care and love and support from you (and the rest of the staff), and there are no words to express how much I appreciate your efforts. You have done so much for him.  His years at Waterford Country School made all the difference. You did whatever it took.  Thank you.”   -A parent of a 2020 graduate

Simple games you can play indoors or in your own backyard

Posted on March 24, 2020. Category: Uncategorized, WCS News

You know what? We love games! There isn’t a day that we don’t use games or fun activities to build relationships and teach our kids life skills here at Waterford Country School. Did you know we even have a Ropes Challenge Course with trained Adventure Counselors on our 300 acre campus? School groups, business people, college athletes and our very own WCS kids and campers use the course during the year to challenge themselves personally and as a team. 

At the beginning of every Ropes Challenge Course day, we do “field activities” which are really just get-to-know you type games to get everyone moving and interacting. Here are some you can try at home!

What’s my Name?

Materials Needed: Pen, Small pieces of paper or post-it notes, tape

If you have ever рlауеd the gаmе “Hеаdѕ Uр”, уоu’ll bе familiar with “What’s Mу Nаmе”. You can play this version without any phones or devices. 

Crеаtе a ѕеt of nаmеѕ, which could bе celebrities and iсоnѕ like Bеуоnсе оr Mickey Mоuѕе or tуреѕ оf рrоfеѕѕiоnѕ like actor, hockey рlауеr or dосtоr.  Place the nаmе on еасh person’s fоrеhеаd. Make sue that they саn’t see who it is. Sеt a timer and instruct everyone to mоvе around the room аѕking different реорlе yes оr nо ԛuеѕtiоnѕ until they guess correctly or time runs оut.  

If there are just a few of you, have one person at a time try to figure out “what’s my name” and see how many you can guess in 10 seconds. Then switch to another guesser. 


Materials Needed: Random household items, blindfold. 

Set up a “minefield” in your house by creating an obstacle course of chairs, pillows, couches, etc. Then divide your family into groups of two. Have one family member wear a blindfold while the other guides them through the minefield with only verbal directions. Have each family member take turns going through the obstacle course and guiding someone through it. Feel free to alter the obstacles after each turn so that nobody becomes too familiar with it. This helps teach good communication skills and trust. 

Scavenger Hunt

Materials Needed: Camera/phone, list of items. 

Split up into two teams and give each team a list of items that they need to find. This can be household items, or you can go even bigger and take your scavenger hunt outside in your neighborhood. 

Yоu can dо a simple scavenger hunt and kеер it inside or tаkе it outdoorѕ, which саn bе muсh mоrе exciting. Crеаtе a list оf itеmѕ that your kids muѕt collect оr tаѕkѕ that they hаvе tо complete. Thеу can be gооfу, аѕ long аѕ it’ѕ possible tо соmрlеtе them. Sоmе examples аrе: “Tаkе a selfie with something from the kitchen” оr “Grab something you use every day. ” “Find something red.”

Set a checkpoint fоr kids tо meet when they are finished.

Spider Web

Materials Needed: Yarn, tape. 

Within a hallway of your house, make a spiderweb by taping up many strings of yarn. Have your family members then take turns getting through the spiderweb without touching the yarn. Have competitions by seeing who can get through the fastest.

Salt and Pepper

Materials Needed: scrap paper, pen, tape

Pair-Wоrdѕ аrе thought and written оn different shееtѕ оf рареr like Yin-Yang, Brеаd-Buttеr, Salt-Pерреr, Sun-Mооn, light- dark and ѕо оn. If Salt iѕ written оn one рареr, Pepper will bе written on tоtаllу different рареr.

Onе рареr iѕ tареd оn the bасk оf each person, without letting him оr hеr see what’s written. Thе group iѕ instructed at the same time to ѕеаrсh fоr their partners. The fun is that they can only ask “Yes-No” questions in оrdеr tо find out what iѕ written оn their back. Once they figure out the аnѕwеr, they саn find their respective partner easily. 


Materials Needed: Black marker, 20-30 white paper plates, timer

This game can be done inside if you have space but would be even more fun outside in fresh air with extra room to run around. Use a large black marker and paper plates or pieces of paper to label each one with a number 1-20 or 1-30. 

Place them randomly around a wide circular area, not in any order. Here are some variations on what you can do with Keypad:

  • Tell each child they have to help complete the sequence in order but only ONE person can be inside the area with numbers at a time. One at a time the participants have to jump in and touch each number (1-20 or 1-30) in order and see how fast they can complete it (child 1 runs and touches #1, child 2 runs and touches #2, child 1 runs and touches #3, etc) After that, try reversing the order and counting down 20-1 or 30-1
  • Shout a sequence of numbers (for example 54321, or 24245 etc) that one participant has to jump in and tap each numbered plate in that order without making a mistake. 
  • Use the numbers to practice subtraction, addition, multiplication and make learning fun! Shout out an equation and each child has to run in and tap the number for the correct answer. Make sure you are paying attention to the numbers you have available. (i.e. “4+2=” and the child has to run in and tap 6 and then run out or run back before the next one goes) 


Through these fun and simple team building activities, you will notice your family come closer together. You may even get your teenager involved. The name of the game is always fun. Have fun and find ways to laugh together especially during tough times. 


A response to COVID-19

Posted on March 19, 2020. Category: WCS News

During times like this and the unprecedented challenges it brings, it is our ability to remain flexible, compassionate and focused on the best interests of our kids and families that will sustain us. As each day unfolds, new developments, new information, and new requirements challenge us as everyone responds to the COVID-19.  To date, we have good systems in place for identifying and responding to staff and resident illness and minimizing large group or unnecessary interactions. With the exception of the Special Education program, all programs have continued operations and the school is currently implementing plans for distance learning to address some of the critical educational needs of our students.

 We do not know where this is all going or what specific challenges lie ahead, but we can control how we respond to these challenges. All members of the WCS Agency leadership team are following this very closely and advising actions in the best interests of the staff and kids that we serve.

For almost 100 years, our community, has been our focus. In light of concerns about the Coronavirus, we are mindful about everyone’s health and well being. While we love seeing you in person, we are focused on your safety during this unprecedented time in our world. We have cancelled our much anticipated Kabaret for Kids in April as well as all group trainings and meetings that we would normally host. We continue to operate our programs and services for families and will support them as best we can during this time. 

Summer Camp 2020 Season is almost here!

Posted on March 11, 2020. Category: Uncategorized, WCS News

Are you ready for summer?! We sure are! If you’re thinking ahead to summer 2020 and want to make sure your child has a safe, fun summer of learning and adventure….consider Camp Cuheca! 

Camp Cuheca at Waterford , an innovative, multifaceted summer day camp specializing in Adventure and Animal Therapy for children and youth ages 6-18 that need individualized support and extra adult supervision. Groups of eight campers are supported by two highly trained adult Camp Counselors and a Jr. Counselor. The camp was designed for children and youth that might not otherwise be successful in a traditional camp setting. Waterford Country School’s campus includes one of the best Outdoor Education Centers in the country surrounded by lakes, an adventure challenge course, log cabin, a pavilion, nature trails, a fitness trail, state-of-art gymnasium, and over 350 acres of woodland. The WCS Children’s Farm and Nature Center is the home of many exotic, domestic and farm animals as well as a wildlife sanctuary for injured animals. In addition, camp swimming facilities include local Olympic size pools and the local beaches of Long Island Sound.

Enrollment is OPEN NOW with scholarship money available. Contact us TODAY! 



Join us for a tour during our FREE Open House Saturdays from 10-1pm and discover all that Camp Cuheca has to offer your camper. There will be a Q&A with the Camp Director, free lunch, a walking tour of our farm and wildlife and a chance to climb one of our super fun Ropes Adventure Course challenges. Call (860) 442-9454 or email for more information.

Open House Dates – 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

April 4, 2020
May 23, 2020

Tis’ the Season….

Posted on November 4, 2019. Category: WCS News

Every year we have community supporters asking us how they can give to the children and families of Waterford Country School. If you are looking to give back this holiday season, here are some ways you can help. 

Holiday Giving

We have such a generous community. Every year many of you ask what you can donate to make the holidays special for the kids in our programs. We value every contribution, no matter how small. Click on the Wish List to see some specific items you can buy for the children who live on campus. If you have a specific project in mind for your church or civic group, please contact us! We would love to hear it! Download the HOLIDAY WISH LIST here.


Consider donating to our Camp Scholarships which provide funding for children in SECT to attend our therapeutic summer camp. At a cost of $500 per week, many families would not be able to spend their campers without the help of community members like you. Gift the gift of adventure this year….send a special kid to summer camp! Sponsor a child’s tuition to our Camp Cuheca Summer Camp HERE.

Get Involved

While our teachers, social workers and child care workers are doing the day to day work of caring for the kids in our programs, we rely on several committees to pull off our events and fundraising throughout the year. You can join one of these committees which often include WCS Staff members, Board members and community advocates. Let your voice be heard and bring your expertise and interests to the table! For more information on joining a committee, contact Development or call 860-442-9454 x4105.

Be an Advocate

Can we be frank? WCS has endeavored to help children since 1922, yet there are stories circulating our community that can be very negative. Will you join us in educating our world that this is not a place for “bad kids” or “troubled teens.” This is a place where special needs exist and are honored. This is a place that works tirelessly to help families in places of frustration and turmoil. This is where we don’t judge kids and ask them “what’s wrong with you?!” but look at them and seek to understand “what happened to you?” and how can we help. This is a village. This is a family. The simplest way you could give back this holiday season is by raising your voice! The world needs this kind of compassion and understanding for the complexities of life, now more than ever.


We do WHATEVER IT TAKES…and we couldn’t do it without you. THANK YOU.


Celebrating a 10 year partnership…becoming the first CARE Academy in the world.

Posted on October 29, 2019. Category: WCS News

On Thursday, October 24th, 2019, Waterford Country School staff and board members gathered to share stories of hope and change with Cornell University’s Martha Holden. Since adopting the Cornell University CARE Model in 2009, WCS has seen amazing changes in every program.

Proud to be a partner with Cornell, WCS now hosts visitors from schools and agencies around the world to showcase how CARE “works.” Its a paradigm shift in the world of child residential caring that is usually based on level systems, behavior management, reward and punishment. Focusing on relationship building as the paramount goal in any child/staff interaction, basing goals on the child’s own developmental level, changing the environment to create success for the struggling child, training staff to see the root cause of trauma and pain based behavior, keeping the family involved and communicating and basing all goals on the individual skills, strengths and competence of the child are the 6 Principles of CARE.

In the agency’s time utilizing the CARE Model, we have seen a natural reduction in psychotropic medication and physical restraints. That data is now being studied by Cornell and will be used in further publications. 

Waterford Country School has fully embraced the CARE Model and kept it’s core tenets at the forefront of all interactions becoming one of very few agencies able to sustain the impact of the model over time.

On this beautiful day in October, Martha Holden, presented WCS Executive Director, Bill Martin with the first CARE Academy award making WCS an agency that doesn’t just utilize the model but is a pioneer in the implementation and sustainable outcomes the model is designed for. 

Board members, WCS staff members and community supporters were present at the cocktail reception to celebrate this momentous occasion. When presenting the award, Martha said “When I first wrote this model, people would ask me, what agencies did I believe in…who could I recommend that was caring for kids in this way….and I’m sad to say I couldn’t recommend any. I want to honestly say that watching you and meeting with you over these last 10 years….I am so proud to be working with Waterford Country School. This place IS a place I would send my child.” 

See more photos from our CARE Academy award celebration HERE.

Top Fears of Parents with Children in a Therapeutic Boarding School

Posted on July 10, 2019. Category: WCS News

The decision to send a child to a boarding school is not something anyone takes lightly. Many parents of teens struggle through the emotional overload of this kind of decision. Although you and your family are hopeful for these next steps towards healing, there are still very real fears. Here are some top fears of parents who have children in a therapeutic boarding school program like Waterford Country School. 

  1. Will they fit in?anxious mom saying goodbye to kids going to school

After watching your special child struggle and fail and flounder in the school system, community and at home, parents are extra sensitive to the uniqueness of their own child. They realize a traditional path is not working for their son or daughter. They know they have quirks and antics and learning differences. They wish for friends and teachers that will be understanding and accepting. Waterford Country School holds the motto “Where Everybody is Somebody” and treats each child as a unique “somebody” to be embraced. Parents often feel these fears eased when they come visit the school, dorm and campus because they can see all of our kids are unique and quirky and still fit in. Because as Martha Holden, author of the CARE Model from Cornell University said, “You don’t wait for the child to fit into your program, you fit the program to the child.” 

  1. Will they miss home?

As with any change in routine, parents are worried about homesickness for their child while they are away from home. Will missing their family and home life affect them in negative ways? Or worse yet, will they like it so much at boarding school they won’t want to come home? It is normal for parents to worry about their child’s transition. Living and going to school in a home away from home creates opportunity for growth and new skills that might not otherwise be available to your child. The CARE Model used at Waterford Country School takes into account every student’s emotional competence and works together with the parents to keep open communication through the ups and downs of transition.

  1. Will I be left out of their lives?

Many parents fear the boot camp approach to helping troubled teens which takes children out of their comfort zone and forces them to rely on staff and peers to navigate their lives. Waterford Country School does not take this approach. It is very important to our Cornell CARE Model driven approach that families be involved and integral to each student’s daily life. Whatever is needed to make child and parent feel connected to each other. Whether it’s a phone call to say goodnight or a video conference to share about an exciting day, parents at Waterford Country School are encouraged to stay active participants in their child’s life.

  1. Will I still make decisions for them?

When a parent entrusts their child to the care of a therapeutic boarding school, they always worry if they will still be in the parental, decision making role for their child. The fear that they will lose control over their child and their decisions just based on their proximity. It is normal for a parent to want to know what their child is experiencing in their life. To know if they’re hurting or happy, making friends and making good decisions. Waterford Country School believes the child heals when the whole family heals and seeks to communicate with each student’s family as much as possible. Unlike other programs with strict rules and restrictions, interacting with family is never a privilege that can be earned or taken away. WCS involves families in every change or decision pertaining to their child, keeping communication open at all times. Once parents see this team-driven approach, their fears are eased and they embrace the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.”


For more information on Waterford Country School’s Therapeutic Boarding School for Boys, please visit: or call 860.440.4352


Cornell University Names Waterford Country School First Certified CARE Agency

Posted on February 28, 2019. Category: WCS News

Cornell University Letter or Congratulations award for certification

On February 25 Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology announced Waterford Country School as

the first organization to ever achieve certification as a “CARE Agency.” CARE Agency certification is a recognition of fidelity and quality practice to an evidence based treatment model for children with special needs.

Waterford Country School adopted Cornell’s CARE Model in 2009, which requires the ongoing training of every employee, whether they are a teacher, maintenance worker or an administrative. The School has watched the climate and the culture change since CARE’s inception and impact not only students but staff in a very positive way. In the years since the CARE Model’s inception, WCS has seen a measurable change in many areas including a decrease in youth aggression, a decrease in psychotropic medication use and an increase in staff longevity.  The CARE Model asks the employees to focus every interaction with children on these 6 core principles: Relationship-based, Developmentally focused, Trauma informed, Competence centered, Family involved, and Ecologically oriented. There is no punitive or reward system at WCS, a common practice in residential care settings for behaviorally challenged youth. Instead the CARE principles are applied with the understanding that children can heal and find success when strong adult to child relationships are leveraged with the right understanding around trauma, family bonds and the child’s own personal strengths.

In the last few years, Waterford Country School has become more vocal about the impact of the CARE Model on children and families. Executive Director, Bill Martin and

School Principal, Sharon Butcher have given presentations at conferences around the world and WCS has hosted many other agencies at the Quaker Hill campus so they can see CARE in action.

Martha Holden, Director of the Residential Child Care Project at Cornell University and the author of CARE: Children and Residential Experiences, Creating Conditions for Change has worked closely with Waterford Country School throughout this process. She remarked, “Waterford Country School has been an integral partner in the on-going development of the CARE Model. Professionals from all over the world have visited WCS to learn more about how an organization can implement and embed an evidence-based program model that focuses on relationships and builds on the strengths of children, families and staff. WCS has been an inspiration to other organizations that have taken up this challenge.”

Executive Director, Bill Martin remarked, “There is no greater recognition we could hope to receive. This certification acknowledges how passionate we are about the quality of our work with children and families. ”

Cornell University and Waterford Country School Leadership meeting group