WCS News

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: www.therapeuticschool.org 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







Reflection on 2018

Posted on January 8, 2019. Category: Uncategorized, WCS News

holding hands show of support for children in residential care settings


Cornell University’s model on helping children in residential settings grow has changed the climate and culture of our agency. We  celebrate every relationship built and every moment of positive change. We cherish them. These are just some highlights of our year…our favorite CARE moments of 2018.


In the Education Program, a former student (graduated in 2010) came back for a visit to the school. Her impromptu visit turned into a 3 hour visit and the realization that she was having a really hard time personally. After many hugs and tears she said “Thank you, I just really needed to come back to my happy place!” It was amazing for Education staff to see the relational elements of CARE working long after the student was still with us. To be considered a place of safety and happy memories is such a privilege.


In our Adoption Program the annual family picnic always brings the joy of watching the special adoptive families grow. During this year’s picnic, a young boy named Jonathon declared “I was so happy to come today! I wanted to see my birth helpers!!” The Director and staff were touched that this little boy not only knew he was part of an adoption story but that he coined his own title for the people who helped him find his forever family. His “birth helpers.”


In our Summer Camp – Camp Cuheca, we had a student working as a Jr. Counselor/Intern from the boarding school. This young man is usually very quiet and brooding, hesitant to engage or get involved. But starting from Day 1 with Camp Counselor training, the staff were amazed to see him step up and help. By the end of the summer, this teen who liked to remain on the fringes and refused to conform was also climbing towers, going swimming and being a leader. This might not seem too impressive but even the campers cheered for him on the last day when he waded into the water for the first time! We celebrate the atmosphere that CARE has created on our campus where every small step outside of the normal comfort zone is an accomplishment!


In our Medical Program there was a student who came to clinic with constant medical complaints. Although usually her health concerns were unfounded, the nurses listened and validated her concern every time. In the course of their time spent with her they found out she was most comfortable with her own pediatrician from her home town, so they made sure to provide a way for her to get back home and see this particular pediatrician. They realized positive change was happening for this student when she had NOT stopped in to the WCS medical clinic for 6 months. The staff were amazed to see that just being validated and knowing that someone would listen to her concerns greatly helped her anxiety over her health. During the course of her time at WCS, this student also lost 51 lbs, her blood sugar levels had improved and was off of previously needed medications….and this was not the goal for this student….it happened naturally, thanks to the CAREing climate at Waterford Country School!


In the Therapeutic Boarding School program a young boy was being considered to enter this newest addition to our array of programs. After struggling in school and then refusing to go to public school, he had been homeschooled for several years and now even that wasn’t working. He wouldn’t eat or dress, was heavily addicted to video games. His parents were at their wits end but after several visits with our Boarding School Director and Clinician, they made the difficult decision to enroll their son at our therapeutic boarding school. Knowing that this child had not been in a school setting successfully for a while, the team planned to slowly help him adjust hoping that by a month, he would be able to do a full day of school. He got up, got dressed and went to school for 2 hours the first day…and hasn’t missed a day since! He loves the farm, loves the animals, loves to go to school… his parents are relieved. Lowering the expectation and working very closely with his family, we saw that the right environment, without demands or power struggles can free a child to more than surpass what is expected of them.


In our Foster Care program, a young boy was struggling immensely. He had been in 3 foster care placements in a week. In every one he refused to go to school and created a giant struggle every day. In his new placement, knowing that he would struggle with the morning time routine and getting to school…his WCS Foster care worker, foster mom and on call staff all arrived at the Norwich office instead of school. They let the boy play basketball and blow off steam while they casually watched and talked. There was no agenda, just a meet-up of everyone who cared about him. After a while of no one trying to make him do anything, the boy came up to them and asked “What are you guys doing? I have to go to school!” That day he successfully conquered his anxiety and school avoidant behaviors….he’s been successfully attending school ever since. This kind of out-of-the-box thinking, where a team comes together to show unity and support while giving a child space to work out their difficulties is what CARE is all about.


In our Residential Treatment program, holiday dinners are a big deal. The students live and go to school on campus and some of them are not able to go home on weekends or holidays. The WCS Board and Staff throw big dinners and invite everyone to a family meal. This year, one of the student’s biological mothers was planning to come but was having issues with transportation and at the last minute broke down trying to get to the special Thanksgiving feast. Without hesitation, some WCS staff jumped in a vehicle and traveled out to reach her and bring her to the dinner on campus. The CARE model has allowed us the confidence to do just what our motto says…”we do whatever it takes” to help children and their families. Ensuring that this family could be together for a holiday celebration is foundation to the CARE approach, “family involved.” What a change we’ve seen from extending a hand, not just to our students but to their biological families.


In our Emergency Shelter program one particular child has been admitted 5 separate times in the last 2 years. The difference the staff could see in the young man from the first to the fifth stay was amazing. He was engaged, interactive…friendly. When he was ready to leave on his last stay with us (the shelter is a temporary placement for kids in crisis) he took turns giving everyone a hug and made a point of saying “You never gave up on me.” This same student has finished his GED and is doing well in a new job. The idea that residential staff EVEN in a temporary setting can give a child hope, when they don’t have any…is powerful. Never, never, never give up.


Even the Staff Support and Human Resources team has stories to share of their CARE infused involvement over the past year. Whether it’s Maintenance coming to fix something a student had broken and instead of bringing punishment, started a casual conversation which turned into a friendship which earned the Director of Maintenance a new title (Hi Uncle Brian!) or the Business Office staff showing up at an intake meeting with a new family just to make sure all the financial paperwork was explained well and questions answered so the family would feel at ease. To our IT Department updating software and installing video conferencing capabilities to ensure that families that were far away could have “virtual therapy sessions” with their child and staff on a regular basis. Although these are people who work behind the scenes, they are all trained in the CARE Model and bring the agency full circle as we work together on behalf of each individual child.



From comments on our surveys like “I feel safe here”….”the staff understand my problems” …”‘R’ (child’s worker) is my best friend!” we leave 2018 behind knowing that we built relationships, strengthened family bonds, changed expectations, instilled hope and did whatever we could to bring each of our students along their individual path of success. Every day is a new beginning…on to 2019!


5 Ways to Give this Holiday Season

Posted on November 1, 2018. Category: WCS News

The holiday season is right around the corner! For many, what comes with seasonal celebrations and family traditions is a sense of gratitude and generosity. When we count our many blessings, we inevitably look to bless others. For those of you thinking about what you can do to make a difference this holiday season, here are 5 Ways You Can Give to the kids and families at Waterford Country School.



You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, join the growing ranks of people celebrating #GivingTuesday! #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

This November 27th, join the movement and give – whether it’s some of your time, a donation, gift or the power of your voice in your local community. To donate on #givingtuesday please visit our DONATE PAGE.



4) 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.


3) Sponsorships

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.



2)  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.

1) 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.





Former student is back, organizing a successful basketball tournament for WCS

Posted on October 9, 2018. Category: WCS News

For more than 90 years Waterford Country School has worked to meet the special needs of children and families at risk. Over the years, the services and programs have evolved with the transitions that life and community present. Through it all, the mission and high standards of care have remained constant. Together with a highly dedicated and skilled staff, Board of Trustees and many friends in the community, we have developed an extensive array of programs and are committed to the spirit of doing “Whatever It Takes.” The community works hard to ensure that each child entrusted to our care is given the opportunity to grow, learn, and develop at his or her own pace.

Years later, one of Waterford Country School’s  own residents has come back to the WCS community as an effort to give back. He is currently working at Waterford Country School as a child care worker, making connections and using his own story to build a relationship with WCS students. On a warm August day, teams gathered in the Waterford Country School gymnasium for the 3rd Annual Basketball Tournament hosted by former WCS kid, Davonta Valentine. At the age of eleven years old, Davonta moved to the town of Waterford living in a residential group home called Thomas Bent Shelter (at Waterford Country School) for about ten months. Through the support of the staff at Waterford Country School, Davonta had the opportunity to attend the local public elementary school in Waterford. While attending school, he met a paraprofessional who would change his life forever. After spending some time and learning Davonta’s story,

the paraprofessional – Susan Picardi took him in at the age of 12 years old. The Picardi family embraced the young athlete Davonta and he found a permanent family in Waterford when he was adopted by the Picardi’s at 18 years of age. Davonta went on to attend Salve Regina University to both earn his degree in Criminal Justice and continue his passion for basketball. After years spent away from Waterford Country School, he felt a calling to return “home” and give back to a school that gave him so much.

The idea was inspired while he was working at a school in Montville. He found himself in classroom discussing with

peers what they would want to do in life that will help others. In the moment, Davonta knew he wanted to combine his passions: basketball and giving back. In 2015, he started a basketball tournament that gives back to “a place where he started a new life” before he was “taken into a beautiful family.” He recognizes that as a small non profit, every little bit helps for the Waterford Country School.

The tournament was completely organized and planned by Davonta and his support network. In it’s 3rd year, the tournament was hosted in the newly finished

Waterford Country School gymnasium, the place where his new life started. On August 19, 2018, nine teams, consisting of community friends and colleagues, attended the Third Annual Valentine Classic. Davonta felt the emotions of playing the game he loves in a place he will always care for. He recalls, “it was a sweet ending to an emotional day because the Waterford Country School Team won the entire tournament against my own team.” Davonta’s students were even able to help out at the tournament giving out waters and snacks. Engaging the students made the event all the more special. The tournament brought everyone together for a day of fun and raised $700 for the children and programs at WCS.  Davonta remarks, “Above all, the Waterford Country School is home to me and I often think about where I would be if I didn’t end up here. I hope the ability to share my story with students encourages them to see that this is one chapter of their life, and what matters is where they go from here.” Davonta says without the support from WCS, and especially Bill Martin, the tournament would not have been as perfect as it was this year. He holds high hopes for next year’s tournament and the future of his own WCS students.



Cornell University recognizes Waterford Country School

Posted on August 14, 2018. Category: WCS News

Waterford Country School has just been recognized as the first “TCI Agency”, awarded by the Residential Child Care Project. Our business is very tough and to be recognized on this level by Cornell University is one of the highest honors available. TCI (Therapeutic Crisis Intervention) is practiced by thousands of Agencies on six continents and we stand alone with this honor.

“My sincere congratulations to you, the WCS staff, the children and families, and your Board of Directors for being the first organization to achieve TCI Agency Registration status. The TCI Agency Registration process is designed to formally recognize agencies and schools whose implementation of the Therapeutic Crisis Intervention System (TCI) meets the highest standards. In addition to affirming Waterford Country School’s on-going commitment to best practice and the RCCP’s commitment to ensuring fidelity to the TCI system, the purpose of the registration process is to create a learning relationship and a community of practice to maintain quality care standards and principles. Your agency exemplifies this commitment. Our university-agency relationship with practitioner-based translational research at its heart is a model for the field.”

“Thank you and your organization for all of the contributions you have made to children, families and the field. The Residential Child Care Project has benefited tremendously from our relationship and partnership. We look forward toward many more years of productive and enjoyable collaboration.”

Martha J. Holden

Director, Residential Child Care Project

martha holden bill martin sharon butcher cornell university tci agency award

Caring for kids – reflecting on 2017

Posted on January 23, 2018. Category: WCS News

At Waterford Country School, we talk a LOT about our agency model (The Children And Residential Experiences: Creating Conditions for Change (CARE)).  It brings us together as a team.bright orange red blue CARE logo Cornell university child and residential experiences practice model It makes us feel, as one staff member said “I don’t work at Waterford Country School, I am a part of Waterford Country School.” At the end of a year, the Leadership Team takes the time to reflect on the last year and the moments we’ve had, the struggles we’ve pulled through and the successful moments we’ve witnessed with our children and families. We take just a few of these “moments” and share them for our mutual encouragement. Here are just some of our “CARE moments” in 2017.


A 6 year old in our Foster Care program was having a particularly rough day. Couldn’t stand to be in the car, was starting to act out in dangerous ways and was eventually taken to the ER to be assessed. There was hours and hours of waiting as staff and foster parents stayed with the young boy…but the amazing thing was watching another child in therapeutic foster care, the child’s foster sister, be the ONLY person who could compassionately calm and encourage the young boy. This foster teen, who had a lot of struggles of her own, was absolutely the presence of stability in those moments of crisis.  A beautiful example of how relationship matters. The bond that helped in a time of crisis was not even between staff and child or parent and child but between one struggling child to another.  #CAREmoment


portrait of boy in football uniform playing with the team determined to playThe short term Shelter program noticed that one of their boys came off the bus in football pads, helmet and gear. Knowing the background of this homeless teen who had come their way, they thought this was strange. After a call to the school, they found out that he was not on the football team (as they suspected) but was so eager to play football that he dressed the part to and from school. Instead of trying to convince this teen that this was not realistic, WCS staff saw this as an opportunity to reach him. They organized football drills outside at the Shelter, getting other teens involved and encouraging peer interaction through sports. One day the young man did not come back on the bus as he was supposed to. A WCS staff member drove out to the school to search for him. He found the teen, dressed in full gear, playing with a group of kids from school, some of whom were football players. Where once there would have been a punishment for not getting on the bus and returning to the shelter… instead the staff member stayed and watched, letting him play for quite a while. He knew he was seeing personal success, for this was a teen who previously had no peer group – playing football and interacting well with a group of kids. After a while the staff member went out and encouraged him, ran some plays with him and emphasized all that he had done well that day. This teen boy eventually went home to a relative but his interest and determination to play football gave us some valuable moments, short term care can still build growth, self-confidence and success if we take the time.   #CAREmoment #sheltersuccess


red tailed hawk leather glove release day wildlife rehabilitationThe Outdoor Education Director remembers the day a wounded Red Tailed Hawk was released. The healing that takes place for children in our programs can often be mirrored by the rehabilitation of our injured animals. “We do as much for animals here as we do for kids, there aren’t too many places like that around,” says the Outdoor Ed Director. He remembers the student who was interning on the Farm/Wildlife Program being right by his side for the hawk’s release day. To see a child who has been really struggling care for an animal throughout it’s healing process and then watch it fly again, returning to it’s natural environment, it’s a good reminder of why we do what we do. #CAREmoment #wildliferehabilitation #natureheals


In our Children’s Mental Health Clinic there was a child who desperately needed help but adamantly refused to come in to the Clinic to work with a therapist. Not willing to let location stop this child from healing, the therapist went to the child’s home and met with her. This willingness to work with the family and meet the child where she was, eventually changed the outcome of the child’s behavior. It wasn’t long before the child was able to come into the Clinic and meet with her therapist to continue treatment. #CAREmoment


In our Residential Treatment program a teen girl was having a particularly rough day emotionally. After getting the invite to sample some food at an office potluck in Human Resources, the Residential Supervisor invited the teen along to give her a break and take a walk. When the Supervisor and teen visited the Human Resources office, they met the Director of Staff Support. He initiated a friendly conversation with the teenager and she was particularly interested to find that he was the one who brought in the crockpot full of chili, she LOVED chili. She wanted all the details. Who made it, how was it made, what was in the recipe. Student and staff bonded over their love of a good bowl of chili that day. As the time went on, they smiled and chatted whenever they saw each other around campus. Although they were in completely different places at Waterford Country School most of the time, they had made a connection. When he found out she was going to be leaving the residential program on a definitive date, much to her surprise he brought her a very special bowl of chili to say goodbye and good luck. She and the residential staff were touched by his ability to make a connection and make a teenager feel like she was listened to and cared for. #CAREmoment


The Therapeutic Boarding School program noted how the CARE approach allowed new students to settle in. One of their first students came in very angry, with his parents and life in general. He was so angry and unwilling to accept this new environment that he shoved his bag under a chair and wouldn’t unpack anything. He refused to let staff buy him anything, whether it was for his new room or his birthday. He just did NOT want to be a part of this new environment. Slowly, staff members noticed his artistic interest and talent. They watched as he started making special artwork for other kids or staff. They encouraged his artistic skill by giving him a wall project in the residence hall recreation room. He was asked to design, plan and paint his own wall mural for the space. He eventually unpacked his bag as he realized, no one was going to make him conform to a certain set of rules here. His individuality was still intact and it was okay to be expressed. He found a place to belong.  #CAREmoment


The Development office saw how CARE changed the way staff and children interact in a big way. One night after hours some students broke into the Development Office and messed with the Receptionist’s desk and supplies. The Receptionist was upset and anxious after the incident as it left her feeling unsafe in her environment and hurt. A Supervisor in the residential program called a meeting and to have a conversation with the teens who were at fault. The teenagers and residential staff and the Receptionist sat down together. She was able to share with the teens how their actions affected her, giving her a safe place to express herself. They were able to see what they had done in a different light and apologized to her in person. What could have been a situation of escalated punishments and hard feelings turned into a real life moment of airing emotions and resolving a conflict. Such amazing personal success for our staff and children to work through. #CAREmoment


Our Food Service workers in the cafeteria noticed that one of the students was constantly taking plastic spoons and chewing on them. Upon investigation, they found that he was hoarding them because the movement of chewing on the plastic spoon was stress relieving for him. They were still concerned that the plastic spoon would break and cut or harm him so after thinking about it, they came up with a solution. They offered the child some plastic straws to have as his own. What a great compromise to both ensure the child’s safety but respect his need to use his coping skill. #CAREmoment


In our Adoption program interacting with families is key. In this case last year, 4 siblings were looking to be african american sibling group of four adoption story siblings reunited and adopted into one familyreunited and adopted into one home. Many pre-adoptive homes were screened and considered, our Adoption Social Worker went out to visit 3 possible families and chose the one he thought would best fit the siblings. However their biological father was opposed to this home and the adoption. Rather than give up or ignore the biological father’s input, our Adoption Social Worker met with the father. He spent hours of time befriending him, talking to him about his opinion, educating him on how the adoption process and what it would look like. Eventually this biological dad gave his permission and the 4 siblings were brought together in one forever home. The hours of care and time that the social worker put into working with the dad made a lasting impact on this case and for the future of the four children. #CAREmoment #foreverfamily


In our Summer Camp program the camp director was struck by how CARE mentality had changed not just the staff but the students who graduated. This summer the one of the Camp Interns (an older or former student who is working as a Jr. Counselor) who was with the 11 & 12 year old campers made the realization that these are “tough kids” very much like he was when he started at Waterford Country School. He saw a lot of himself in them and became a very involved, caring and compassionate part of the Camp staff. It was amazing to see a young person grow in maturity and self reflection during his time as a student at Waterford Country School.  #CAREmoment


Of course there are countless stories every day of how we use the principles of CARE in our approach to children and each other. For more information on how the CARE Model can change the outcome for children in residential and congruent care settings, visit Cornell University’s Residential Child Care Project research and publications. 

“Work hard, play hard, learn hard” – Graduation 2017

Posted on June 23, 2017. Category: Uncategorized, WCS News

2017 graduation and awards ceremony at waterford country schoolOn June 16, 2017 the Otto Graham Gymnasium was packed full. Over 25o people were there to watch the Waterford Country School Awards and Graduation ceremony. With the 60 kids from the Levine Education Center (the ‘school’ at Waterford Country School) looking on and cheering, numerous awards were given, each of the 6 Seniors was given the opportunity to say a few words and special guest speakers commemorated the day.

Sharon Butcher, WCS School Principal, said “When people find out I work at Waterford country School they inevitably say, wow, that must cap and gown decorated for high school graduation ceremonybe hard work! Some days its hard, but most days it’s great. This is the fun part. Today I am SO proud of these students…your children.” After calling all the staff to stand and be recognized as part of the team that makes WCS great…awards were given out to all the Lower School (K-5) and Upper School (6-12th grade) students. Awards like “Good sportsmanship,” “Extra-Ordinary Effort,” “Acts of Kindness,” “Class Olympian,” “Word Wizard,” “Creativity in Writing,” “Music Enthusiasm”, “Most Improved,” “Industrial Arts”and “School Spirit” just to name a few. Vice Principal, Pam Giannelli, broke into the programming to shout out some “I Caught You’s” which were unique things she caught students doing over the year. Things like antique bottlecapping, peer mentoring, creating a lunch delivery service, impersonating staff, recycling, and impressive records for scrabble, dodgeball, basketball and the walking challenge (One student walked 51 miles in the month of May…the highest record in walking challenge history!) If you think this kind of recognition is strange, think again. Waterford Country School touts the motto “Where Everybody is Somebody” and nowhere is it more evident than a day like awards day. When everyone gets recognized because they each have unique strengths and obstacles they’ve overcome. We celebrate each of our students and their success.

senior poses with high school diploma at commencement ceremonyEmotional Seniors gave speeches thanking their families and the those who supported them through their school career. Nick said “When I came here 7 years ago, I was a defiant little punk with no dreams or aspirations. Here…I’ve made family.” Eric wrote “For 5 years, WCS was the place I called home.” CJ greeted the crowd with “Konichiwa!” and called 2 special teachers up on the stage “I bought you presents!” Ryan talked about looking back and being shocked to realize that “For a kid who had such distrust for everyone, I genuinely connected with staff here…developed family-like bonds.” Ashley state matter of factly “I didn’t see myself finishing high school” but credited the support and love and security she found at Waterford Country School. “Thanks for the pep talks, even when I rolled my eyes!” She echoed what many of the other Seniors realized, “Obstacles can’t stop you, problems can’t stop you, other people can’t stop you, the only one who can stop you is yourself. Thank you for believing in me.”

proud african american female in white cap and gown at graduation ceremonyGuest speaker, Danny Miller, spoke about being a former WCS student, struggling with a learning disability and behavioral problems. He told the students “overcoming obstacles is a lifelong pursuit…you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.” Danny recalled stories of his time at WCS and the obstacles he faced in his academic life. Humbly, he recognized how much the skills and strategies he learned spurred him on to the place he is now, just completing a Master’s in Social Work degree. What he considers his “greatest achievement.” He encouraged the class of 2017, “Barriers do not limit your potential to achieve. It takes perseverance and determination.”

“We work hard, play hard and learn hard at Waterford Country School,” claims Sharon Butcher. It’s evident from the  overwhelming feeling of hope and pride that filled the gymnasium, Waterford Country School is not just dispensing knowledge to its students but strengthening children and families that desperately need compassionate care.

Congratulations Class of 2017!

For more information about our private special education school, visit the Special Education Page