The Waterford Country School’s Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Lacey as the agency’s new Executive Director – only the 5th in the Agency’s extensive 99 year history.
Chris will be following the recent retirement of Executive Director Bill Martin, who served the Agency with distinction for 41 years.
Chris has been with the Agency since 1998 when he began as a childcare worker for our child and animal welfare focused non-profit. He moved to oversee the agency’s Foster Care and Outpatient Clinic programs in Norwich for over 10 years, and has most recently served as our Assistant Executive Director.
In 1922, the Waterford Country School was started in New York City by the Schacht family as an alternative school program. Today, it provides special education schooling and boarding for many local school districts, summer camp programs, and youth shelter and family support programs on its 350 rural acre campus in Quaker Hill, CT. The school also boasts an eclectic farm where students and residents spend part of everyday working with rescued farm animals and rehabilitated wildlife. “I am excited about the opportunity to work with the amazing staff of Waterford Country School in a different role,” says Chris. “We are looking ahead with hope, especially as we prepare to celebrate the agency’s 100th anniversary in 2022.”
On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Cornell University presented the third Eckenrode Award for Partner in Translational Research to Bill Martin of Waterford Country School.
In the invitation to the virtual presentation, they announced: This award is dedicated to honoring individuals and organizations who have played a vital partnership role with Cornell researchers to expand, strengthen, and speed connections between research, policy and practice in service of human development and wellbeing. It is named after John Eckenrode in recognition of John’s tireless personal and professional dedication to assuring that vulnerable youth and families benefit from high quality research partnerships.
This year’s awardee is Bill Martin, Executive Director of Waterford Country School, a nonprofit human service agency providing a range of services including residential treatment, emergency shelters, therapeutic boarding, foster care, special education and outpatient services. Under Bill’s leadership, Waterford Country School has partnered with the Residential Child Care Project to evaluate and further develop the RCCP’sCARE program model. They have been a critical partner in building the evidence base that resulted in CARE being listed on the California Evidence-base Clearinghouse through identifying areas for research and collaborating with the RCCP research team to examine the effects of CARE on the use of high risk interventions and psychometric medication on children in their care. CARE has been implemented in more than 50 organizations in five countries and is making a difference in the lives of children and families as well as the staff and agencies that work with them.
As noted by The Day newspaper, over 80 individuals tuned in virtually for the award presentation. Numerous Waterford Country School staff members, as well as Cornell University partners, shared their admiration for Bill Martin and his stewardship.
“Thirteen years ago, I received a call from Bill … I was so impressed, I loved how he was advocating for his staff, his organization and the young people there, and wanted to make sure they got the very best care from the programs they implemented,” Martha Holden said. “Bill loaded up his van with a group of his leaders and drove to Cornell, and we had a meeting that was the beginning of this incredible partnership.”
Bill Martin added, “This great award is a product of over 10 years of hard work by both Waterford Country School and Cornell University and the great growth we have realized in that time.”
The researchers at Cornell noted how hard it is to do their work without the inspiration of watching it be applied in a real setting. For the researchers at the Residential Child Care Project, WCS was a mirror to reflect how their theories were applied and kept them grounded in reality. The collaboration between Cornell and WCS, they said, embodies what great research is supposed to be. Sue Sullivan, the newly retired Medical Director of WCS mentioned how “Cornell and the CARE model became the wind under our sail. We wanted to be excellent at what we did…when we found the CARE Model we had the data and the drive to make us even better.”
Many people shared how Executive Director, Bill Martin embodied the CARE principles as a leader at the agency. “He’s open to people’s feedback, he never says ‘no’, he’s always willing to take a risk, he collaborates with everyone, he’s practical, he truly cares.
Through working with Cornell, Bill Martin said “People all over the world had a stake in Waterford Country School because of our relationship with the child care project.” Waterford Country School, in turn, has helped change the lives of troubled youths elsewhere by inviting visitors to see the CARE program in person, as well as documenting its progress by carefully recording data and being part of scientific studies.
What a great moment for Waterford Country School and the work it has collectively done in the last decade to become even better at caring for kids. Although he’s never comfortable with the attention, Bill Martin is deserving of such a prestigious award and the Staff and Board of Waterford Country School have been so proud to serve under his leadership.
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.
THE FOUNDERS PARK CAMPAIGN
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
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!”
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.
CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2020!
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.