The Child & Family Guidance Center (CFGC) is a community-based agency providing mental health care and support to Fairfield County’s most vulnerable children, from birth through 18, and their families. Since 1925, the organization has assisted tens of thousands of Connecticut youth and their caregivers.

Joel Espada has directly benefited from the organization. “I was 14 when my family and I started to get help from CFGC,” says Espada. “My mom was raising us on her own and struggled with her own mental health issues. Desperate for a feeling of belonging, I joined a gang in Bridgeport, and saw and did things I wish I never had.” He grew depressed, resorted to cutting, and had suicidal thoughts. “The mental health and behavioral supports at CFGC were a lifeline that pulled me out of the darkness, and helped me become the man I am today. I am now a public school substitute teacher, have two bachelor’s degrees, and serve as a mentor for other youth who struggle.”

Child Family Guidance Center
(second from right) Gala honoree Jason Morales with CFGC staff: Board Chairperson Dana Colangelo, Sameer Abdulgalil and President/CEO Michael Patota

The mission of CFGC is to promote positive development and the emotional well-being of children as well as to empower families to provide a nurturing, caring and safe haven for children to grow and mature. Last year, they served nearly 3,300 children and families, with offices throughout Fairfield County, in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Norwalk and Stratford.

Different types of support
The outpatient clinic provides a range of mental health services to children and their families. “Our trauma-informed services empower youth to overcome mental health and behavioral challenges, using evidence-based treatment,” says Michael Patota, president and chief executive officer of CFGC. “We offer individual, family and group psychotherapy, as well as psychiatric evaluation and medication management.” Every child seen by the outpatient department is screened for trauma at intake. Additionally, the organization offers community and parenting programs, in-school supports and crisis services. For example, the outpatient clinic, their largest program, offers individual, family and group psychotherapy and psychiatric evaluation/medication management.

Eliminating the stigma
Mental health can sometimes be a taboo subject and CFGC seeks to educate people that this matters. “For over 90 years, The CFGC has served children and teens experiencing behavioral and emotional challenges. When these challenges are left untreated, school performance falls. Families are placed under stress. The long term impact is often profound,” says Patota. “Positive life outcomes are jeopardized. Here at CFGC, we see, daily, the healing impact of our mental health services on the children in our communities and their families.” He explains that children who live in poverty are more likely to have mental health problems, yet are less likely to receive treatment. The CFGC provides therapies to help children cope with traumatic situations and offers the tools and supports so that families can heal. As the cost of treatment can be a daunting barrier for families, CFGC never denies services based on a person’s ability to pay. Many of the services are offered free of charge while some are based on a sliding scale, making sure that everyone who needs help has access to it.

Contact: The Child & Family Guidance Center, 203-394-6529, cfguidance.com