Cos Cob based Kids in Crisis has an annual budget of $5 million. Back in 2014, the state took away $900,000 in funding, and then in September of this year, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families eliminated another $750,000 in funding.
“I am very concerned about how do we strategize for the long term sustainability of the organization because we can’t afford not to be here for children,” said Executive Director Shari Shapiro.
Now, the Greenwich community is coming together to help support this non-profit that has been helping children in southwestern Connecticut for 37 years.
“Kids in Crisis is the only program in the state that accepts calls from parents of all children newborn to 17,” said Shapiro.
“Kids in Crisis, I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding, is not a group home. It’s an emergency respite,” said Joe Kaliko of Needs Clearing House.
Right now, Shapiro says eight out of the 10 beds are occupied by children going through a crisis, whether that is a divorce in the family, mental health issues, bullying at school, or anything else that child considers a crisis. Businesses throughout the Greenwich community say this service is invaluable and they are pitching in to help raise money.
“People recognize that crisis can happen to anyone,” said Shapiro.
On December 5 and 6, McArdle’s Florist and Garden Center held it’s annual Reindeer Festival, and spread holiday cheer to Kids in Crisis.
“We donated $5 of every wreath that a customer purchased to Kids in Crisis,” said James McArdle.
That came to a total of $2,000, but that’s not all. McArdle’s is also selling boxed chocolates and 100 percent of the proceeds go to Kids in Crisis.
“We consider it a great asset, so we feel fortunate to be able to help,” said McArdle.
Kids in Crisis neighbor The Cos Cobber donated a portion of sales to the non-profit, Steven Fox Jewelry had a pizza fundraiser, and Candy Fletcher of Minute Men Cleaners held a Halloween bake sale.
“She raised $550. Now just think about if that were multiplied by other small businesses. It’s a great way to raise funds,” said Kaliko.
Greenwich Police Chief James Heavey is advocating for funding for Kids in Crisis. In a Letter to the Editor, Heavey states, “Kids in Crisis is a critical team member for the Greenwich Police Department’s restorative justice programs. Without their assistance and case management, our department would not have seen the decrease in juvenile delinquent incidents and recidivism”.
Also advocating on behalf of Kids in Crisis is the Needs Clearing House.
“We’ve reached every level in the state government from the governor on down trying to get them to reconsider the recision,” said Kaliko.
Kaliko knows first hand how important Kids in Crisis services can be. Last winter, he was called on to help a family with six children that was living under a bridge.
“There are shelters for the parents, but what most people don’t realize is that shelters do not take children, and there are lots of good reasons for that. But, really the only entity that is equipped to handle children is Kids in Crisis,” said Kaliko.
Shapiro says this increase in community support has also increased awareness of the services Kids in Crisis provides.
“The more people talk about it, the more that there’s an increased awareness, not only comes funding, but becomes a reality of, ‘I know a family that can use those services’ and the phone has been busy as a result of that,” said Shapiro.
As the community rallies behind this organization, Shapiro says her staff feels supported and hopeful.
“It makes us feel like we’ve got to see a light at the end of this tunnel,” said Shapiro.
Kids in Crisis will be meeting with regional DCF staff on December 15 to discuss how the two can continue to work together despite the change in funding. Shapiro says she does not want the children served by Kids in Crisis to be affected.