AP NEWS

What’s next for The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition?

March 21, 2019

The former senior director of The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, Mary Pat Healy, unceremoniously resigned from her post at LifeBridge Community Services earlier this month, citing differences of opinion as it relates to leadership, respect and integrity with existing executive management.

As a community, we have not only lost a person of monumental integrity, but we have also lost a true advocate for the children of Bridgeport and a voice for our disenfranchised families. During her tenure, Mary Pat was able to bring together community leaders and key stakeholders to the table to advocate for school funding equity, early childhood care and education, special education, and access to affordable, quality health care, to name just a few. Through her leadership and collective vision, Mary Pat built a financially strong and enduring program that through a recent merger was destined to enhance LifeBridge’s community research and advocacy efforts. Unfortunately, Mary Pat’s abrupt departure leaves a huge void in our community along with questions regarding the stability and continuity of BCAC within LifeBridge Community Services as four major initiatives remain in jeopardy.

The State of the Child, an annual compilation of data that measures the well-being of children, youth and families in Bridgeport, has been used by countless agencies, city government, the Board of Education, corporations and real estate people to measure the quality of life in Bridgeport. Every time a grant is written by a nonprofit agency or government to benefit children and families, data from the State of the Child is utilized to strengthen the possibility Bridgeport will receive more resources to deal with its neediest cases. The State of the Child is also one of the most effective tools in fighting for resources for Bridgeport’s citizens.

The Parent Leadership Training Institute has been a mainstay in Bridgeport, training countless parents in how to support their children’s education but also training them as advocates for effective public education in the city. PLTI is a national model that has proven effective throughout Connecticut and in many sites across the United States. Any major changes to this program would jeopardize the futures of many parents in Bridgeport and would have a negative effect on the quality of education in our city.

Over the past six years, social and emotional learning has been embedded in the Bridgeport Public Schools. Building from the nationally acclaimed RULER program from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, BCAC has expanded the program to include training in restorative practices and trained numerous teachers, administrators and students at every school in Bridgeport in nonpunitive techniques of working with children and helping students begin and end their days on a positive note dedicated to positive learning opportunities. This training have resulted in major reductions in school arrests, out-of-school and in-school suspensions, and expulsions.

Finally, BCAC throughout its history has been the premier local child advocacy organization in the country effectively advocating for state laws and local statutes that improve the physical and behavioral health of our citizens, securing welfare and housing benefits, working with other organizations to improve the way young people are treated in the juvenile justice system, and improving public education. BCAC’s watchdog efforts have served to keep our legislators and public officials alert looking out for the most vulnerable citizens in Bridgeport. Without BCAC’s continuous monitoring of conditions for young people, it is feared that no one will be watching out for them.

As former board members of BCAC and community leaders, we want to thank Mary Pat Healy for her vision and leadership over the past decade. Moreover, we implore LifeBridge Community Services to support the enduring and impactful work that BCAC engaged in for the past 35 years.

Respectfully submitted,

Scott Wilderman, Marge Hiller, Sal Hanaif, Bob Francis, Edie Cassidy, Maria Geigel, Nadine Nevins, Sal Mollica and Diane Crawford-Tyner.