Family &Children’s Agency Sense of mission along with sensible ideas
For three-quarters of a century, they have been on a mission to build better lives.
Today, Norwalk-based Family & Children’s Agency has become one of the largest change-makers in Fairfield County, servicing the needs of over 11,000 people across the life cycles.
Once again earning accolades in the Hearst Connecticut Media Group’s annual Top Workplaces awards, Family & Children’s Agency has snagged the No. 1 spot in the midsize category for 2018. The agency also won the top honor in 2014 and 2016.
The nonprofit human service organization is headed up by Rob Cashel, the president and CEO, who has been with the agency for more than three decades. Without the capability to routinely hand out generous bonuses and pay increases, he and other nonprofit managers often look for other ways to keep the wheels turning.
The most obvious answer: focusing employees on the company’s mission and culture. The agency specializes in adoption, foster care, counseling, parenting programs, after-school programs, homeless adults, recovery programs and home care.
“We have a very transparent culture ... We have full staff meetings three or four times a year where senior management informs the rest of the workplace what’s going on across the company.
“In general, people feel comfortable coming to a leader with any challenges because the executive team is very much involved throughout,” said Averi Dudek, director of human resources.
Employees gain meaning and intrinsic satisfaction working directly with people in need, of course, but beyond that, many of things that make Family & Children’s Agency workers happy aren’t much different from those in other companies.
That would include holiday parties, half-day Fridays from the Fourth of July through Labor Day and the opportunity to climb the ladder.
Cashel said the agency is able to remain competitive by investing in each of its 250 employees.
The agency has regular evaluations and staff meetings where supervisors work with staffers, devising individualized growth and training plans. For example, the agency expanded its leadership team from 25 to 36 people, to include some “up-and-coming” leaders who don’t direct programs.
“The thinking is that this is really a place that people who are looking to advance and assume more responsibility and it fit in line with a philosophical shift we made a few years ago to really not have a top-heavy senior group but to develop that next level down and the next level down.”
The agency receives about 65 percent of its budget from public sources, mainly the state of Connecticut; another 20 percent from fees for services; and 15 percent from fundraising.
Cashel is known for engaging employees at all levels of the organization through hosting lunches with new hires, offering intimate 90 minute open forums five to 10 times each year and involving the entire agency in the strategic planning process every three years.
For these reasons, the agency also earned the “Clued-in Senior Management” award this year, part of Top Workplaces.
“ Rob feels that its ve ry important to formally meet everyone at the agency and talk about their experiences here, how they’re doing and what we can improve on. It’s empowering for our employees. We want to know what our employees feel is important to do their jobs,” Dudek said.
Chrissy Cacace, 35, of Norwalk, has been with Family & Children’s Agency for five and a half years serving as the director of program development.
“I am able to work with a phenomenal group of supportive colleagues in a role that keeps me growing as a professional,” Cacace said.
“It is an organization that truly cares about not only making positive changes in the lives of the clients we work with but also supporting its staff in the challenging work we do.”