Helping Families and Children : Children’s Friend and Family Services Provides Support to Lynn Families

Children’s Friend and Family Services (CFFS) is celebrating its 175th anniversary of helping children and families in Lynn and on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley.

The agency has a local site, Community Service Agency (CSA) of Lynn, located at 112 Market Street.

Children’s Friend and Family Services’ last three years under the dynamic leadership of Carla Saccone, president and CEO, have been particularly successful. During Saccone’s tenure, the organization outreach has tripled in growth and it now participates in the Children’s Behaviorial Health Initiative, a move that has allowed the agency to increase the number of services it offers to families.

Saccone spoke about the agency’s growth and expanded outreach during an interview at CFFS headquarters in Salem.

“Our agency in Lynn, Salem, Gloucester, and Lawrence provides a very concentrated service helping families that are struggling to raise their children – that’s our focus, to help them be as successful as they can be under sometimes difficult circumstances,” said Saccone, who previously worked in Lynn as the area director for the Northeast region of the Department of Mental Health.

Saccone said she is proud of the training program and staff at the agency.

“We have a wonderful training program to make sure our staff stay current,” said Saccone. “We really are proud of our staff and the fact that they’re all trained in providing services specifically to children and their parents.”

The staff includes social workers, psychologists, a nurse, and a child psychiatrist.

She said the majority of the families CFFS assists live below the poverty level and face a lot of complex social problems as well as mental health problems.

“Our agency is able to provide treatment for the mental health issues that the children or parents might have, but also to pull together social services and help people find natural supports to help them through with whatever they’re struggling with,” said Saccone.

The agency offers five separate services of assistance: mental health counseling, therapeutic mentoring, in-home therapy, parent-to-parent, and youth mentoring.

The agency also has a contract with Lynn Juvenile Court where it runs a clinic to assist high-risk children and their parents.

One of the agency’s biggest areas of growth and a continuing success story has been in Lynn at the Community Service Agency (CSA) on Market Street that serves Lynn, Lynnfield, Nahant, Saugus, and Swampscott. The leader of the Lynn office is Joy Richmond Street.

“We opened our Market Street office less than three years ago and we have added over 30 staff members to increase to 59 employees and most of our staff is from Lynn and we’re very proud of that,” said Saccone.

Saccone said part of the Lynn agency’s assistance to families consists of “credential-trained social workers traveling with a family partner who has experience raising a child who has behavioral, health, or emotional issues.”

“We use a team approach and our staff person and the family partner, who is also staff, help the family figure out what they want for their child, how they can get it, and what they need to do to get there.”

CSA works in conjunction with the Lynn schools and helps families find other mental health services and deal with housing issues. “We’ll help with anything the parent needs to help their child grow up healthy,” said Saccone.

Saccone, who grew up in Medford, said that Lynn public school administrators, guidance counselors, pediatricians, the Lynn Health Center, other social service agencies, and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) refer cases to Children’s Friend and Family Services.

MassHealth provides approximately 85 percent of funding for the agency. The agency also does fundraising, with the proceeds going to its two charitable programs, parent-to-parent and youth mentoring.

Saccone said early involvement in a health issue is crucial to helping children on the road to rehabilitation.

“Pediatricians are referring more and more young kids into our clinic and you really can make a great impact when the person hasn’t been sick for a long time – it really does make a big difference,” said Saccone.

While Saccone has spearheaded Children’s Friend and Family Services’ expansion and developed its new strategy and direction, the energetic president and CEO credits her staff, including Director of Clinical Services Diane Young, Director of Finance Kristin Burns, Director of Human Resources Sarah Reich, Director of Youth Mentoring and Development Arden Dore and Administrative Assistant Kristin Guido, for their outstanding contributions to the agency’s success.

“We really do have a great team assembled here,” said Saccone.

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