Local ‘r kids family center grows

‘r kids is expanding its Dixwell operation to three floors and will offer a list of new services.

Rachel Shin

11:53 p.m., February 06, 2022

Staff reporter

Courtesy of Rachel Shin

For more than two years, the ‘r kids family center, located at 45 Dixwell Avenue, has been steadily expanding its space and services, preparing for its upcoming groundbreaking ceremony on June 24.

‘r kids is a center for children and families who have been affected by issues such as violence and substance abuse. In 2019, the organization launched “Raise the Roof”, a fundraising campaign aimed at increasing its physical and operational capacity. ‘r kids will expand to an additional 11,000 square feet over two additional floors to accommodate new facilities, including a family trauma center for toddlers, adoption counseling center, after-school space for young people residing with families reception (Tracey’s Place), a pantry and a balcony garden. The center largely funded the expansion with $1.5 million from the Urban Law, a Public Investment Grant, and $1 million from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. The pandemic canceled all but one fundraiser for the campaign, but construction continued nonetheless.

“I’m really excited that not only are we growing physically, but we also have a great plan in terms of the programs we’re adding to the agency, so we can continue the continuum of care for our larger families. vulnerable in New Haven,” said Enna Garcia, director of programs.

‘r kids has already added a new pantry to the original operations on the first floor of the building. The pantry is open to families in the ‘r kids community. That addition was spurred by the pandemic, executive director Randi Rubin Rodriguez said.

The organization is also building a new Infant and Toddler Family Trauma Center, also called the Resilience Center, on the first floor. Resilience Center staff will work simultaneously with babies and their parents to cope with traumatic events. Babies will be placed in a therapeutic childcare environment that improves their regulation and ability to express themselves, while their parents learn to increase their parenting skills. The Resilience Center uses a multi-generational approach to heal families with babies under three, Rubin Rodriguez said. The center also has an observation window allowing parents to see how their children interact with and respond to staff.

“It takes time for parents to be able to readjust, and in the meantime, we have kids from zero to three who could become very dysregulated,” Garcia said. “[The Resiliency Center] is a great opportunity to accelerate this process, where we can help parents exercise to achieve a goal and also work with the attachment between these young children and their parents.

On the newly expanded second floor, ‘r kids is creating Tracey’s Place, an after-school space for young people living in foster care. Tracey’s Place, named after a donor, will include a science sink and full kitchen, where kids will hold cooking classes, Rubin Rodriguez said. ‘r kids also plans to incorporate restorative justice practices into its after-school programs, she said. Restorative justice is a model that strikes a balance between permissive and punitive. It proposes accountability rather than mere punishment.

The second floor will also house an adoption center, where those interested in adoption can discuss their options with a counselor.

The main floor hallway opens to a balcony which will feature a garden to facilitate the rejuvenation.

“I’m very excited about our rooftop garden,” said Rubin Rodriguez. “We will have great wooden floors and I think it will be a really zen and peaceful place for parents. Especially when you have to give up your rights or have had a very difficult visit or just need some space, it will be nice to have a place that breaks free, with a breeze and nice chimes.

Rubin Rodriguez’s days as a dancer with a Manhattan dance company inspired the garden, she said. Behind her dance studio was a rooftop garden, which was one of the most exciting creative spaces for her as a youngster. Hopefully the ‘r kids’ garden will also benefit ‘r kids’ families, she said.

Further down the hall will be a new community training center, built for meetings with adoptive parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, and an assortment of community gatherings. The second floor also contains a new council chamber and several offices.

“I would love to have any adult adoptees who might read this article who are interested in coming and meeting with me to see how we can get something started,” Rubin Rodriguez said. “We could have a pizza party [the community training center] and that people come to share their ideas and thoughts.

‘r kids received their new furniture thanks to a donation from Liberty Bank and the Graustein Memorial Fund.

The third floor is currently a storage area, and ‘r kids has yet to decide how it will transform the space. They may install solar panels on the third floor roof in the future, Rubin Rodriguez said.

The expansion will bring together a substantial range of family and children’s services under one roof.

“The idea is for us to be a safe place and a comfortable space, a one-stop-shop where parents and children can receive the services they need without having to travel to many different establishments or agencies”, Melanie Vitelli, case senior social work director, said.

‘r kids was founded in 1996.


Rachel Shin covers nonprofits and social services. Originally from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, she is a freshman at Silliman College and plans to major in English.

Comments are closed.