Connecticut Appleseed continuously tries to reach out to new partners in the state’s communities, looking and listening for unmet needs which we can effectively address. We also confer with our national network of Appleseed affiliates and occasionally collaborate on cross-cutting issues. But most projects are born in the passions of Board members and advanced through the networks and resources of the larger Board.
For example, former Board member Arthur White leveraged his unique experience in founding two successful national non-profits (“Reading is Fundamental” and “Jobs for the Future”) with his role as Educational Advisor to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to conceive our Connecting through Literacy: Incarcerated Parents, their Children and Caregivers (“CLICC”) project. After many years of Arthur’s groundwork, CLICC is now a successful and expanding program that improves the literacy and family relationships for at-risk children who have a parent in a Connecticut prison.
Similarly, Board member Michael D’Agostino leverages his lengthy service chairing the Hamden, CT Board of Education and his current position as a member of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee to lead Connecticut Appleseed’s education projects. Mike wrote an influential cover letter that accompanied our 2012 report Bullying_in_CTs_Public_Schools-Final_Report featuring Best Practices in preventing bullying that was based on interviews with administrators and teachers in 11 districts by volunteer lawyers from Travelers. Copies were sent within the report’s inside cover to all school board members and administrators in the state.
Our 2011 Keep_Kids_in_School-Improving_School_Discipline was researched, resourced and distributed in similar fashion – thanks in part to Michael’s close relationships with the CT Association of School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the CT Association of Boards of Education (CABE). When a Bloomfield, CT Assistant Superintendent suggested a study explaining more recent district success in improving school climate, Michael’s reputation and relationships enabled both our access to the CT Dept. of Education’s disciplinary data and our recruitment of CIGNA’s Legal Dept. to conduct the necessary interviews.
Use these links for more information about Connecticut Appleseed’s current projects.
Bullying: Helping School Districts to Accept Greater Responsibility
That bullying obstructs learning, destabilizes victims and endangers young lives - and that roughly 1/3 of high school students are bullied - is known all too well by most parents. Less widely known: Connecticut’s 2008 statute, "An Act Concerning School Learning Environment", required every school district to develop and implement both a bullying policy and a prevention strategy, that the State Dept. of Education (SDE) develop model policies and that school personnel be trained in bullying prevention. Connecticut’s General Assembly bullying once again during 2011, passing “An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws”, which expanded school district responsibilities for anti-bullying protection to cyberbullying and social media abuse. Unsurprisingly, much remains to be done within many school districts to comply with these new laws and ensure an emotionally safe climate for all children. Unfortunately, implementing a law successfully is often far more difficult than enacting it. While some schools have excellent anti-bullying programs and processes, budget constraints or other factors impede implementation in many schools. Appleseed first...More
Sometimes, simple legal assistance can be the key to getting someone off the streets and into a more secure and productive life. Volunteer attorneys can often help homeless individuals with their need for a birth certificate or drivers license, with applying for social security or appealing the denial of benefits, or with clearing up minor criminal matters that are preventing the individual from getting housing or applying for a job. Such legal issues can often be resolved in a few hours, or by making telephone calls. In addition to helping homeless adults obtain lost or missing identification or expunging criminal records, attorneys can provide valuable legal advice in practice areas issues such as housing, immigration and domestic and family law. In 2017 we revived our successful “HELP” project to provide regular volunteer legal assistance at homeless shelters in both Hartford and New Haven. Starting in September 2017 we launched this revival at the South Park Inn in Hartford and Columbus House in New Haven. Attorneys volunteered for the revival’s initial 9 months from Murtha Cullina LLP, Day Pitney LLP, Wiggin and Dana LLP and the George Crawford Black Bar...More
Improving School Discipline – A 2018 Update
Connecticut Appleseed’s 2011 report entitled “Keep Kids in School: Improving School Discipline” addressed the pathway commonly termed the “school-to-prison pipeline”. Our widely-distributed report helped to redirect school districts’ disciplinary policies toward retention and away from suspension and expulsion. Connecticut’s school districts have worked hard since the legislature mandated implementation of in-school suspension for the vast majority of disciplinary infractions in mid-2010. While Appleseed’s 2011 research surfaced impressive progress toward that goal even before the deadline, we were eager for a chance to revisit our analysis and dig more deeply. ...More
Literacy Connects Inmates and their Children – 2018
The educational and emotional toll on families with parents in prison is devastating. Many incarcerated parents are depressed due to parent-child separation, do not want their children to know they are in prison, and avoid both visitation by and communication with their children. In their absence, their children’s educational and emotional progress can stagnate or regress, and the critical bond between parent and child can fail to develop or become strained. ...More
Expanding Immigrant Access to Financial Services – 2015
Connecticut Appleseed’s efforts on immigrant finances include spearheading a collaboration of financial institutions, community partners, and state and federal banking regulators that began connecting unbanked and underbanked state residents with mainstream financial services in 2011 – including affordable checking, savings, and credit opportunities. That collaboration, in turn, built on our 2009 survey of immigrants from Stamford through New Haven Financial Access to Immigrants Survey 2009. When the Ford Foundation agreed to fund a multi-state research project by Appleseed Centers on immigrant use of remittances (i.e., sending money home) in 2015, Connecticut Appleseed eagerly agreed to participate. The Appleseed network boasts a long history of advocacy on remittances, or money sent by immigrants to family and friends back home. A decade ago, Appleseed began an inquiry into disparities and fluctuations in remittance pricing - finding that intermediaries sometimes charged more than 10% of the remittance in processing fees - and the impact on...More
2015 CT Remittances Survey Sending Money Home 2009 Immigrant Survey Summary
Education: Removing Barriers to Parental Engagement
Well-informed parents are critical both to improving the achievement of individual students and that of school systems. The educational advocacy role of parents may not seem worthy of a headline, but better engaging parents and realizing their potential can make a real difference in our children’s academic performance. Our work to enhance parental involvement is a centerpiece of Connecticut Appleseed’s project portfolio. It includes two projects described under the “Education – Past Projects” prompt and continued through 2012. Parents aren’t always aware how to work within the legal/bureaucratic process at school districts and individual schools to ensure that their child gets the necessary support; as a result, parents at many times feel frustrated, isolated and unsure of their legal rights. Our Parents’ Access to Information project is providing legally-based but easily accessible informational guides and public parent forums to help parents feel more confident about their ability to navigate through the educational system and work with schools and school districts on their child’s behalf. INCREASING PARENT ACCESS TO BASIC...More
Dental Care for Disadvantaged Children
With glaring disparity by race and income among Connecticut’s citizens in terms of oral health, Connecticut Appleseed first adopted in 2004 a program to broaden the oral health delivery system to more disadvantaged children. In the intervening years, Board members Peter Libassi and Dr. Michael Perl, prompted the Connecticut State Dental Association (CSDA) and its members to undertake a series of pro bono initiatives which provided several thousand children and adults with free dental care. By impressing upon CSDA the importance of developing a pro bono culture and sparking CSDA’s resolve, Peter and Michael have vastly expanded the scope of volunteerism among dental professionals. Connecticut Appleseed's Broad Portfolio of Initiatives Because Connecticut had not increased dental Medicaid reimbursement rates since 1993, our state had one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation as of 2006 -which discouraged dentists from participating in Medicaid and taking Medicaid patients. In response, Connecticut Appleseed collaborated in a 2-year advocacy effort that succeeded in 2007 to...More
Mental Illness and The Criminal Justice System
The criminal justice system is often unfair to defendants with mental illness, with key personnel having limited knowledge of the needs of those suffering from these illnesses. To address this problem, Connecticut Appleseed coordinated pro bono legal services that were volunteered to write a handbook directed primarily at attorneys representing such persons to help familiarize them with mental health issues under Connecticut law. In 2007 we distributed the 80-page handbook, entitled "Mental Illness, Your Client and The Criminal Law" to attorneys throughout the state. Later in 2007 the Connecticut chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-CT) contacted us to say that they saw a tremendous need for a similar handbook – but one directed at parents and other advocates rather than targeted at attorneys. After recruiting pro bono legal assistance from the NYC office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton (“Sheppard Mullin”), Appleseed collaborated with NAMI-CT to develop a new guide that will help parents know how to navigate...More
Elder Law Education
Connecticut Appleseed’s Elder Law project gives Connecticut’s older adults of modest means, their families and caregivers an opportunity to learn more about the many legal and financial issues that confront them. After a 2005 symposium at Quinnipiac University School of Law offered a series of educational workshops on these issues, we distilled the information presented that day into Appleseed’s "Connecticut Elder Law Resources" book. We substantially updated our book in late 2008. To date, its distribution of this document in a workshop setting at 45 senior centers throughout the state has helped more than 1,650 seniors to better understand their legal rights and entitlements and to assess their legal needs. Many legal and financial issues facing seniors today are complex and confusing. Low and moderate-income seniors and their families all too often do not have affordable access to reliable and objective information regarding legal options, choices available to them, and choices they need to at least consider making. ...More
Legacy Access to Financial Services Projects
Connecticut Appleseed work to improve access to financial services for immigrants dates back to 2008 when Greenwich Associates (www.greenwich.com) conducted a pro bono survey (Link to:“2008 Banking Survey – Executive Summary”) of eight Connecticut banks to assess their awareness of and responsiveness to the financial needs of immigrant communities in the state. With financial support from Western Union, Citizens Bank, Citi and Webster Bank, we embarked on our “Expanding Financial Access for Immigrants” project, for which we surveyed roughly 600 immigrants from Stamford through New Haven (Financial Access – 2009 Immigrant Survey – Summary.doc) in early 2009. We found that an estimated 19 percent of Connecticut households either have no checking or savings account, or use fringe financial services rather than their own dormant accounts. These residents need help avoiding predatory and other high-cost financial services so that they can save, build the credit histories needed to access credit, and...More
Health Career Training Initiative
The frontline workforce in community health centers consists of poorly-paid Medical Assistants in “dead-end” jobs who lack the skill sets and technological literacy to effectively support patients. Turnover is chronic among these workers. The CTWP is designed to provide these Medical Assistants (MAs) with new skills, upward mobility and income growth, while improving patient care quality and creating job openings as the MAs climb a new career ladder. Up-skilling MAs to take on expanded roles can measurably improve access to health and quality and reduce health care costs by both moderating hospital readmissions and more cost-effectively supporting patient self-management. The CTWP initially partners with Norwalk Community College to design and deliver classroom training enabling MAs to grow via new career pathways into higher-skilled, less repetitive roles. By providing academic training that certifies frontline healthcare workers as Health Coaches, Norwalk Community College will supplement the work-based training the MAs will receive in a care team environment at two test site clinics operated by CTWP partner Optimus...More
Resource Equity Within School Districts
The national Appleseed organization’s February, 2011 release of “The Same Starting Line, How School Boards Can Erase the Opportunity Gap Between Poor and Middle-Class Children” was cause for celebration in Hamden’s public schools. Connecticut Appleseed had looked closely at Hamden during 2010 in a comparative 5-state study on how school districts allocate their resources to provide opportunities to both poor and middle-class children. Our finding - that Hamden can be proud of its commitment to fairness – was featured in The Same Starting Line. Policies and priorities of school boards can make a big difference in the distribution of academic success within each district. Appleseed’s collaborative study therefore looked at resources such as teacher experience, building upgrades and the availability of Advance Placement courses and tutors to compare how students in schools from relatively poorer and middle-class neighborhoods are being treated. Hamden Board of Education Chairman Michael D’Agostino sits on Connecticut Appleseed’s Board of Directors and volunteered...More