North Haven Native a Strong Advocate for Children
By Marji McClure
Publication: Shore Publishing
Jacqueline (Jackie) Ford knew at a young age that she wanted to devote her career to helping abused and neglected children. She had firmly solidified that career path as a student at North Haven High School. In reality, though, her motivation for wanting to help other children was put in place much earlier.
Jackie was raised by her mother and grandparents after her parents separated before she was born.
"Although I never, ever felt at a disadvantage, I always wondered how a man could father a child and never choose to know her. Although he legally supported me until I was 18, he never chose to know me," says Jackie, a lifelong North Haven resident. "Growing up, I was raised with so much love by my dedicated mom and grandparents that I always had such compassion for those who were at a disadvantage."
Jackie earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Quinnipiac University and a master's degree in social work from Southern Connecticut State University. She has worked for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) for 20 years.
"I have always loved children and working with children. Less fortunate children always tugged at my heartstrings," says Jackie, noting that working with such children is "one of the most difficult jobs you can ever do. You get exposed to horrific levels of abuse and neglect, but as long as you have supportive supervisors, colleagues, and family, it's doable."
Photo courtesy of Jackie Ford
Jackie Ford has opened a temporary information center in North Haven
to help educate people about adoption and foster care.
Jackie's supportive family includes her husband of nearly 20 years, John, and daughters Alexandra, 15, and Rebecca, 6.
As she raised her family, Jackie continued to develop her career at DCF. For many years, she conducted investigations of child abuse and neglect. For the last 10 years, she has worked in the agency's foster care unit, working with foster and adopted children and families. She began working as a recruiter, and that recruiting broadened to statewide coverage, five years ago.
Jackie's role is to recruit individuals to become foster and adoptive parents. Her latest project in that effort is to set up temporary informational centers in vacant storefronts across the state.
"I use their windows to display literature about foster care and adoption," says Jackie.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and during this month, Jackie has set up a center at 84 Washington Avenue in North Haven. Adoptive parent and North Haven resident Catherine Dubail donated the space to Jackie. The site will also include pictures of Connecticut children seeking homes.
The goal is to provide the community with education about the need for adoptive and foster parents.
"It surprises me how many people don't know these kids need a home," says Jackie.
She says the most need is for homes for teens, sibling groups, and medically complex children.
Jackie is hosting many activities at the Connecticut Foster Adopt Informational Center. One is Everyone Needs a Nest, during which children from community groups paint bird houses that are then packed with literature for them to take home-and get the word out about adoption and foster parenting.
Jackie is also hosting four drives at the center: a coat drive, pajama drive, book drive, and holiday card drive. She is also hosting open house informational sessions this month, on Fridays at noon and on Sundays at 4 p.m. People can drop in or pre-register by calling 1-888-KID-HERO. She says the center enables people to learn more about being an adoptive or foster parent without any pressure.
Jackie says she enjoys working in this segment of DCF.
"I think I'm where I'm meant to be," she says. "I hope to keep doing this type of outreach." Jackie says one of her goals to further expand the use of storefronts as temporary information centers across the state.
"I have loved every single thing I've done with DCF," says Jackie, adding she says finding a family for a child, in her current role, is very rewarding.
While she spends many hours working to connect adoptive and foster parents with children who need them, Jackie always has time for her own family and other activities.
She has been a CCD teacher at St. Barnabas Church for more than 25 years. Jackie was also an adjunct professor in Southern Connecticut State University's MSW program, teaching about child welfare policy.
Jackie is currently vice president of the Ridge Road Elementary School PTA. She is a former president of the North Haven Middle School PTSA.
Jackie says she enjoys having these outside activities, as well as work.
"I'm much better as a multi-tasker," she says.