For Norwich resident Deborah McLane Carter, the mission and ensuing work of one of the oldest family- serving non-profits in New Hampshire actually began over a 100 years ago with her grandfather, John McLane, who was instrumental in founding the NH Children’s Aid Society that later merged into the Child and Family Services of NH, now rebranded as Waypoint.
“I’m involved in Waypoint because of family history,” said Carter who is one of its nine board members. “There has always been a McLane on the board, and, when it became my turn, I gladly joined. My beliefs and values – as a part of our enthusiastic, cohesive, hard-working board – echo those of the founders, serving with the ‘shared vision of guarding children’s rights, serving children’s needs, and strengthening the life of the family.’”
Indeed, Waypoint is a significant provider of vital services in the Upper Valley and serves all its residents, according to the center’s director, Jeannette Birge. “We’ve been an active service provider for over 20 years in Lebanon,” Birge said.
The name, Waypoint, signifies a point along a journey at which the course can be changed. “That’s what we do,” said Birge. “We help people and communities to change course.”
As a private, non-profit agency, the services Waypoint offers include adoption, prenatal support, parent/education/family empowerment, services for children with developmental concerns or chronic health conditions, childcare, mental health counseling, family preservation, supervised visitation, foster care, homeless youth continuum, home healthcare for older Americans and adults with disabilities, and advocacy. “Our mission is to empower people of all ages through an array of these services,” said Birge.
According to board member Nina McCampbell of Norwich, Waypoint embodies the ideal of spreading kindness, one of the many reasons why she joined the board. “Whether it’s trauma counseling, foster care, aiding children with disabilities or helping to find the services most needed, this is why Waypoint is so important”, said McCampbell. “Any of us can face difficulties along the way in life.”
Waypoint’s brand is built on four pillars: staff, community, solutions, and impact. The staff is known for its compassion, professionalism, and ingenuity. “We work collaboratively in the community, creating a social safety net for all who live here,” said Birge. “We find solutions to problems through our dual roles as practitioners and advocates – a truly holistic approach to our practice.”
A case in point, for instance, involved a young couple’s very young daughter (under a year old) who was placed into foster care. “In order to be able to maintain a connection between parents and baby, we were able to provide them with supervised visits three to four times a week,” said Birge. “They were able to watch her achieve milestones and, because of the frequency of visits, they were able to be present when she took her first steps.”
There are 14 sites across the state and over 24 programs, serving an average of 8,000 individuals a year.
Funding comes from a variety of sources including state contracts, charitable giving involving individuals and foundations, and insurance payments, Birge related. “Every year we do a variety of little events around the area as well,” said Birge. “Those include the Campout for the Cause at Storr’s Pond, a Father’s Day pancake breakfast at the Norwich Grange, and an Easter egg hunt on the Norwich Green, for example.”
In the coming year, Waypoint is establishing a Family Resource Center of Quality that will be open to all Upper Valley residents with no acceptance criteria and will provide a plethora of family services, focusing on parenting and grandparent groups, play groups, and home visiting, Birge explained. “In essence, we are and will continue to work to resolve immediate and long-term safety concerns, stabilize families, and empower them with tools to optimize their success,” said Birge.
Recently-joined board member and Norwich resident Dan Fraser agrees. “Children must have the essential components to start life successfully,” said Fraser, owner of Dan and Whit’s Country Store in Norwich. “I look forward to working with an amazing team of people at Waypoint to help advance the well-being of children and families throughout our communities.”
Birge expressed her delight with Fraser’s recent membership. “We are so honored to have Dan join an already stellar group of individuals on our Upper Valley board”, she said. “A great advocate for the cause of kids and families, he is fearless in fundraising and tireless in community building. He’s a true change-maker in the Upper Valley.”