Our dynamic staff is dedicated to providing you and your family with the mental health and support services needed to heal and become stronger. The Child & Family Guidance Center team includes: social workers, psychologists, board-certified child psychiatrists, licensed alcohol and drug counselors, care coordinators, and parenting coaches. Our wide range of expertise and evidence-based models—including our suite of proven trauma-informed therapies—enables us to address your family’s specific situation with both cutting-edge skill and compassionate care.

Michael Patota

President & CEO, MS, MSW


Michael Patota is the President and CEO of The Child and Family Guidance Center, and brings over twenty years of clinical and administrative expertise to his position. Prior to joining CFGC in April 2015, he served for fourteen years as Division Director of Clinical Services at United Services, where he was responsible for the oversight of a comprehensive array of outpatient behavioral health programs serving Northeastern Connecticut. Additionally, Michael has worked extensively with the Latino community in a variety of clinical settings. He earned his Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University’s School of Social Work, his Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from Bay Path University, and his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Psychology from Bridgewater State College.

Cay White, MD

Medical Director


Cay White, MD, is the Medical Director of the Child and Family Guidance Center, and has been with the agency for 23 years. She is board certified in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as well as Adult Psychiatry. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College where she graduated cum laude, and her Medical degree from University of Utah School of Medicine. Dr. White completed her psychiatric residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and her Child and Adolescent Fellowships at New York Presbyterian, Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She is a recipient of the Edward J. Sachar Outstanding Fellow Award from Columbia University, where she was the Chief Fellow. Dr. White has provided consultation services for the REACH program at Bridgeport Hospital and worked for the Dr. Robert E. Appleby School Based Health Centers in Norwalk, in association with Norwalk Hospital. In addition, she has a private psychiatric practice in Westchester, NY.

Virginia Lopez, LCSW

Director, Family Support Services


Virginia Lopez, LMSW, is the Director of the Family Support Services Unit at The Child & Family Guidance Center. Virginia has served children and families at CFGC for over a decade as a former Care Coordinator and Crisis Clinician. She is the co-chair of the statewide Multicultural WRAP CT Learning Collaborative, which was developed to empower, validate, and equip multicultural staff to provide individualized care. Virginia is a certified Wraparound trainer in both English and Spanish, and took the lead in translating and presenting Wraparound training in Spanish for the first time in the state. She continues to collaborate with supervisors statewide to provide consultation and support to bilingual staff.

Virginia was born in Puerto Rico and made Bridgeport, CT her home at the age of 14. She graduated from Harding High School and attended Sacred Heart University, where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology. Virginia later received a Master of Science in Social Work from Southern Connecticut State University.

Kenneth Lacilla, LCSW

Director, Behavioral Health Unit


Ken Lacilla, LCSW is the Unit Director of Outpatient and Emergency Services at the Child & Family Guidance Center.   Ken has nearly 30 years’ experience working within the Child Behavioral Health and Child Welfare fields.  .  Ken also has been a senior leader for several DCF funded evidenced informed models and programs to include Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Intensive In -Home Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Services (IICAPS), Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) Out Patient Child Clinics (OPCC) and Emergency Mobile Crisis (EMPS).  Ken has had a career spanning interest in the treatment of trauma in adults, adolescents and children.  CFGC’s continuum of trauma services is a major focus of his leadership here. A 1998 Graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, Ken has a deep commitment to actively addressing Mental Health and educational disparities that exist in the workplace and among the impoverished.  He is a natural collaborator and strives to build inclusive, holistic social service delivery systems offering a range of data informed quality treatment options.

Kenneth Fontaine

Ken Fontaine, MBA

Chief Financial Officer


Ken Fontaine is the Chief Financial Officer at the Child and Family Guidance Center and is a senior level financial executive who brings extensive nonprofit and corporate experience to his role. Prior to joining the Child and Family Guidance Center’s leadership team, he worked at Fairfield University for eighteen years where he most recently served as Assistant Vice President for Finance and Controller. Ken’s expertise in finance and accounting include financial reporting and analysis, budgeting, information technology, strategic planning, treasury and purchasing operations. He received his Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Connecticut School of Business, and his Bachelor of Science degree from Fairfield University.

Guy Bocchino

Director of Human Resources


Guy Bocchino is the Director of Human Resources at the Child & Family Guidance Center and is responsible for providing strategic guidance and leadership for all aspects of the human resources function.  He has a broad range of experience and expertise in the full cycle of human resources management covering recruitment, employee relations, coaching, performance management and workforce planning.Prior to joining The Child & Family Guidance Center, he worked for 12 years as Corporate Human Resources Manager at Hexcel Corporation.  At Hexcel, he managed the human resources function for the corporate headquarters, international assignees and a separate manufacturing facility in northern CT. He received his Master’s degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Bridgeport and his Bachelor of Science degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

Mike Ryan

Director, Information & Technology


Mike Ryan is the Director of Information & Technology at the Child and Family Guidance Center, where he is responsible for the implementation, management, maintenance and upgrade of the agency’s technology systems and software.  Prior to joining CFGC, Mike worked for almost 10 years as the Technology and Security Manager for United Services, a non-profit mental and behavioral health organization serving children, adults and families in Northeastern CT.  Mike has over 25 years of experience working in various IT capacities, across server/network/telephone/security systems administration, application development & support as well as programming, product development and project management.  Mike studied electrical engineering at the University of Hartford and completed coursework in math and computer science at Eastern CT State University and Northeastern University.  Mike holds certifications as a Health Information Technology Professional, Cisco Certified Network Engineer and a Microsoft Certified Network Engineer.

Kate Czaplinski-Director of Development

Kate Czaplinski

Director of Development & Communications


Kate Czaplinski joined CFGC as the Director of Development and Communications in September 2020. She previously served in a similar role at The Kennedy Center of Connecticut, overseeing all messaging/outreachfor the nonprofit,including in the areas fundraising, community awareness, events, social enterprise marketing and legislative communications. Prior to The Kennedy Center, Kate was an award-winning community journalist. She spent 10 years with Hersam Acorn Newspapers/HAN Network, running print and online news outlets and helping to launch new business brands, including broadcasting and sponsored content. Kate is a volunteer with Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, serving on the organization’s Marketing/Communications Committee and volunteers with IMPACT Fairfield County. Kate grew up in Stratford, Conn and received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. In 2007.

Hyacintha Jameson Bernard, MS

Director of Multiple Programs


Hyacintha V. Jameson Bernard, MS, is the Director of several programs at The Child and Family Guidance Center, including Reunification and Therapeutic Family Time, Intensive Family Preservation, and the Visitation Center. Prior to supervising these programs, Hyacintha provided therapy to children and families referred to CFGC. She has worked with youth with mental health issues, children infected and affected by AIDS, and children in crisis via our Emergency Mobile Crisis Unit. Before coming to CFGC, Hyacintha worked at The Kennedy Center (Bridgeport) as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Coach for children and adults with developmental disabilities, and at Optimus Health Care.

Hyacintha received her Master of Science in Counseling from Southern Connecticut State University. She has worked with the HIV/AIDS population for the past 17 years; especially with children infected with the virus. Additionally, she has run groups with women, children, and the transgender community.

Nicole Merlo-White

Director, SSTRY


Nicole Merlo-White is the Director of the SSTRY Treatment Programs at the Child & Family Guidance Center.

Teneika Brown, MSW

Program Manager/Clinical Supervisor

Teneika Brown, MSW is the Program Director and Clinical Supervisor of both the Maternal, Infant & Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) and Early Childhood Consultation Partnership in the Family Support Services Unit at CFGC. Prior to her leadership, she worked 13 years as a CFGC Home Visitor, achieving the position of Senior Home Visitor. Teneika obtained her Bachelor’s in Human Services from Springfield College, and a Master’s in Social Work from Walden University.

Lizette Ortiz-Nash

Program Director, Community Support for Families


Lizette Ortiz-Nash is Program Director of Community Support for Families, a program that supports parents who have come to the attention of the Department of Children and Families, due to unmet needs. Lizette describes her program as a “jack of all trades,” engaging with families of different backgrounds and providing each family with assistance in their community, in the school system and at home. 

Damita DeBowes, M.A.

Program Director, Care Coordination

Damita DeBowes, M.A. is the Director of Care Coordination at The Child & Family Guidance Center where she oversees a team of 13 facilitators of the Wraparound process. Damita initially worked as a Program Supervisor and was responsible for Quality Assurance within the Care Coordination program until she assumed the position of Director.

Prior to coming to the Child & Family Guidance Center in 2013 Damita worked in a variety of capacities always focused on children and youth with behavioral health challenges and families in need. Damita earned her Master’s Degree in Community Psychology from the University of New Haven. Damita is a firm believer in the strength based, family driven process characterized by the Wraparound model which utilizes a team of supports to improve the lives of the children and families we serve.

Sylvadra Ellis, LCSW

Director, Mobile Crisis Intervention Services

Sylvadra Ellis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the Mental Health field for several years, providing therapy in in-home, outpatient and congregate care settings.  Sylvadra began with the agency as a Clinical supervisor in the Outpatient Clinic in December of 2018 and was promoted to to Director of Mobile Crisis Intervention Services in March 2021. Sylvadra brings with her, 12 years of managerial experience, as well as experience in and a passion for crisis work, to her new role.  She specializes in working with children, adolescents, parents, and families experiencing challenges, related to stress, anxiety, trauma, crises and inter-relational conflicts.

Charles Maillard, LCSW

Director, Functional Family Therapy

Charles Maillard, LCSW, is the Director of Functional Family Therapy, an evidence-based, in-home counseling model designed primarily for at-risk youth who have been referred by the juvenile justice, mental health, school, or child welfare systems. Prior to FFT, Charles was a program coordinator and clinician for CFGC’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Services — a role he held from 2018-2021. 

Before joining CFGC, Charles worked as a peer prevention specialist and clinical social Work intern with AIDS Project Greater Danbury. He received his master’s in social work and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Connecticut State University.