New CEO Announced for The Children's Center of Hamden

Selma N. Ward takes the helm of the 186-year-old agency.

The Children's Center of Hamden CEO Selma N. Ward

Selma N. Ward, the recently hired CEO of The Children’s Center of Hamden, brings two passions in life to her new role: young people and healthcare. Taking the reins as the first woman CEO in the agency’s 186-year history, she has a mission to make sure that all the young people coming to the center feel supported and receive first-rate care.

“My vision is to create a foundation for their future success. We have to do that for our youth, regardless of where they’re coming from or the circumstances that led them to the Children’s Center of Hamden,” Ward said. “As humans, we have a responsibility to all our youth.”

Set on an open campus, The Children’s Center of Hamden offers a wide range of services for children and teenagers with behavioral and mental health diagnoses. Most of the young people come to the center for day services (since COVID-19, services moved online). The agency also runs a K-12 special education school, the Casa Rios group home for women and a residential treatment center for young people.

“My hope is that these kids would understand that no matter what is in their past, we are going to be there to support them,” said Ward. “We will not abandon them. We will be here. We have been here for 186 years, and we will continue to be here,” said Ward.

The Children’s Center long history is rooted in the efforts of women advocates in the early 1800s. It started with a Widow Daniels, who learned she was dying and feared for the care of her four young children. She pleaded with New Haven leaders not to send her soon-to-be parentless children to the almshouse. A local pastor gathered a group of women from Trinity Church to form the “New Haven Female Society for the Relief of Orphan and Destitute Children,” which collected dues and raised funds. In 1833, the New Haven Orphan Asylum was opened on Grove Street. The Children’s Center moved to its current location in 1925.

Ward takes over from Dan Lyga, who held several leadership roles at the agency for 35 years, the last six as CEO. She was previously the Chief Financial Officer at Perception Programs, Inc. in Willimantic and the controller at the The Rectory School in Pomfret.

“I approach this role both as a business person and as a mom who sees a need and can help this organization meet the needs of these children,” Ward said.

Learn more about The Children's Center of Hamden here.

The Children's Center of Hamden is supported by several designated funds at The Community Foundation including the Anna Bradley Fund, the Girl's Services Fund, the William R. Shaffer Fund, the Jane Shepard Fund and the Eva-Marie Pfeiffer Stinson Memorial Fund.

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This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.