Wali Muhammad comes from what he calls a "social work family." Both his parents were social workers -- his father Abdul founded PEACE Associates, and made each of his six children either executives or managers in the company. Today, four of Muhammad's five siblings siblings work in social work.
"It's a storied background," he tells me. "I guess it's in my blood."
Now Muhammad runs his own social work firm, Happy Family Clinical Services. When he moved to Branford from East Haven last year, Muhammad set up shop in his own home on Hosley Avenue. But he's moved to the heart of Branford, 1008 Main Street, where he shares office space with the Penner Law Firm. With the Town Green just a few steps away, he's in the center of the action. And with the new space come new programs, like Youth Empowering Social Skills, which began June 7 and teaches skills like getting friends and building relationships for kids between 4 and 8.
"Our mission is to continue the continuity of the family," he says. "A lot of times people are lost. They get overwhelmed with their everyday lives and end up with issues. They end up in a DCF office or unemployed. They're looking for some release to their everyday life. And some lose custody because they don't know how to parent or they're abusing their children."
But he says there are plenty of reasons families can fall apart -- not just abuse.
"There are people who aren't abusing their children, they just need someone to speak with them and walk them through their problems. Some children have two parents with multiple jobs and don't have quality time to spend with their child. They need a role model. They need more than just a babysitter."
That's where Happy Family comes in. Muhammad's company has a staff of twenty, about half of whom he says are Master's-level social workers and family therapists.
"It's okay to have problems," he says. "It's okay to want to have a better life. Our mission statement is to support happy families as they grow happy children. We want to help those families so they can help their children in positive growth. The first community you know is your family, but there are the families that don't have that kind of community. So really we're building a community -- that's why a service like happy family is needed."
Happy Family's other offerings include programs working with fathers - to, Muhammad says, "understand what a father's role is in raising his child. How it's different from being a mother. And we help fathers identify goals to allow them to be a better father in their own life." The company also offers mentoring in the style of boys' and girls' clubs, and assists in supervised visitations for custody visits.
Parents can inquire about services at Happy Family Clinical Services at (203) 208-9254, email@example.com, or at their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/HappyFamilyCS