Child First Leadership
Board of Directors
Cindy Kissin, MA, Child First, Inc. Board Chair, works as an independent consultant, specializing in the areas of nonprofit management, organizational development and philanthropy. Her career has been devoted to strengthening the not for profit sector, working at the local and national levels to help organizations gain capacity, become more engaged with their communities and navigate change effectively.
Ms. Kissin has served in leadership positions for a variety of nonprofit organizations in the arts, education, philanthropy, and community development. Most recently she served as President and CEO of the Greater Bridgeport Area Foundation, a Community Foundation in Fairfield County, Connecticut. During her tenure assets doubled, and the Foundation was awarded a citation from the Points of Light Foundation, in recognition of its work strengthening the capacity of the nonprofit sector, and improving the quality of life in the region. As Executive Director of the New Haven Symphony, Ms. Kissin was credited with revitalizing the nation’s fourth oldest orchestra, which became an important cultural and educational resource, committed to education, outreach and artistic excellence.
Additional activities have included serving as panelist for the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism; member of the Regional Advisory Committee for Housatonic Community College; and as a gubernatorial appointee to the Fairfield County Economic Development Advisory Committee. Ms. Kissin has served on the Boards of numerous educational, social service and arts organizations, and as a commissioner for the City of New Haven Employee Retirement Fund. Ms. Kissin has a Bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York, Buffalo, and a Master’s degree from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Rudolph E. Brooks served as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner of Operations at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF). He managed programs in the Offices of Prevention and Early Childhood, Families with Service Needs, and with the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, Parole Services. In his nearly 25 years at DCF, Mr. Brooks held several other positions including: Regional Administrator, Program Director/Executive Assistant, Deputy Commissioner for Support Services, Director of Community Services, Program Director in the North Central Region, Bureau Chief for Juvenile Justice Services and Bureau Chief of Prevention. He currently serves as a member of the Advisory Commission for the State of Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate.
Earlier in his career Mr. Brooks was a special education teacher, a patrolman for the Baltimore City Police Department, and Director of Youth Services for the City of Hartford. He has a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from the Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Tracy Pennoyer, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who has over 25 years of experience as a school psychologist and psychological consultant, currently in private practice in Westport, Connecticut, in addition to serving as the lower school psychologist at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich. Dr. Pennoyer specializes in diagnostic evaluations and treatment of children and adolescents and in parent guidance and she regularly consult to schools in both New York City and Connecticut. She is a member of the American Psychological Association.
In addition, Dr. Pennoyer helped found and is the president of the Board of Music on the Hill, a non-profit organization that runs several music ensembles (choral and bell-ringing) in southern Connecticut.
Dr. Pennoyer is also the president of the William C. Bullitt Foundation, a charitable grant making foundation established in 2007 to support the well being of people, society and the natural environment. The foundation focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the Greater New York Metropolitan area and Connecticut and has been a supporter of Child First.
Darcy Lowell, MD is Founder and CEO of Child FIRST and an Associate Clinical Professor in the Yale Department of Pediatrics and Child Study Center at the Yale University School of Medicine. She is Section Chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at the Bridgeport Hospital campus of Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, and has been working with high risk young children and families in Connecticut for 28 years. Dr. Lowell has been directly involved with clinical services, new program development, clinical research, child advocacy, and system change and innovation at the local, state, and national levels.
Dr. Lowell is a Fellow of Zero to Three, on the clinical faculty of the Yale University Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy, a member of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child’s Frontiers of Innovation, Senior Fellow of the Child Health and Development Institute of CT, clinical faculty of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in New York City, and on the Board of the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disabilities. She is on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Infant Mental Health Association and an active member of the CT Commission on Children’s Prevention Task Force, Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council, Birth to Three Medical Advisory Committee, CT Advisory Board on Behavioral Health in Primary Care, Early Childhood Education Cabinets’ Home Visiting Workgroup, Early Childhood Alliance, and DCF-Head Start Collaborative, among others. She has provided extensive training in early childhood mental health and development.
Dr. Lowell completed both a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation General Academic Pediatric Fellowship and Child Development Fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine. She obtained her MD from New York University School of Medicine and her Bachelor’s degree from Yale University. Click here to read more.
Central Program Office
Darcy Lowell, MD. Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Mary Peniston, MPA. Managing Director
Mary Peniston has over 25 years of experience as an innovative project developer and manager with deep understanding of complex social systems gleaned from her previous work in education, early childhood, community economic development and philanthropy. Before joining the Child FIRST leadership team in 2009, Ms. Peniston served as special assistant to the Superintendent of Schools in Norwalk where she led the development of the Norwalk Early Childhood Plan and spearheaded initiatives to build afterschool systems, improve instructional technology, and cultivate school reform. She worked in Nicaragua for eight years where she held senior positions at the Central Bank of Nicaragua and served as the Women-in-Development Program Officer for the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA). She has worked in both the private and public banking sectors, with experience in international and community banking. She has also supported philanthropic organizations, working as a consultant for the Ford Foundation and serving as a board member of two foundations in Connecticut. Ms. Peniston received her Master´s in Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University and her Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.
Sandy Lopacki, MPH. Director of National Programming
Sandy Lopacki brings over 25 years of experience building effective collaborations to address community health needs. Prior to joining Child First, Ms. Lopacki was a Deputy Director of Local Initiative Funding Partners, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which annually awarded up to $6 million in partnership with local philanthropies to fund promising, innovative, community-based health projects, one of which was Child First. Prior to joining LIFP, Lopacki managed the Anne E. Dyson Community Pediatrics Training Initiative, a grantmaking program to establish ten model pediatric residency programs emphasizing community-based medicine and advocacy to improve children's health. In her previous work as a pediatric Speech Language Pathologist, she worked in major medical centers in the US, UK, and Australia, specializing in treating children from birth to three years of age. Ms. Lopacki holds a bachelor's degree from State University College of New York at Buffalo, a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University and a Master's in speech pathology from Northwestern University.
Anne Davino, Data & Quality Improvement Manager
Ms. Davino recently joined Child First, Inc. coming from the position of Program Supervisor at Catholic Charities in Waterbury where she was responsible for managing state contracts for behavioral health services which included data management, clinical and administrative staff supervision and oversight of contract compliance and quality assurance. She also assisted in the implementation of the agency’s new electronic health record and was responsible for maintaining adherence with HIPAA, Medicaid, DPH and COA regulations. Prior to her position at Catholic Charities, Ms. Davino served as Executive Director at two agencies - The ALS Association Connecticut Chapter in Milford, CT and Unitas Therapeutic Community, Inc. in the Bronx, NY.
Ms. Davino has received numerous awards including the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford’s Leadership Award in 2007; Employee of the Month awarded by Donna Shalala, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in recognition of contributions to the Department’s initiative on workplace violence; and program recognition at the National ALS Association convention. She received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland and is licensed in CT, and has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Connecticut.
Georgette Harrison, Associate Clinical Director
Ms. Harrison is licensed professional counselor in CT with experience as practicing clinician and clinical supervisor for child and adult services. She most recently served as Director of Clinical Services at Integrated Wellness Group in New Haven. She has had research experience in her position as Database and Neuropsychological Testing Coordinator at the NY State Psychiatric Institute. She has contributed to numerous publications and has extensive training experience in the field, especially around young children and behavioral issues.
Ms. Harrison has a Master’s degrees in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University and a B.A. in Psychology from Whittier College in California. She also brings a rich multicultural background and is bilingual (Spanish/English).
Diana Liptak, Office Manager
Ms. Liptak comes to Child First with a background in non-profit program leadership and development. She formerly directed the Child Care Center at the New Canaan Community YMCA where she had previously served as the director of the Center’s Full Day Program and Head Teacher. She has a BA in Child Psychology from Sacred Heart University.
what people are saying
“I consider Child First one of the most impressive interventions for young children that I have ever witnessed in my long lifetime.”— Edward Zigler, Ph.D.
Founder and Director Emeritus
Zigler Center for Child Development at Yale University
Founder of Head Start