MILFORD >> Boys & Girls Village on Monday broke ground on an 8,300-square-foot expansion of the Charles F. Hayden Therapeutic Day School, but no gold-shovel-wielding official there said it better than former student Chase Brown.

Brown, 18, of West Haven, said he couldn’t make it in public school because he had issues that needed personalized attention. He began at Boys & Girls Village at age 15, had a “breakdown” the fourth day of school and was sent to a residential program elsewhere for a year. Still, BGV took him back to complete high school, Brown said.

It was at BGV, which never gave up on him, that Brown learned “coping, life and job skills.” Today he has a job, offers for two other jobs, and a scholarship to a two-year college. Brown hopes to study graphic design and coding.

It is successes like Brown’s that have driven the school to become one of the best-known special education schools in the state.

Boys & Girls Village, which has a partnership with the state Department of Children and Families, serves at-risk youths from Fairfield and New Haven counties.

When founded, the organization housed at-risk boys, but today serves both genders.

Its growth resulted in BGV adding grades 11 and 12 in recent years and created the need for more space. Hayden has used “temporary buildings” for some classes and offices.

The program focuses on special education, and emotional, behavioral and academic growth, with the goal of returning students to the mainstream.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz was among the dignitaries who shoveled in the ceremonial first soil.

“It really does take a village. ... It’s about partnership,” and Boys & Girls Village has answered the call for so many, Katz said.

When she took office 6½ years ago, she was contacted by Dr. Steven M. Kant, a psychiatrist who is president and CEO of Boys & Girls Village, who called her to ask: “What do you need?”

Katz told him almost 400 children in need of therapeutic and special education services were being sent out of state.

She didn’t like that because Connecticut is one of the richest states, and rather than being sent to other jurisdictions, those children should have the opportunity to be treated and educated in their home state where they would likely naturally settle and raise their own families.

Boys & Girls Village answered the call by expanding services and now its campus. Katz said today there are only six students out of state.

A $2 million grant from DCF will fund expansion of the therapeutic day school.

In addition, a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility for treating and housing some of the state’s most vulnerable youths will be built as part of the overall expansion.

Construction of the new building will be funded, in part, by a $2.16 million state grant. BGV will match that, drawing on capital support from its donors.

The work is scheduled to be done in phases and due to be completed in 2018. The teardown began this summer.

Kant said that when he first showed Katz the “temporary buildings” on campus, she said, “My kids are not going to be educated in trailers.” Kant said that’s how deeply Katz cares for the children in Connecticut.

The new behavioral health facility will allow expansion of programs and services, including a 16-bed psychiatric care unit; a 12-bed residential treatment program for boys; in-home treatment and family reunification programs; and specialized training for foster and adoptive parents, according to a BGV press release.

Kant said recently the facility has almost doubled in size “in terms of our school, our staff, and our offerings of sophisticated programs and services.”

“This new facility is crucial to supporting that growth and allowing us to connect a greater number of children and families in Connecticut to the valuable care and support our agency offers,” Kant has said.