DCF STAFF SHOW HUMAN SIDE IN VISIT TO WATERBURY CLASS
BY MICHAEL PUFFER
WATERBURY — Michelle Baribault, a social work supervisor, has been the stern person at the door, visiting a home to ensure children are safe.
The authority carried by Baribault and other Department of Children and Families staff can be intimidating.
On Tuesday, however, Baribault was just a warm and smiling face, reading funny stories about the underpants worn by zoo animals to a group of laughing pre-kindergarten students at Walsh Elementary School.
About two dozen DCF staff visited Walsh for an hour of reading Tuesday. It’s part of a five-year partnership aimed at connecting families in the impoverished inner-city neighborhood with charitable and government services.
“It’s not only an opportunity for the kids to see DCF in a different light, it’s also a chance for our staff to see children in a different light,” said Siobhan Trotman, program manager with DCF. “It really has been a morale booster where the kids aren’t afraid of us.”
Back in the classroom, teacher Patricia Spinella asked students if anybody knew about DCF.
Department Department of Children and Families Social Work
Supervisor Michelle Baribault reads to Walsh
Elementary School pre-kindergarten students
One boy said he said he was told about the agency by his grandfather, who is in prison. Spinella jumped in to say that the agency helps mommies, daddies and grandparents to be the best possible families. Baribault read two books, which she left behind so children could take them home.
Trotman and DCF are also a major force in the organization of the Community Resource Fair coming up on April 28.
For five years, the day has combined fun activities with a chance to learn about medical, dental, health, counseling, food, clothing and other resources available to low-income families. Five years ago, about 21 service providers were involved. This year, there are more than 60.
Students, faculty and supporters line up at Walsh Elementary School (55 Dikeman St.) at 10 a.m. for a parade to the nearby Waterbury Police Activity League recreation center at 64 Division St. The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be games and music, along with a chance at prizes for parents who visit booths of providers and sign up for services. There will be a fashion show using clothing donated to Acts 4 Ministries Inc.
There are free hot dogs and drinks for Walsh students and their families. Other fun events and the information booths are open to the general public.
Walsh Principal Erik Brown said the march on the community day helps draw neighborhood people to the event, and it serves the important function of introducing staff and supporters to the area.
“So folks know we are comfortable walking through your neighborhood,” Brown said.