Leave them better than she found them
Martha Saavedra, an Investigation Social Worker in the Norwalk Regional Office, has been employed with the Department for 10 years. In her decade of work, Martha probably could not have imagined she would one day be working with a father, in a hallway, practicing social distancing, to assist him with a Wi-Fi connection.
Her unassuming nature and dedication over the past decade have not gone unnoticed. As shared by her Supervisor, Wisenite Laurent, Martha, “assists families in various situations in order to leave them better than she found them.”
For one particular family - they were left better than they were found - because of Martha Saavedra.
During the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Martha was assigned to a case which not only draws attention to engagement and racial justice but, is a profound example of meeting a family where they are and looking beyond an allegation of neglect to determine what the family needed in order to be successful.
Often, that family simply requires support.
In April, the Careline received a report from a local school which had alleged a 9-year-old girl child had not been engaging in remote learning since the onset of the pandemic. The school indicated they had called the father, sent a Police Officer to the home for a well child check and a teacher calls the family daily, but communication is not returned.
The family was from Honduras and the child was undocumented.
After communicating with the child’s father, who is Spanish speaking, Ms. Saavedra quickly realized that literacy and language were barriers to the father’s capacity to help his child. He worked long hours as a mason and was dependent on his aunt to help raise his daughter. The child's mother resided in their native country. With Spanish as Ms. Saavedra’s primary language, she was fortunately able to understand, and alleviate, the barriers to this family being successful.
It was learned the family has one cell phone which the father brings with him to work, in areas where reception is frequently not available, or he is required to turn it off. Furthermore, the family did not have a computer or internet access so on-line learning was not a possibility. The father further disclosed he had limited knowledge of how to utilize applications on a cell phone. Martha explained, "the family recently moved to the U.S from Honduras, language and culture were barriers and I needed to help them understand".
Does this family need surveillance or support? Is this "neglect" or a series of societal factors which result in a family needing an intervention and guidance?
Remote learning has created more distance between school districts and students, exemplifying the need for a rational, fair and hands on approach to social work assessments. A practice that Ms. Saavedra is determined and driven to maintain in her work with our families. Her approach helped her to align with this family and provide the necessary resources while alleviating the stigma of a substantiated allegation.
After contacting the school to arrange for tablet pick up, Martha stated she met in the hallway of the family’s apartment building "to safely distance while assisting with the Wi-Fi connection to the tablet." After explaining to the family, the technical aspects of the device, the child now was provided with the resource she needed to participate in remote learning.
The COVID-19 crisis provides our communities an opportunity to explore new concepts for how parents can be supported in their children’s education. Systems must realize and address that particular expectations placed on families may not be realistic and that many family limitations are outside of their immediate control. Ms. Saavedra’s approach afforded this father the opportunity for his daughter to be prepared and to succeed in these challenging times.
With a depth of humility, Martha Saavedra’s service to others is second nature for her. As our Department continues the work during these most unprecedented times, we thank you, Martha, for ensuring that our families are left better than you found them.
"I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to Martha for being an essential heroic frontline worker for the families that she services every day, but most especially during these unprecedented times," stated Supervisor Wisenite Laurent.