She Breathed Life Back Into Our Family
"My kids love her, and we were really sad when she had to close the case. We formed a bond with her, and she became a part of our family. She saved our family."
These powerful words were spoken by a mother who was supported by the Department of Children and Families after suffering years of domestic violence inflicted upon her and witnessed by her children. She is speaking about social worker Melissa Hofmann with whom she shared a special relationship.
Strengthening families by helping parents to help themselves is the best way to serve families. That's the guiding philosophy of Ms. Hofmann who has been with the Norwich Office for a little over a year. Community services are available, and families will need to know how to access them on their own once the Department closes a case, she said.
While Ms. Hofmann arrived at DCF with 20 years of experience working for private non-profit service agencies, including Community Health Resources and Community Solutions Inc. With that background, she knows from real life that connecting families to community providers holds the key to long-term success.
"Once we close the case, it's crucial they can do this on their own," said Ms. Hofmann. "With direction and guidance, families can learn how to get support from the community. That's going to make them more capable and stronger after we are no longer involved."
She said parents truly appreciate the approach because it gives them connections to resources that make a real difference in their day-to-day lives by enhancing their ability to care for their children.
One such mother quoted above, said Ms. Hofmann helped her and her children find a new home and helped the entire family get the therapy to recover from the trauma of the violence in the home.
The family's old home was dilapidated and contained "a lot of bad memories" stemming from the violence, the mother said. Two private service providers -- Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Ct and United Community and Family Services -- delivered counseling for the mother and children.
"She breathed life back into our family," said the mother, who requested anonymity to protect her family. "She saved us."
Ms. Hofmann said that the mother showed she could head the family by taking responsibility for re-establishing the family's functioning. "She was a go-getter," Ms. Hofmann said. "She would make the phone calls to the service providers and did a great job advocating for herself and her needs and those of her children."
Thea Korytkowski, who is Ms. Hofmann's supervisor, said the social worker is particularly skilled at connecting families to the right community services. "She has a way of connecting the dots and getting the services families need," said Ms. Korytkowski, who has worked for the Department for more than 11 years. "Her strength is case management - to really know what services will work for which families and which won't."
Reflecting the approach of supporting families in navigating community supports themselves, mother secured the new housing through a local public housing authority with Ms. Hofmann "guiding mom and being a support to mom," said Ms. Korytkowski. "This is hard work and Melissa is making a difference. Melissa is awesome, and I am very lucky to have her."
Ms. Hofmann said she uses a light touch with families. "I gave mom the direction, and if families hit a barrier I will help," said Ms. Hofmann. "But the key is that the family be able to function on their own, and that means knowing where and how to access services in the community when we close the case."
In addition to strengthening mother's ability to support the family on her own, Ms. Hofmann also built a special bond with the family, said the mother. Even after closing the case in November, Ms. Hofmann brought Christmas gifts to the family's home that mother would give to her children.