"We All Have a Lot of Similarities"
Angel Robles will walk out of a DCF Office for the final time next month. "A little nervous," is how he described his feelings while reflecting on 17 years with the Department. "I have been privileged."
Retirement will signal the end of a career, starting with Law Enforcement and ending with Social Work, where for over three decades Angel engaged with the most vulnerable and oppressed in our society. "I have been blessed to serve the public," Angel was quick to state in his typical upbeat demeanor.
He will leave quite a legacy, but his work is not done. "We have to be the voice for children," he remarked - no matter what you do in life.
Angel's voice was given to him by his family. The youngest of nine children, he experienced firsthand the impact of being cared for and surrounded by support. "My brothers and sisters took good care of me," he affirmed. They taught him right from wrong, guided and encouraged him. "We understood the struggles," he stated while describing the periods of time when his family relied on public assistance as his mother tirelessly worked to support her family.
Angel describes his mother, Maria Robles, as a "good mom" and phenomenal with people. He vividly remembers her feeding two or three children in the neighborhood on a consistent basis, despite the family's limited resources. "She took care of them," Angel recalls. Maria could develop a relationship with all types of individuals while accepting each one for simply who they were and their unique ways.
Maria was Angel's teacher, and he eventually would become ours.
Engagement and resiliency are consistent themes throughout his life's journey - both personal and professional.
Angel feels a special connection to the Department's Mission statement - Partnering with communities and empowering families to raise resilient children who thrive - given how Maria raised her children. "She taught us to be resilient. She said if we were resilient, we would do well."
Angel was the first in his family to achieve a college degree and upon graduation, entered the military, following the path of his brothers all of whom were in the Air Force. He then became a Marshal at Superior Court and was approached by a Waterbury Police Officer who encouraged him to join the force, even bringing him the job application. "He liked my engagement and how I handled myself with people," Angel stated.
The next 17 years saw Angel patrolling the streets of Waterbury, eventually being promoted to the Detective Bureau given his unique abilities to work with others. He investigated homicides, was a member of the hostage negotiation team, and one occasion, an individual in crisis actually requested Angel to respond to the scene. His superiors frequently consulted with him on how to intervene in neighborhoods experiencing an uptick in violence.
Angel learned the core components of engagement which he imparts to others. "Do not be afraid. Be yourself. Do not let other people bait you in," he advised.
Angel described a time when he and a rookie police officer were patrolling a neighborhood. He stopped the car, walked into a family's yard, and played dominos with them. He recognized the position he held afforded him immense power.
"I have always treated people from the poorest to the richest the same. Always be willing to learn."
What was his message that day to his fellow officer? "Respect their opinions."
"Simply engaging with people is listening and talking with them, laughing with them, crying with them," he stated. Angel recounts his experiences with a young woman seriously impacted by substance abuse and the encouragement he offered her to seek help. A period of time later he received a letter of thanks from her as she went to a rehabilitation facility, re-connected with her family and was doing well.
Angel recalls an individual he arrested shaking his hand and commenting on the professional manner Angel engaged with him. One person in particular thanked him for "straightening" out his life.
Upon early retirement, Angel was encouraged by current DCF Program Supervisor Glaister Gopie to join the Department of Children and Families. He started as a Social Worker and now is a Social Work Supervisor.
He brought his engagement techniques with him.
"This is a very tough job but rewarding," is how he describes protective services.
At DCF, Angel realized right away the power he wielded and the importance of engagement. "We all want the same thing for children to be safe, to be stable and to have permanency in their life," he commented. The question becomes how to develop trust with the family to build upon their strengths.
DCF staff encounter a diverse array of families, with family dynamics becoming more complex over time. He views others not as how they are different but what they have in common. "We all have a lot of similarities."
When delivering the message about the Department's involvement with families, he encourages others to do it with dignity and respect. "Imagine if you were going through the same thing," he stated. Don't be afraid to ask questions and use humility. "When you learn, you grow."
Transparency is also key as Angel prides himself on being upfront with those he meets. Developing a positive reputation within the community is also paramount to success, as each interaction you have will leave an impression. "Your reputation follows you," he stated. Angel recalls meeting families as a DCF worker that he encountered as a police officer. They remembered him for the positive way he helped.
Angel has one overarching message to newer staff. "Don’t ever feel you are alone." From case consultations, learning the policies and procedures of the Agency, to receiving assistance on a difficult case, DCF is a family, and we all strive to support one another. That also includes on personal matters. Perhaps no greater example of that statement was when Angel advised his Supervisor, Marta Guzman, that Maria was very ill, and she drove him to the hospital so he could be with her. Marta attended Maria's wake and funeral after her passing.
Maria Robles would be proud of her youngest child - a husband, father, relative, friend, colleague, mentor, and a true example of a public servant.
Angel is our teacher on being your authentic self, engagement and respecting those we serve.
Congratulations to Angel Robles on your retirement and thank you for the legacy you have left to all of us!