“Everything that happens is an opportunity.
It’s what we do with those opportunities that matter.”
Surprised, honored, and humbled were the profound emotions expressed by Yolanda Chapman-Smith when asked about being the recipient of the 2023 “Dr. Janet E. Williams Humanitarian Award”.
A thirty-year Department of Children and Families veteran, Yolanda serves as the Office Director for Norwalk where she began her career over three decades ago.
Yolanda was nominated for this prestigious award by her friend and colleague, Kim Watson, who stated, “Yolanda Chapman-Smith stands accomplished and respected as a Black woman, who brings intelligence, strength, humility, cultural values, and an incessant passion to the table for the children and families we serve," adding, “If I had to choose one word to best describe Yolanda, it would be passionate. Her passion for the children and families involved in the CPS system shows through her core values, her purpose, and her continuous action for better and more equitable outcomes.”
“I saw this award as an opportunity to serve the needs of others,” Yolanda explained, adding that she feels she was no more worthy of this award than any other candidate. Yolanda is a fierce leader, a mentor, a devoted community champion, an ambassador in her church, and a cancer survivor. She exemplifies the true essence of this humanitarian award.
Yolanda is a wife and proud mother of three daughters Sierra, Rayonea and Sanora. Yolanda knows this work through a personal journey as well; she and her husband, Brian – who she calls her, “anchor”, adopted their middle daughter through the department in 2006. She is a fierce advocate of permanency for children in CPS care.
Yolanda speaks passionately about her work within the Faith Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, where she serves as a clerk responsible for operations and administrative duties. Yolanda also leads the youth drama ministry and is in the planning stages of developing a CDC so that her church community can have access to resources for mental health services and food insecurities by bridging the gap and making help accessible and equitable.
Yolanda also volunteers as a liaison to her youngest daughter's social work division at her school. She is aware of racially oppressive attitudes, biases, and inequities within the educational system and uses her voice and her experiences at DCF to help others.
In 2017, Yolanda was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer. Throughout this uncertain journey, Yolanda continued to work at DCF, enduring ongoing symptoms, and traveling to Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York for treatment. While fighting a painful and frightening disease, Yolanda served as Head Basketball Coach for her daughter’s middle school team at St. Ann’s Academy. She used her influence as a role model to inspire youth.
Yolanda said that it was because of her faith and her family that she was able to persevere. Now in remission, Yolanda serves as a board member for Sloan Memorial's Center.
“I don’t do any of this work alone,” explained Yolanda, adding, “my staff at DCF helps me lift this, and when I look at my children, and my husband and my mother, I realize that there are no coincidences. Everything that happens is an opportunity. It’s what we do with those opportunities that matter.”
On behalf of the Department of Children and Families, we thank you, Yolanda Chapman-Smith. Your devotion to the welfare of humanity through your work has improved the quality of life within our state and mirrors the life led and examples set forth by our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Janet E. Williams.