From the earliest days of the pandemic officials at Wellmore and Waterbury Public Schools have been concerned about students who were not engaging in either face to face or on-line learning opportunities.
Wellmore, which operates many home-based programs for children and adolescents, suggested to the Waterbury Department of Education that its staff could perform outreach to help engage isolated families and their children with their school. “Now is the time when we all need to be creative, work together and find new solutions. We want to do everything we can to help teachers with their essential work. So many families are under extreme stress. The community has supported our efforts here in Waterbury since 1951, this is one way we can give back”, commented Gary M. Steck, LMFT, Wellmore CEO.
Early in the school year a small work group was established that led to the development of a pilot called ‘Project Waterbury’ whereby the district identified students who weren’t participating in school and the community agency used its existing resources to reach out and attempt to ‘connect’ the family to the school. Building off a Memorandum of Agreement between the City/Department of Education and Wellmore regarding its Mobile Crisis Intervention Service, a structured outreach process was designed that offered encouragement and support for families. Wellmore staff call and visit families in their homes, screen and assess the family for pressing needs, share information and build a bridge to the school while directly connecting families to critical services such as housing assistance and counseling.
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families, which funds many Wellmore programs, granted the agency the ability to flex its resources to address the arising and pressing needs of families related to COVID19. Project Waterbury got started in January 2021. The early results are quite positive with Wellmore engaging about 60% of referred families, although some families had moved, changed/disconnected their phone or wouldn’t accept a visit from the Wellmore team. “Our partnership with Wellmore, ‘Project Waterbury,’ has allowed us to connect with some of our most vulnerable students and their families during this extraordinary time in education,” said Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin. “Students’ social and emotional wellbeing has never been more critical and this collaboration has allowed us to extend our system of support.”
Wellmore plans to continue this pilot for the remainder of the school year. Wellmore operates a comprehensive continuum of child and adolescent behavioral health services. Walk-in hours appointments are available and families are offered the choice of face to face or telehealth care. If your child is in crisis please call dial 211 (InfoLine). For more information or to make an appointment please call 855-935-5667 or visit our website www.wellmore.org.