For Francine, problem solving has always come naturally. Since adolescence, friends and family have been seeking her advice.
“I’ve always loved to brainstorm and figure stuff out,” she says.
For 15 years, Francine’s been finding creative solutions to the difficult challenges families face. New moms may need a car seat to leave the hospital. Many families need food, clothing, or heating assistance. Children have appeared on the doorstep, shivering, because they don’t own winter coats. Single mothers get eviction notices they can’t read.
Many low-income families get visits from DCH. “Those cases are particularly difficult,” she says, “when parents are neither abusing or neglecting their kids.”
As one of the few Spanish-speaking social workers in Hampshire County, Francine is often a lifeline for Latino families struggling to build a better life.
Her approach, however, goes far beyond emergency help. Her goal is to build self-reliance so that families can thrive on their own.
“Sometimes, they just need a little help, a little support,” she says.
Much of that support comes from the generous donations of people across the Pioneer Valley. With hundreds of supporters on call, requests for items like cribs, interview clothes, or kid’s shoes are often filled quickly.
One mom named Kiana, always fiercely independent, had run into dire trouble paying her rent. Working with Francine, she was able to get back on her feet and is now an advocate for others in the community.
“That’s the full-circle moment that everyone at CHD is working toward,” she says.