Friday, April 16, 2021

Person of the Week

Frankie Esposito Brings Full-Service Care to Families

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As parent support counselor at Madison Youth & Family Services, Frankie Esposito is in a unique spot to help parents and kids during a unique time. 

Photo courtesy of Frankie Esposito

As parent support counselor at Madison Youth & Family Services, Frankie Esposito is in a unique spot to help parents and kids during a unique time. (Photo courtesy of Frankie Esposito )

Anyone with kids knows that the energy and time required, along with the skillset and expertise needed to raise children easily rivals many high-skilled professions. Additionally, there are no quantitative, purely scientific answers to child-rearing, and every parent is in some ways blazing new trails as they search for the best possible strategies, tools, and resources to help their kids succeed in school and beyond.

That’s where Frankie Esposito comes in. Cutting a new path herself in a position that’s not common at youth bureaus across the state, Frankie is taking on one of the more difficult and complex jobs that straddles education, mental health, and service coordination: “bridging the gap” between Madison parents, teachers and school staff, counseling services, and children.

Her title is parent support counselor at Madison Youth & Family Services (MYFS), and maybe now more than ever, local families are in need of the kind of support—and encouragement—Frankie is able to offer.

“Parents need support, too, as well as the kids,” Frankie says. “Part of that is advocating for the parents and helping them, and saying, ‘Hey this is a hard time and you’re doing a great job.’

“I like to put an emphasis on that, to help the parents stay in good spirits even though their child might be dealing with stuff or going through something. It’s hard for everyone,” she adds.

MYFS recently was lauded by an independent study with particular emphasis on its ability to connect parents, schools, and counseling resources, and Frankie’s job is emblematic of that commitment.

In most school districts including Madison, teachers, counselors, administrators, and advocates try to communicate with parents to ensure consistency and address issues with students, according to Frankie, but often are stretched thin by their other responsibilities.

The vast majority of these other educators and school-based counselors also only see children in a school context, she says. Frankie’s unique focus on working directly with parents can help her effectively implement positive changes for their children in their homes as well as observe and address family dynamics directly in a way that school staff can’t.

“Every family is different. I’m coming in to be like, ‘Okay what does your family look like and what will work best for your family?’” she says. “It’s definitely super important to get to know them, their history.”

Reaching solutions for her can include everything from holding full family sessions at MYFS that allow her to observe sibling interactions and parental dynamics to bringing parents to classes geared toward specific issues.

Frankie says that ability to be inclusive in her assessments can really make all the difference for families that are seeing persistent issues in their young students, gathering all those responsible for the child’s welfare into a productive, collaborative discussion.

“It’s made up of a bunch of individuals that have different relationships, and views and opinions and interactions with each other, so I definitely look at it from a family systems point of view,” she says. “What makes it unique is I work with the school. I have weekly meetings discussing these cases, and it gives me a little insight...I see what’s happening at home with the parents, and [school staff] sees what’s happening in school.

“You kind of need all the pieces,” she adds.

Working with younger children (10 years old or younger), Frankie says she is also aware of the need to engage in an empathetic and often light-hearted way that encourages anxious, angry, or fearful kids to trust and respect her. Drawing on a lifetime desire and experience of interacting with younger children in various capacities, Frankie acknowledged that her personality is definitely suited to this kind of work.

“I’m a funny gal, what can I say?” she quips. “I try to make everyone as comfortable as possible, especially with kids.”

Knowing kids’ individual personalities as well as likes, interests, and favorite movies or cartoons are all a big part of her very serious job, though sometimes that requires being a little silly.

Frankie described a moment recently where she felt compelled to roar loudly at a colleague who had just entered the room, unwilling to break character after a young client had just asked her to be a dinosaur.

Her buoyant personality has also been featured on Tik Tok videos posted to the MYFS Facebook page, where she has dropped tidbit-sized parenting tips and sought to spread the word for MYFS classes or programs. That’s all part of the fun as well, Frankie says, and fits in with her larger mission of getting the whole family, not just the children, to relax, take a deep breath, and open up.

“Just trying to have fun with them, and make MYFS a warm environment and welcoming, and welcoming to every person. I want every person to feel comfortable and really make a safe space,” she says.

Having spent time both in Zoom-world as well as in-person with families, Frankie says it is clear that the kids are hurting from a lack of social interactions. While she adds that a lot of elementary-age children are more resilient than people give them credit for, anxiety passed down from parents and the overall isolation of the pandemic have taken their toll on Madison’s youngest residents.

“Kids are affected by not having that direct social interaction, and that kind of just goes to that general side-effects of COVID,” she says. “I think people underestimate how much social interaction we need to thrive...No one really knows that answer right now.”

As leaders and families across the state, across the country, and across the world just beginning to comprehend the potential longer-term impacts of the virus on academics and mental health, many parents might feel overwhelmed by the incredible challenges of a post-pandemic family.

But Frankie is prepared to stand with them through those challenges, from mapping out affirming consequences to time-traveling to the Mesozoic Era.

“Whatever I can do to help, whether it’s the parents or the kids, is what I’m going to do,” she says.

For more information on Madison Youth & Family Services, visit www.madisonct.org/812/Youth-Family-Services or call 203-245-5645


Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Jesse at j.williams@shorepublishing.com.

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