WATERVILLE — It was an afternoon of free food, games and prizes, but it was also serious business.

About 200 people gathered Saturday at North Street Park for the second annual Family Fun Day hosted by Catholic Charities’ Children’s Case Management. The event featured hot dogs, a bounce house, door prizes and more, but the objective was togetherness, said organizer Ricia Sawtelle-Carrow.

“This gives parents an opportunity to spend time with their children outdoors, for free,” she said. “Kids need the support of their parents; parents need the support of their kids. This gives them the chance to work together and play together.”

Ricia Sawtelle-Carrow is a children’s case manager at Catholic Charities’ Children’s Case Management in Fairfield. The nonprofit, nondenominational organization helps low-income families find services for children with mental health or medical needs at offices throughout Maine and New England.

In Fairfield, six case managers and one clinician provide assistance to about 150 families in central Maine. Children from birth to age 20 are eligible for assistance if they receive health care benefits through MaineCare and have been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition or mental health or developmental disorders.

Children’s case manager Erin Taylor helped organize a sack race Saturday at the park, a departure from her typical duties at the nonprofit. At any given time, Taylor manages 15 to 25 cases.

“It can be challenging, but it’s really rewarding,” she said.

Caseworkers coordinate appointments with specialists, obtain adaptive equipment such as portable wheelchair ramps and work with schools to make sure each child’s needs are met. Essentially, caseworkers help families get treatment and therapy for their children by helping them navigate a complicated system, Taylor said.

“There’s endless hoops and red tape to go through,” she said. “Anytime you want to apply for a service, there’s a ream of paperwork. It’s so overwhelming. And when you’re a parent to a child with special needs, your time is limited.”

Another goal of the Family Fun Day is to spread the word about the organization, Sawtelle-Carrow said. The caseworkers could be helping more children.

“We’d love to see more people. We have openings with no wait list,” she said.

Waterville resident Jaime Gilman recently discovered Catholic Charities’ Children’s Case Management, and she wishes she’d found it sooner. She took a break from serving hot dogs Saturday to reflect on her own experiences. Five years ago, Gilman’s daughter began to show symptoms of anxiety.

“She wouldn’t really socialize with her peers. She would stay close to me but wouldn’t talk to anyone else — even close family members,” Gilman said. “I didn’t really know how to help her be more social, or what the problem was.”

In May, Gilman enrolled her daughter, now 10 years old, into the program, where she receives weekly counseling and is undergoing evaluations to determine any root causes.

“Now that we’re in these programs, she’s coming out of her shell more,” Gilman said. “It’s very in-depth and exciting. I feel like we’re on the right track, that we’re going to help her be a functional child.”

Sawtelle-Carrow said the organization also seeks to comfort parents.

“A lot of families with high-needs kids feel like they’re alone, and it’s a dark, scary road when you’re not sure what to do or how to help them,” she said.

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