Service Site: Tides Family Services in Providence, RI
University: University of California, Berkeley
What do you do?
I work with youth who are at risk through the court system, to be removed from their homes for various reasons and placed in a group home or juvenile hall. These reasons can include truancy, neglect or abuse from guardians, illegal charges, etc. With a team that includes the client, their family, clinicians, guidance counselors, probation officers and other community members, we provide home based services to work with the goals the family wants to address in order to keep the family together. Tides aims at addressing what the underlining reasons of the client’s or family’s actions. What have they been doing that has deemed them “at risk” by the court system? What were they trying to get out of such actions? What can be put in place to replace those actions? What have they been doing so far that has kept them together this long? What and who can help ensure this stays in place? What can the school do to take into consideration what the youth is dealing with at home and out in the community to make their learning more fruitful? All families have the right to be worked with and guided through resources with nurture to reach their goals.
Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?
I first heard about the LV program through a LV alumni and I instantly started doing research on the program. I found it amazing; going out to serve with a support system put in place not only in the cite of service, but in the living community as well as a larger association nation wide! And this huge support system was all brought together under the same mission of working with people in need of some sort of care and advocacy due to society’s lack of providing and respecting those needs. I knew it was an opportunity I could not pass by. Now it has become more than an opportunity; it has become my passion and life style. I have learned so much about myself! Professionally, I have learned that the best way to outreach to a family is to get on their page; what do they need/want? Emotionally, I have learned how crucial is it to take care of myself, otherwise, how can I work with anyone? Spiritually, I have found it healthy for my soul to intentionally take time and space to share about faith with others; it has increased my ability to appreciate my own beliefs as well as those of others. LV has given me a family where I have grown while being nurtured.
What is the most challenging obstacle that your clients face? How does your agency and your own outreach try to empower them to overcome this obstacle?
One of the most challenging things my clients/families encounter is finding a balance between what they see on a daily basis versus what they are expected to do differently just because the court system told them they were at risk to be separated. As much as the pressure from the court system can be, if their community and family is providing them with the same options, choices and daily stressors, it is not realistic or just to expect different actions. There needs to be different opportunities that the youth and family can outreach to. This is exactly what Tides aims at doing! Working on the underlining reasons for the actions that got them to be part of the court system, Tides and the family work to increase communication within the family regarding such actions. However, talking is not always enough; we all work together to find potential resources in their community that can help each one be able to put to use their skills of coping with what they are dealing with and addressing. Does the client feel playing a sport is crucial to staying calm, vent, and/or out of “trouble” with the law? If so, what sport programs can they be introduced to, to make sports a regular option in their lives? This will make the client’s ability to cope with certain stressors a daily possibility. Considering their income and ability to transport or not, what sports programs will provide the best option for the family as a whole? What do the parent(s)/guardian(s) do that keeps them calm and able to make it through the day? What community resource can they become a part of that can strengthened that? It empowers families when it is in their hands to participate in therapeutic activities to increase their overall ability handle things differently. Once a family is empowered, a whole community is as well since that empowerment becomes a possibility to be spread.
What has been your biggest disappointment in your volunteer service? How has this affected you?
My greatest disappointment has been working with others with power to decide the child’s placement outcome, refusing to see some progress as progress. I have worked with judges and probation officers that make demands from the client and their family and its either they does 100% or it’s considered nothing. What they refuse to see if that going to school 3 out of 5 days a week in one school quarter is 100% progress so far for a client who went no days at all in their last school quarter. How realistic is it to expect a client who did not go to school at all for that long, to all of a sudden get on a routine and the mind set to go every day? Although it might occur-and I am not saying it has not or it can’t- goals need to be set so that success is noted, and not belittled otherwise the child is being set for failure. What these people in power do not seem to consider or care about in such situations is that being put into a group home or juvenile hall school, the youth is being told “you tried but still you will get punished”. How then, does this system expect our youth and families to even think of themselves as capable of doing different if when they do, it is not respected or praised? It breaks my heart when I see a client/family working and achieving their goals and then, it is all taken away from them. It is a very frustrating system and although at times I feel like breaking down, it also gives me the strength to see how important it is for these youth to have advocates to reinforce their strengths in court that can be bypassed at times. This has made me, now more than ever, want to continue working in the social work field.
What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
Whatever religion, faith, spiritual beliefs one follows, we all have energy and love that keeps us going on a daily basis. Living with a Brother has allowed me to get in the routine of sharing that energy and love with others intentionally. This has created an environment where we are all constantly addressing what we believe in and how it can be related to our work and society as a whole. It can be easy to get caught up in life events and I have found it strengthening to have time set aside to reflect and connect with my purpose; it gives me a sense of refreshment. It has also challenged me to be open to new ways of understanding events, words and actions- and this I believe is essential in order for there to be peace between all.