– Excerpts from an interview with Beth Andrew, Director of Family Services (February 18th, 2015)
DAN: This is Beth Andrew, our Director of Family Services. We are going to spend a little bit of time talking about prevention and why you have seen it as something that is really important.
BETH: Sure. I look at Prevention really from several different perspectives. We are out there in the communities and we’re touching families’ lives and we’re touching communities.
So, if you look at it from a family’s perspective, prevention is important because it gives people a chance to recognize their ability to choose a different path for themselves, or a different perspective for themselves, or a different way to go about doing things. They’re making that choice themselves. They’re seeing that,
“Hey, maybe it could be different, maybe it could be better.”
“I want to embrace that, and I want to be able to do that.”
In that way too, they’re using their own strengths, their own skills, their own abilities. So it’s coming directly from them; they’re driving it; they’re making it happen. From that perspective, that would be why it would be important for a family.
If you look at it from an agency perspective, such as Quakerdale, I think that it’s important because we’re being good stewards of our resources, good stewards of our time and our money. We’re putting a perspective and we’re putting a focus on how maybe we can make a larger impact by serving more families if we’re able to get in there quicker with them before things have escalated to a point where it’s a crisis. We’re able to get in there and help them quicker, more efficiently, and then move them on to other community supports that might be important to them, or other family supports that might be important to them. We’re in and then back out. So we’re not going to be involved long term. This means, then, that we have the opportunity to serve another family, and another family, and another family.
If you think about it from a community perspective as a whole, prevention is all about being healthy, and it’s all about well-being. These are the folks that are more productive in community. If they’re able to manage things and able to catch things before they get out of hand, then it just lends itself to happier, healthier community. It decreases people’s dependence on a formal support system. When I say formal support system, I am talking about the Department of Human Services, or Juvenile Court, or even some of our types of services that we do. Getting them back out there and being able to manage things on their own with their own supports that they’re able to generate or access.
So from my perspective, looking at from a family, an agency, and a community outlook, prevention is huge.
DAN: What are some of the ways that you implement things to help people prevent from getting in crisis?
BETH: That’s a good question. I think that the earlier intervention services that we’re doing, such as a Family Team Meeting is one. We’re getting families together with some of those other supports that they have in their lives and were talking about,
“What are your strengths?”
“What is your story?”
“What kind of things do you need to work on?”
We’re sharing everyone’s perspective. So it’s not just the family’s perspective, it’s everyone in the room.
“Let’s talk about this.”
“Let’s figure out what’s going on.”
“What might work? ”
And really, it’s a whole problem solving/brainstorming type of work.
If you look at our Functional Family Therapy, we do that also from a preventative standpoint because we’re helping folks look at their relationships differently. We’re helping them be able to see how everything that they do impacts everyone else in that family. It’s not just about one person; it’s about the entire relationship. And then we’re trying to help them find some new meaning, or some different meaning for things, and to be able to approach it in a different way.
We get a lot of phone calls from parents that are at their wits’ end. They say,
“I don’t know what to do.”
“I don’t know where to turn.”
“I don’t know what step to take next.”
And most folks when they’re in that type of mindset, they’re looking at some type of out-of-home placement. So we’ve been very successful in sitting down with those families and being able to problem solve with them to help them look at things from a different perspective, to remind them how things have worked in the past. They’re able to really use those skills that they have within them already, and to be able to overcome, and then to not have to enter into that formal type system. The kids stay at home. They get to do the normal things that kids get to do, and their families get to do. Going on vacation, going to school, being at church, doing extra-curricular activities, this is where we want families to be.
We want families to be where they’re safe, where they feel safe, and in as natural environment as possible. So really, that’s what my team does. Their basic goal is to try and help families to be what families need to be and want to be, and to feel good about where they’re at, and to feel comfortable in those roles that they have, and those tasks they need to undertake. So really, I would say almost everything we do, in some sense, is prevention. To help families be more self-sufficient, and self-sustaining, and independent from other folks.
DAN: As I’m listening to you, especially what you just said in this last particular part, it sounds like dialogue is really a very, very important component of what you do.
BETH: Yes, absolutely. Listening, and being able to listen in a way that maybe others haven’t in the past. It’s called, “Putting ourselves in the shoes of those that feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do.” You need to be able to ask yourself, “How would I feel if I was in that situation? Who would I turn to, and what would I do?” You need to think about the kinds of things you might say that make it appear as if you don’t really want to change or don’t want help. Let’s really listen first, and then try to let them know that we are listening; so they know that we’re getting what they’re saying.
They need to know that we’re not another agency, or another service provider that’s coming in there and saying, “Well, if you would just do this.” or “You do A, you do B, then you get to C.” It’s not about that. It’s more about helping them find their own way, for them to feel heard, for them to break down some of those defenses that they put up that they don’t want to share,
“Wow, I’m really scared. I don’t know how to be a mom.”
“I’m really scared. I don’t know how to be a dad.”
“I feel like I’ve failed.”
“I don’t know who I can trust.”
And from a kid’s perspective,
“Adults don’t get me.”
“They don’t listen.”
“They don’t know what it’s like to be me.”
We want to change those perspectives and be able to go at it in such a way that they do feel heard, they do feel listened to, and they do feel we’ve got them and we’re there to help them. That is what we do.
DAN: I was not expecting you to start with what you did. Typically when you talk about communication and dialogue, most people have a tendency to start with, “This is what I need to tell you.” And it’s really interesting that you completely flip that around in saying that the very first thing you need to do is be a great listener.
BETH: Yes, you do.
DAN: As far as on the negative side of things that can really deter from health and preventative measures, can you talk a little about isolation and the danger that it is?
BETH: Sure. We do see isolation. And it feels as if sometimes folks that isolate, they’re doing it because they’re scared, or they’re doing it because they don’t feel like someone else is going to understand where they’re coming from. Then when they do end up presenting, or coming in, or being referred, or whatever it might be, it’s because of a huge type of crisis.
We’re really dependent upon other people in the community to be able to help with this and have their eyes and their ears open for those family members, or for those neighbors, or for those friends that are isolating themselves. They’re most likely thinking something like,
“Wow, what’s going on, and how can we help them?
How can we get them to interact with others?”
It’s not just about what Quakerdale does, it’s also about what our communities can do to support everyone within the community, and to not write off somebody. It’s about being willing to step up and say something when you’re concerned about someone. If you’ve noticed something, step up and say something, and let’s see what we can do to help.
DAN: I don’t think it’s a mistake that we identify youth, families, and communities all together when we talk about what we do and why we do it. It’s the integration and the engagement of all three of these that actually brings the most success for healing.
DAN: Well thanks so much, Beth. I really appreciate it. And we look forward to visiting with you again in another couple of months when we talk about Education.
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