It Takes a Village

As I started my latest role at KenCrest I was on a committee to shape the 6400 regulations in Pennsylvania. I advocated for a competency model over a specific number of hours or even specific topics; it didn’t work out. So here I am now taking classes in Relias that in fact I, and many of you, could actually teach. I go into each training with the best attitude to enjoy the way the content is organized and presented, but in this last one I was struck by the data!

We supported the creation of a community system which was essential when we closed institutions. We created a lot of new places and opportunities, and many positive life outcomes have occurred. We also need to admit that we also missed some possible targets.

The people we support still have very few friends who are not paid caregivers. The National Association of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) reminds us that paid staff are at best friendly, but we really do have a professional relationship not a personal relationship with those we are paid to support. In all of our lives we need professionals who are warm, competent, professional, and caring; but we also need friends.

The Relias video offers the simple example of shorthanded staff who could not take someone on a job interview. Surely, in our lives, if we can’t get someone, we phone a friend or family member. What else in your life is possible by those who are not paid to help you?

We really need a village and to call more on that village. We need to count on each other. We need a list of folks who are not paid to make a good life possible―good neighbors, friends, family, and the people in our social and faith communities. When we mobilize this many people…more wonderful things happen than when we have those who are paid to be in our lives.

Let’s get specific; possibilities can manifest through this big circle of people. We all have a circle, and it’s time to make them bigger. One opportunity we found was Petal Power; an organization that gathers in flowers used for events and makes new arrangements using donated containers. These arrangements are then delivered to those in nursing homes and brighten someone’s day. This organization gave the people we support several opportunities — collecting the containers and participating in flower arranging. It also provided them with the satisfaction and pride that comes with helping someone else, and making an impact. We as team members have many of the resources at home to support too by sharing items that can be reused (most of us have too many coffee mugs!).

I believe people need to be needed, I also believe that some people need to be asked. They will not offer what is possible unless someone calls on them. My quilt guild has a mission to give small quilts to children by way of a child-serving organizations. One of those organizations is an emergency foster care provider. The provider came to our guild meeting to tell the story of a child who witnessed his mother’s death from an overdose. He was being accepted into the foster system and met with a pediatrician who wanted to support him — as best she could — as he entered the big unknown ahead of him. He was sent to the home of his new foster family with a Star Wars quilt from our guild. If the provider had not asked, I would never have heard of them. It was a guild member who made the connection; and we too can make connections.

There are so many opportunities within our communities and neighbors, and the Meaningful Day program wants to help those we support get engaged with them. What connections can you help make? As we continue to live our mission, we need to explore…and then mobilize. As we act, we need to know that the village will change for the better as we ask for help, offer help, and celebrate needs met!