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Nancy* received another call from Joey’s* school about her grandson’s behavior. Like many teen boys labeled with ADHD, his teachers and doctors associated all of his negative behavior, much beyond hyperactivity, to his diagnosis. Overwhelmed with his escalating behaviors — sneaking out, arguing, breaking rules — Nancy turned to The Home’s Safe at Home Somerville program for help.
“We need to treat the big picture without labeling kids because they are not one-dimensional.”
Safe at Home is a program that provides intensive in-home services including in-home therapy, family stabilization, and creation of safety and behavioral plans for families who struggle to access services. We assigned a clinician to work with Nancy and Joey. It was clear to Safe at Home staff that Joey was struggling with deeper issues which were overshadowed by his academic performance. Joey often found himself associating with the wrong crowd, and lacking understanding for time management and organization skills which led him to breaking basic rules. On the other hand, he was a sweet kid, who deeply respected his grandparents and loved cats. The young man struggled with being labeled a ‘bad kid’ when he knew that he wasn’t.
Through the three years of intensive in-home family therapy and clinical evaluations, Joey and Nancy got a better understanding of the issues that manifested in ‘bad’ decisions. At one point Joey got into a bit of legal trouble, but Safe at Home staff stuck by him, keeping his weekly visits. Erika, his mental health clinician, advocated for additional supports from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) as Joey became an adult: “As his clinician, it was important for me not to let systemic barriers impact Joey’s progress. We need to treat the big picture without labeling kids because they are not one-dimensional.”
The Safe at Home team provides intensive in-home services as an alternative to placing a child in a hospital, foster care, or a residential program.
Currently, Joey is in an independent adult living program through DDS and is still receiving therapeutic services from Safe at Home. He is learning life skills and is enrolled in a job training program. “Safe at Home always showed up for me, even when it was hard. I appreciate that,” Joey, now 20, shared. Nancy is proud of her grandson and now has more understanding of how to help him and keep him safe.
*Names and identifying information have been changed to protect our clients
After 15 great years at The Home, I’ve decided to retire at the end of 2017. My work at The Home has been a joy with many accomplishments along the way. I’m proud to have led The Home as it grew into an organization that serves 12,000 children and families each year, with 750 employees, 20 programs, a $51 million operating budget and an $80 million endowment. This fall is really serving as a culmination of many of my efforts over the past several years which has included providing services for youth aging out of the system, advocating to close the gaps in racial disparities for children, and making mental health services more accessible to all families regardless of their income.
In September, The Home opened its doors to Somerville Village: Support for Higher Education, our fourth program for transitional age youth. This program provides housing and life-coaches for 15 young women who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness and want to pursue higher education. I know that beyond my departure, The Home will continue to serve this population of young adults who have grown up in the child welfare system; and will continue to help guide the way toward the successful lives they all strive for.
Over the years, I have written and spoken about the unique challenges that young black and brown men face in our society which often set them up for failure. I have witnessed these challenges as my husband and I have raised our two sons — African American young men now 34 and 29 years of age; and at the same time have also witnessed the challenges as the leader of this large and complex child welfare organization. To empower the young men we serve, The Home is hosting its third annual Young Men of Color Conference in December. This conference has been a passion of mine since its inception. It has been important to me that the young men of color served by The Home know their value, have their voices heard, and have caring adults advocating on their behalf.
Lastly, I want to thank all of you, The Home’s passionate friends and supporters. It has been a pleasure to have worked with such generous stewards and donors over the years. Thank you for all you have and will continue to do.
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D.
After serving as The Home’s President and CEO since 2003, Dr. Joan Wallace-Benjamin has announced her retirement effective January 2, 2018. Christopher Egan, Chairman of the Board of Directors at The Home, is happy to announce Lesli Suggs, LICSW, current Vice President for Program Operations, was selected by the board to succeed Dr. Wallace-Benjamin as President & CEO. “This is really a moment of strength for The Home, when we can build on the momentum of Joan’s accomplishments,” said Mr. Egan. “Joan has transformed The Home into a leader, if not the leader, of modern child and family services in Massachusetts, and therefore the nation. I am confident that our future is incredibly bright because of her work. Furthermore, Lesli’s unanimous endorsement by our Board speaks to her ability to continue The Home’s leadership in an ever-changing field into the coming decades.”
Three volunteers, an occupational therapist, a Shetland pony named Hugo, and a horse called Glory came together to help students at Longview Farm over the summer.
Polly (Hugo and Glory’s owner), Liz, and Shelley, all community volunteers, put together a 3-day program, which ran for 5 weeks, and served 42 children. In the three days, youth learned about horse body language, how to communicate with the animals, grooming techniques, and horsemanship skills like leading. For about half the students, it was their first time seeing a real horse.
Students at Longview Farm often struggle with behavioral, emotional, and social skills. Their interactions with the animals fostered positive cooperation with one another as well as with the horses. Kat, Longview Farm’s Occupational Therapist, explained how youth are able to use their clinical coping techniques while working with the horses. Students needed to be calm and quiet around the animals which took self-regulation. They were also able to show affection to the animals, which can be difficult for children who’ve experienced trauma.
Hopefully, this great program is able to become a main stay at Longview Farm. We know, Lisa* would like it to be. “I love the horses. If they come back, I’m really hoping they can bring a big horse so I can do their hair.”
The Home is proud to announce our two sponsors for the 2017 Big Wishes Gift Drive: Citizens Bank and TJX Companies. With the support of these two great companies, we are sure our annual gift drive will bring the joy of the holidays to the thousands of children and families The Home serves.
After a very successful sponsorship of Big Wishes last year, The Home was thrilled when Citizens Bank committed to the 2017 gift drive. Over our 19 year partnership, Citizens has been a dedicated supporter to the children and families served by The Home.
“We are proud to support the Big Wishes Gift Drive again this year to help bring cheer to The Home’s children and families during the holidays,” said Jerry Sargent, President, Citizens Bank, Massachusetts. “Our colleagues are really passionate about this project and are excited to help make kids’ wishes come true through their donations and volunteerism.” Each year, Citizens has not only supported The Home’s new initiatives, they have created opportunities for their employees and community to get engaged in their philanthropy. Last year, Citizens Bank employees volunteered on multiple days at our Big Wishes Toy Room, as well as donated gifts at their Boston-area offices. Earlier this fall, Citizens invited The Home to promote its services at a community day at The Lawn on D Powered by Citizens Bank. Children from our group homes were also invited to enjoy the summer afternoon which included a BBQ and lawn games. The Home is so thrilled to have such a committed community partner!
Throughout our 28-year partnership, The TJX Companies have always stepped up and supported The Home in every way. Just last year, they launched our Permanency Initiative with a $500,000 donation! They have been a driving force in our annual Keep Kids Warm Coat Drive and offered their expertise to design our Big Wishes Toy Room when it found its permanent home in 2015. It was a perfect fit when they came on as one of this year’s Big Wishes sponsors!
With these two great corporate partners, we look forward to making this our best Big Wishes yet!
DID YOU KNOW? You may be able to have your donation make double the impact! As part of their Corporate Citizenship strategy, many organizations will match their employees’ donations. Check with your human resources department.
Youth with mental and behavioral health challenges have difficulties finding after-school programs to fit their needs. Understanding the void in programming for struggling kids, The Home is happy to announce the creation of its newest program, Out and About!
Out and About will provide up to 25 youth, ages 12 – 18, after-school programming in Dorchester, and will be co-located with our Young Adult Resource Network (YARN). Each school day, Out and About will schedule appropriate activities out in the community for youth like outings to the Boys & Girls Club and the Kroc Corps Community Center. Out and About’s staff will be there to provide the emotional and behavioral supports the kids need. Our goal is to provide a fundamental service for kids who are often excluded because of their challenges which are no fault of their own. “Our hope is that kids will be able to become part of the community,” says Ronya Campbell, Out and About’s Program Director.