This May, Wayside will be joined for the second year in a row by local singer/songwriter Meg Hutchinson.
Last year, Wayside's Talent & Acquisition Manager, Amy Hogarth, reached out to Meg to learn more. Check out Amy and Meg's interview below.
Amy: What is one thing you wish folks knew about supporting someone with mental illness?
Meg: Sometimes we help someone the most when we stop trying to change the situation. Of course we need to help them get proper professional care and we need to get them into a hospital if they are at risk. But as a friend or family member it is not our responsibility to treat the illness. We are the ones who can hold a space for that person as they recover and heal. We can offer so much comfort by loving and accepting someone exactly where they are. We can reassure them that they don’t have to get better faster than they are able––– that they are good enough right where they are–– that we love them completely and that we’re gonna sit with them in that suffering and just BE with them. There is so much comfort in that gentle and unconditional presence.
Amy: Why did you become a singer? What led you to it? How does it sustain you?
Meg: I think I started writing music from a very early age in order to make sense of my life and of my inner world. In my late teens, as I began to struggle with depression, music became a lifeline. It was the only way I knew how to speak honestly about what I was going through. I was such an overachiever and a perfectionist and I couldn’t reach out for help or let people know I was struggling. So I turned to music as a way of expressing and understanding what was happening to me. It was really a coping mechanism and a medicine long before I understood what was happening to me.
Amy: Who is your role model, and why?
Meg: I have many! If I had to choose just one it would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As he always says, “my religion is kindness.” He has been a meditator his whole life and has cultivated a deep, deep compassion for every living being. The way in which he’s navigated the tragedies in Tibet and the way in which he inspires each of us to cultivate that mindfulness and that care for each other and for the world gives me so much hope and optimism.
Amy: Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Meg: I think the project that has required the most work and been the most rewarding is coming to terms with mental illness and learning to speak openly about my experience. I was so ashamed for so many years. I was too ashamed to even go to therapy. It took a breakdown before I could acknowledge that I needed help. It took many years after the breakdown to gain the courage to speak honestly about what I had been through. But these years in which I’ve been a speaker and advocate have been deeply rewarding. I think we all go through experiences in life that test us to the very core. As a result we know what we’re made of. We find out how strong we are when we learn how to be vulnerable. Illness is such an opportunity to get to know ourselves on the deepest level and to grow.
Amy: What are three things you would never leave the house without?
Meg: I try to leave the house with my walking shoes and my dog every day for a few hours. Paying attention to the natural world is an essential part of my life. It’s good to try to leave the gadgets behind every day for a while. To get away from the screens and the noise. It’s deeply healing to reconnect with the silence in my life every day.
Amy: I loved listening to your music how would you describe the healing of music and all art forms for us humans?
Meg: Music cuts through all our filters and goes right to the heart. I think music reaches people in a very subconscious way. It accesses them through feeling more than through intellect. Human beings are so fortunate to be able to create in so many marvelous ways. I think creative expression is a way to tap into what is most essential and most powerful about being alive and then to connect with each other about these universal human experiences.
Amy: What’s your superpower?
Hah. I’ll let you know when I find out!
Amy: What’s your favorite ’90s jam?
Meg: I listened to a lot of Greg Brown, Shawn Colvin and Tracy Chapman in the 90’s
Amy: What inspires you?
Meg: The natural world. The tremendous open quality of the sky and the forest. Being still and just noticing the world is really restorative and feeds my creative mind.
Amy: Do you have a quote, or poem that you use as a guide in dark times?
Meg: Mary Oliver’s poetry has always been good medicine to me. Especially “Wild Geese.” I also love John O’Donohue’s audio collection “Longing and Belonging.”
Join us for "How We Got Through" - A Conversation Between Sisters About Mental Illness and Recovery, May 18, 6:30PM, at the Watertown Free Public Library, 123 Main St, Watertown, MA 02472. Reservations are required in advance. Please contact Kelley Daron at [email protected] or 781-966-5644.
By: Sean Gilpatrick, Wayside Social Worker & Clinician
When I first met one of the kids I use to work with, he was playing hockey in the middle of the street, using a rock and a hockey stick someone else had thrown away. During that first meeting, he told me it was his goal to play hockey for his high school, with a real stick on real ice, though he wasn’t sure if that was even realistic. I wasn’t sure either.
The next time we met, he asked to go to the local hockey rink. It was August, but he wanted to see if there were any classes for him to learn to skate. And, of course, he wanted to know how much a real hockey stick would cost.
I’ve done this job long enough to know that, while you keep your fingers crossed for everything to go right, it so rarely does. Unfortunately for us, there were no classes he could take. There was no ice time for him to practice. And the real hockey sticks came with big price tags. With the two of us looking through the store, the rink’s owner asked us if we’d like to try out some of the equipment. I knew there was no chance we could afford any of it, but I wasn’t going to turn down a chance to get this kid out on the ice, even if it would only be for a little while.
After about a half hour on the ice, he was beaming. He was skating uneasy laps on his own personal sheet of ice, spending most of the time staring upward at the roof of the rink. It wasn’t easy to tell him he had to take the skates off, and return them back to the equipment store room along with the stick. But that’s what I had to do.
And I couldn’t believe what happened next.
The rink’s owner, the same person who suggested we test the equipment out, told the kid I was working with to pack up the skates and the stick. And then take them home with him to keep. The kid was ecstatic. Brand new skates and a brand new hockey stick, all free of charge.
That kid skated on those skates and practiced with that stick almost every day after that, and eventually made his high school's hockey team. When doing this job, it's often difficult to boil things down to a single moment when things start to change. Most of the time, it's a combination of a lot of factors that come together so slowly and so gradually that you can't really tell if there even is one moment like that. But this time? It was obvious. It changed the course of our work together, it changed his goals, and it probably changed the direction of his year.
It all happened because one person, who didn't know this kid at all, gave him what he desperately needed: a break.
And moments like that matter so much to the kids and the families we work with here at Wayside. It didn't have to be something big (even though in this case it definitely was). Small gestures matter too, whether it be a neighbor offering a ride or a teacher at school spending a few extra minutes with a kid who needs the extra support. For the kids we work with, it all counts.
The unfortunate truth is that the kids and families we work with are used to being invisible. They're used to being passed over. They're used to being told 'there's nothing that we can do.' So when someone not only pays attention, but also decides to do something proactive, the impact can't be understated.
It's not just the gesture in and of itself. It's also the message it sends. When something like that happens to one of the kids we work with, the message they get is a powerful one. It's a way of saying, 'I see that you have potential.' It's a way of saying, 'I think you're someone worth investing in.' More importantly, it's a way of saying, simply, 'you matter.'
It would've been easier to ignore us. It would've been less work to tell us the merchandise was for potential customers only. It would've been better financially to ask for the equipment back. But this rink manager made a choice to give this kid a break. I know how much it mattered to that kid. And I know how much it mattered to me.
The Early Adopter:
A conversation with Ian Edwards about Motivational Interviewing
By: Amy Hogarth, MFT, and Director of Agency Recruitment & Talent
“I am not the expert; the client is the expert”
Ian Edwards, LICSW, has been with Wayside for close to three decades, yet has the boundless enthusiasm and curiosity of a newbie. He is currently the Clinical Director at Wayside Waltham.
He’s also one of Wayside’s earliest adopters of Motivational Interviewing, a clinical intervention now being taught across the agency. An evidence-based practice gaining popularity worldwide, Motivational Interviewing has been shown to lead to more successful and longer-lasting gains in achieving therapeutic goals.
But don’t call Ian an expert, because in Motivational Interviewing: “The client is the expert.”
Ian wants to be clear that no one doing Motivational Interviewing is interested in the “right way;” instead, MI focuses on the real interaction between client and clinician.
He describes it as being like, “When we look at the outside of someone else’s life, what they have to do may not be hard to us. The issue isn’t in the doing. It is in the energy and motivation to do it.”
The clinical intervention is not focused on action. MI teaches us to focus on the time before the action. However, the clinician will often focus in on resistance and align with the client’s reasons for resistance, thus removing the power struggle.
The work of the clinician is not to say to the client, “You can jump,” or to say, “Maybe you shouldn’t jump;” instead, the work of the clinician to be in the space, listen and affirm what the idea of jumping is like for that person.
Consequently, “Really, it’s about empathy.”
MI is about listening to the client and through the process of reflective listening help them discover their own wisdom and connect their hopes and dreams.
Ian was struck earlier in his career about the hubris of “imparting some form of wisdom” about other people’s lives. He was drawn to MI because of the notion that people are experts on their own life. He found it refreshing to have the expectation of “solving the problem” removed.
Instead, MI engages with the problem and is interested in how it works within the person. He continues, “We are in trouble when we think we can control another person. This is often strong in parents. They have a gut response that they must fix the trouble. Often, though, this removes the internal meaning of a person’s own choices. In MI, we focus less on outcomes and more on interventions. We focus on what we can do that brings out the ‘best’ in the other person.”
Ian described a family with whom he worked where the identified client was described as “difficult” and “contentious.”
Ian said, “There was a tremendous amount of conflict. It was a young 16 and a half year old girl and she was involved with an older man; she was running away, and her family wanted to ‘save her from herself.’”
When Ian entered the room the young girl said, “I’m not going to (insert expletive here) school- I’m gonna get my GED.”
Ian said, “You’d like someone to help you to your GED.”
Young Girl: “Yeah”
Ian asked, “Would you be interested in me helping you with your GED?”
Ian goes on, “No one had paid attention to what she really wanted. Even though they had her ‘best interests at heart,’ I knew I could not control the interaction- I could only offer her choices that were available and support her achievements. She now lives in independent living and is attending college.”
When I asked Ian about the ultimate goal for the Motivational Interviewing initiative, he mentioned the Wayside community.
“My hope is that the entire agency will embrace this as a way of being not only with clients but also with each other so that when people interact they won’t give unsolicited advice, direction or feedback.”
When clinicians learn MI, instead of “role plays” they do “real plays;” they talk through “real problems” with colleagues to see how the interventions feel for the client.
Within the energy of being with the person and the interaction with others, there is a balance between freedom and flexibility.
When I asked Ian how he got into Motivational Interviewing in the first place, he said, “I heard about it and had seen some tapes. We tried to teach ourselves, but we didn’t know what we were doing. Then, the Department of Mental Health began an initiative for all DMH staff and providers who were interested in being trained. Stephen Andrew (whom we have retained for Wayside’s training as well) was the trainer and I was sold. Because we train the way we do through real plays and practice I never get bored going into trainings again and again.”
Ian continued, “The work becomes positive energy when you take yourself out of it and focus your entire energy on this person’s view of the world. We know that judging can get in the way when trying to form an alliance.”
Ian says, “The most difficult thing is devoting enough time to practice this but the benefits are that it makes the work enjoyable, satisfying, and it helps to take away the ‘fix it’ impulse.”
By: Sean Gilpatrick, Wayside clinician and blog contributor
Posted January 26, 2017
The first time I heard about Motivational Interviewing was at Wayside's Waltham office, just a few minutes into my first day. And I had absolutely no idea what it was. If I had to guess (and luckily no one actually made me guess), I would've said it was about interviewing potential new employees or something like that. It didn't even occur to me that it might be a therapeutic technique that I'd be using with the kids and families I work for.
Since then, as an agency, Wayside has embraced Motivational Interviewing as one of its core philosophies. And while it's definitely informed my clinical work, there's also been some overlap in my personal life too. Here are five things I've learned from MI that I've taken home with me:
One of the core elements of MI is about evoking, rather than imposing, ideas from a conversation. Instead of acting like an authority, MI takes the stance that people are the experts on their own lives and their insights on their problems are invaluable. Among other things, that means that advice shouldn't be dispensed unless it's asked for.
And that's hard. It's difficult for me professionally to bite my tongue sometimes when I think I have the perfect solution to a problem. It's even harder in my personal life with my friends and family. Once, I got a homework assignment from an MI training to not give out any unsolicited advice at all for a week straight, and it was nearly impossible.
But, in retrospect, the difference was night and day. Both at work and at home, people would tell me they felt heard a lot more when they talked to me. And it helped me listen, really listen, to what someone else was saying. Rather than looking for an opportunity to solve someone else's problem, I was instead trying to help them solve their problems for themselves.
Another core principle of MI is collaboration. In this dynamic, it's important that the person I'm working with feels heard. MI uses a technique called reflecting (or reflective listening) where the counselor will listen and respond in a manner that indicates we're all on the same page. And it's not as simple as repeating someone's words, because that's not really helpful for anyone.
Instead, a good reflection requires that you hear not just the words someone says, but also the intention and perspective behind them. It's a technique I've found helpful in any situation where I'm trying to let someone know that I'm on their side. Instead of me vs. them, it becomes us vs. the problem.
Rolling with Resistance
In MI, resistance happens when a client feels that their view of the problem (or a potential solution) is different than the counselor's view. It might also happen when the client feels like their thoughts and choices aren't being respected. And when resistance happens, MI encourages us to 'roll with it.' Instead of struggling over whose viewpoint is 'right,' MI asks that we try and find a way back onto the same page.
For me, this view of conflict helped me avoid a lot of arguments. It's easy to get drawn into a struggle, but it's rarely productive especially when there's a problem to solve. So when I encounter resistance, I try to roll with it. I try to think about how we can get back to understanding each other, because that's ultimately more effective.
Putting Aside My Own Agenda
A lot of our communication is aimed at making ourselves heard, and making ourselves understood. And with good reason, right? Most of the time when we talk, we're trying to accomplish some goal with the words we say.
From MI, I've learned that there are times when I'll have to set aside my own agenda for the sake of what's helpful. And it's never easy to do. There's never a time I like putting my goals aside, but sometimes it's necessary. And practicing that with MI definitely makes it easier.
Being Thoughtful About What I Say
The biggest thing I've taken away from MI is the idea that what I say can have a huge impact on someone else. It's something I knew before, but MI places such an intense focus on how words, expressions, and reactions matter that it really drilled it home.
And knowing that comes with a lot of responsibility. It keeps me aware of what I'm saying, what I'm doing, what I'm feeling, and how it might impact the people around me. MI didn't just change the way I approach my work, it also changed the way I looked at how I communicated with others in my life.
There's a lot to take away from MI, and a lot of extends further than the office. Especially if you're looking out for it.
By: Tyler Adams, Development & Communications Associate
BY: Amy Hogarth, Director of Agency Recruitment
My Dad and I wrote letters.
First he wrote them to me and then we wrote them to each other and of course my Dad’s business was mail. His notes, sometimes cartoon drawings, and odd stories were a dialogue between us. Our verbal conversations lacked something in comparison to the conversations we had in writing.
In many ways I am my mother’s daughter: I have her outgoing personality and I am a talker.
I used to think I was not like my Dad at all.
I am not precise as he is – or quiet – but there is a way we are a like in that we love the creative.
My Dad has a wry sense of humor, and when I was a kid he enjoyed creating costumes with me: ponchos for my head, scarves as tails, strange hats. As a talker, I often peppered him with questions during projects.
Like when he showed me how to make a snowflake from a paper towel. He would not be talking. My dad is a quiet doer. He would not speak his plan when we did a project he would just say this:
“A pillow case…”
You can see how fun this was already, right? There he would be getting to work making a costume or a silly sign. One Halloween, I had decided I was too old to wear a costume and then at the last minute felt a pang and wanted desperately to trick or treat one last time.
He realized I had changed my mind and made me a costume in 15 minutes.
Mostly though it’s the notes and letters I remember.
“It appears a person called but seemed hesitant to leave name. Probably a spy. Don’t call back.”
“Erica called and she said you have to call her – as soon as you feed the dog.”
Then a heart drawn with an arrow through it and his signature “Dad”.
When I was at camp he wrote long silly letters- about Rebel my dog taking saxophone lessons and driving everyone crazy as he practiced, he said RCA had called and requested I “triple time it back home so I could appear as the new “Annie” on Broadway.” Every kid in my cabin wanted to listen to my Dad’s letters.
At 16 he asked me to go into the letter writing business with him. See back then (Millenials this will shock you) people raised money by doing direct mail fundraising. Letters explaining the work and the need to help whatever non-profit he was working with at the time. He’d give me a concept: Kids need playground equipment, animals in need, send youth to camp and I’d try to weave a story that called on the heart and tugged on the pocketbook. He paid me- making it my first paid writing job.
So when I think of #GIVINGTUESDAY it is my Dad who comes to mind. He was not the kind of giver who bugged you about if you used the gift, or enjoyed the gift. He knew giving meant letting go of results and simply showing up. He would just give it too: often when he wasn’t around and if he was he’d just nod and walk away. He was not and never has been interested in credit or reputation. He enjoyed the act of giving. I think he loved his work.
My Dad did not talk about giving. He never once said that he had grown up on a farm and was so grateful for all he had that he wanted to give back or that he wanted me to give back. Like I said – he’s not a talker.
Instead he shoveled the neighbor’s driveway because they needed the help and even though they hadn’t asked he showed up and did it. That was in Chicago- we had a lot of snow! He gave me a card when I hit puberty that said “when you think you have all the answers life changes the questions,” when I needed his help last minute that Halloween night he didn’t give me a lecture about last-minute costumes he just got to work.
Over and over I watched him show up for others, drive a long distance to see a friend, answered the phone when he was tired and all around being a part of things with kindness. He was able to do this without Go Fund Me, Twitter or a cell phone.
Alas, I am like Ben Franklin who said “If I ever achieve humility, I shall want credit.”
In my father I have a lasting impression of how I’d want to be and of what GIVING really is. Sure, we always appreciate money to help Wayside ensure youth a families have what they need every day. Yet, real giving is an attitude of humility and passion mixed together. It’s the folks who show up every year to raise money and run for 5K4KIDs. It’s the Staff who dress up every year on Halloween for the Halloween party at the Campus. Or the folks who send us good thoughts or prayers our way.
My Dad, whose name is Robert William Feucht is still around by the way, offering a tease to someone or a bit of wit. He has taught me we are the sum of are actions and the time we take with others joining them in projects, reinforcing their dreams and jokes. Always have jokes.
Thanks Dad. I’m working on being a Giver like you but I’m sure not there yet.
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted November 18, 2016
Wayside is always striving to improve the way we work and to ensure that we are supporting our youth and families in the most clinically competent and cutting edge way possible. We also want always to show up with youth and families with our hearts coming forward.
As a result of the hard work of Wayside’s Clinical Quality and Training Committee, Wayside has been learning a new model for Clinical intervention.
The Committee came up up with core beliefs that are central to all our programs- whether it is 12 Prescott serving young adults with mental health challenges, or Watertown Community Links, or any of the clinics we have in Sturbridge, Framingham, Milford, Waltham and Lowell!
These beliefs unite our programs.
Here are three of our main beliefs:
- Clients, families must be treated respectfully and all our clinicians will have a genuine appreciation of all world views
- We believe that clinical work is a partnership with the client/family
- Hope is instilled through engagement (That’s the heart thing: we really, really want folks to show up with heart!)
The committee recommended that Wayside embark on a major training initiative. They chose Motivational Interviewing as a primary focus because it is a natural fit to Wayside’s common belief system.
What is Motivational Interviewing (MI)?
Motivational interviewing is a person-centered, directive intervention designed to resolve ambivalence about change (Miller & Rollnick, 1991). This method relies heavily on person-centered counseling skills. The therapist actively guides clients toward self-examination and increased awareness of those aspects of their existence and behavior that may be less effective or less healthy for them as well as those aspects that signify unrecognized strengths and possibilities. Through this process, clients begin articulating how various behaviors are at odds with values and beliefs about themselves, and basic life goals. This internal discrepancy creates the motivation, which then fuels the change effort. (Motivational Interviewing Dancing, Not Wrestling David B. Rosengren, Christopher C. Wagner)
The Motivational Interviewing model has been shown to be effective with youth and adults who have been disempowered and who feel that they don’t have control over their own destinies. It has been embraced by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS), endorsed by Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics as an effective model in mental and physical health conditions. The model is seen as the foundation upon which other models can be built because of the fact that it engages the client and family their own goals.
This summer, Wayside embarked on an ambitious training schedule to ensure that all clinicians, clinical supervisors and managers learn this approach, which we believe will elevate our clinical capacity in order to partner with our clients to make positive change. In short, adopting MI into our clinical wheelhouse will help us achieve our mission: “Empowering children, young adults and families to achieve greater independence and emotional well-being.”
There are three hallmarks to Motivational Interviewing:
- MI is collaborative. The work rests in how the client examines and understands the behavior change needed.
- MI is evocative. Seeks to evoke what skills, motivation and resources someone already has to offer.
- MI honors client autonomy. The clinician becomes unhooked from outcomes –“not an absence of caring, but rather an acceptance that people makes choices about the course of their lives. Clinicians may inform, advise, even warn but ultimately the client decides what to do.”
(From Motivational Interviewing in Health Care by: Stephen Rollnick, William R. Miller, and Christopher C. Butler)
Wayside's Book Club:
5 Books on Mental Health Worth Reading
By: Sean Gilpatrick
One of the things I hear most often from people who want to talk about mental health is that they don't know where to start the conversation. And they're right. It can be daunting, and it can be difficult. Books can be a great place to start. This time, I'll focus on young adult novels (targeted at readers 13-18 years old). Here are five books you can read for the fall that might ignite a conversation:
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Highly Illogical Behavior follows sixteen-year-old Solomon and chronicles his struggles with his agoraphobia. Solomon starts working with another student, Lisa, who's determined to "fix" him as a way to get herself into a top notch psychology program for college. As their friendship develops over the course of the novel, Printz Award-winning author John Corey Whaley offers a look into living with agoraphobia and social anxiety in a way that doesn't feel hackneyed or forced.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Challenger Deep is almost two novels in one, both centered on high schooler Caden Bosch. In the imaginary world he's created for himself, Caden is on a ship on an expedition to the deepest point on earth, Challenger Deep, located in the Pacific Ocean. He's the crew's resident artist, tasked with recording their journey through the water.
However, back in reality, Caden is a brilliant student whose odd and idiosyncratic behavior is drawing some attention and concern from his friends and family. Shusterman does an expert job of weaving these two stories together to depict Caden's descent into a serious mental illness. Challenger Deep doesn't sugarcoat the experience, and that's one of its biggest strengths.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anderson's Wintergirls is widely touted as one of the best depictions of eating disorders in literature, and with good reason. Readers are dropped into the world of Lia Overbrook as she tries to process the death of her ex-best friend, Cassie, all while fighting her own battles with anorexia and self-harm.
Be forewarned: this New York Times-bestselling novel is a tough read. It's raw, emotional, and sometimes exhausting. It could potentially be a "trigger" novel, so it's best read within a group environment where it can discussed and processed appropriately.
Cut by Patricia McCormick
Cut is another tough read, though it's received heaps of praise within the mental health community for its approach. Set in a residential treatment facility, Cut tells the story of Callie, a girl struggling with self harm. While all residential facilities are different, Cut does a fantastic job of describing some common experiences, and it makes both the novel and its narrator Callie much more relatable.
Ultimately, Cut manages to be a very hopeful novel, and confronts some very important truths about disclosure, self-reflection, and the positives that can come out of a group- or individual- therapy environment.
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Despite being 10 years old this year, Ned Vizzini's novel remains one of the best books on mental illness in young adults. Inspired by Vizzini's personal experiences, It's Kind of a Funny Story centers around 16-year-old Craig Gilner and his treatment in a residential psychiatric hospital.
What's perhaps most unique about this novel is its focus on mental health and mental illness in terms of peer relationships. Craig doesn't just struggle with his own thoughts and feelings, but also how others (ranging from his friends to his family) will view him. It's honest, and it's an issue that rarely gets attention. Even though Craig learns to function really well within the hospital, there's a whole world waiting for him that might not be as accepting.
Let's Talk Politics, Part 2
By: Tyler Adams, Development & Communications Associate
The long-awaited day is finally here. Today is Election Day.
Today millions of voters across the country will cast their vote for the next President, and I hope you are one of them. Don’t forget there are down-ballot races and initiatives that are just as important!
In part two of the “Let’s Talk Politics Tour,” Amy and I sat down with a group of young people at Tempo Young Adult Resource Center in Framingham. Tempo is an outstanding community-based resource that seeks to connect at-risk young adults facing life’s greatest challenges to support and services.
Tempo’s young adults are concerned about the outcome of this election and how it could affect them personally.
Jake (we invited them to choose their own names for the story) is most concerned about foreign policy, and the role the United States plays in international affairs. He is optimistic that the next President will be able to work collectively with our allies abroad to maintain world peace, as well as ensuring environmental protections to reduce our impact.
Lola is most passionate about equality for women. She strongly believes that the United States’ laws governing maternity leave, family leave and extended sick leave need to be updated, and she is optimistic that the next President will be able to bridge the gap between genders.
JJ is concerned about how the election will influence young people experiencing homelessness, as well as labor laws and minimum wage: real issues that impact his life personally.
JJ has spent the majority of his life living in shelters. He wishes that there were more shelters for single men and fathers. Additionally, he would like to see the minimum wage increased to accommodate the standard of living needed to support himself and his family.
Being a first-generation United States citizen, Angelique, and her brother, Onix, are worried about citizen status.
She says that the rhetoric and stereotypes often placed on latin(x) people are disparaging to an entire culture. Profoundly, Angelique believes that this extreme viewpoint is created when people are scared of the unknown, which tends to encourage them to make exaggerated claims.
Just as important as voting for President or down-ballot races, there are four ballot initiatives in MA which require at least 50% public support to pass.
On the issue of ballot initiatives, they are well-informed and educated about the pros and cons of each, weighing how it may affect them personally, as well as society as a whole.
The young adults viewed Question 1, which would allow for the creation of additional slots-only casinos, as an individual and business’ choice. Similar to an individual’s right to buy and consume alcohol and cigarettes, they believe that people should be allowed to engage in legal gambling, which is an added revenue source for the state.
Question 2, which would allow the state to create up to 12 new charter schools each year, was the most engaging ballot question. Considering the majority of the group attended charter school in Framingham, they spoke highly about its curriculum and ability to teach hands-on subjects and experiences.
Allanah spoke to the skills she was taught in charter school, and how she has built on that knowledge to support herself.
Question 3, which would allow for more free space for certain farm animals was generally viewed as the humane thing to do, but the overall concern was based on how small farmers would be able to afford upgrades.
Consequently, this move would also increase the price of food, which would have an adverse affect on those that may not be able to afford healthier or organic options. Jake says, “Animals are cute, but no one really wants to know what happens to their food, or really cares once it is on your plate.”
Question 4, which would allow for the recreational legalization of marijuana, was also viewed as individual’s choice. Legalizing marijuana will cut into the black market and allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana.
Although the majority favored legalization, there was also a clear distinction between recreational and medical use, and the idea that once anything is legalized, it is up to the individual to make the best, and healthiest personal choices, or suffer the legal consequences.
Overall, the group was informed, educated and understood how an election can impact their lives personally. Not surprisingly, all 7 of them are registered to vote, and have already voted, or had made a plan to vote.
No matter the outcome of the election on November 8th, I am optimistic for the future of our country after speaking with informed and thoughtful young adults about Election 2016!
Thank you to STEPS at 12 Prescott in Arlington, as well as Tempo in Framingham, for organizing and hosting this discussion. A special, big thank you to all of the young adults that participated!
Let's Talk Politics, Part 1
By: Tyler Adams, Development & Communications Associate
The upcoming presidential election has spurred a lot of feelings about politics. Everyone has an opinion, but certain voices don’t seem to be taken seriously.
Young adults, who now comprise the largest voting bloc in the country, are often dismissed by elected officials and adults alike.
They are portrayed in the media as being misinformed, inexperienced, apathetic and entitled. As a millennial myself, I rebuke those labels, and as a result, set out to speak with actual young adults here at Wayside to find out what they think about Election 2016 and politics in general.
I brought Amy Hogarth with me, as she has lots of experience running groups and getting youth to speak up.
The first stop on the “Let’s Talk Politics Tour” was STEPS Young Adult Resource Center, a warm and inviting setting where at-risk young adults are able to connect to support and resources, like food, job development and housing.
I was thrilled to find that all of the young adults in the group are registered to vote, and planned to do so in this election. However, Mr. T (we asked the young adults to choose their own names for this article) echoed the sentiments of a lot of young adults: “Does my vote really matter? What about the electoral college deciding the outcome?”
In short, yes, your vote absolutely matters, and it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. I cannot stress that enough. No young person should take that right for granted, and if every young adult showed up to the polls in November, millennials would sway the outcome of the election by their sheer numbers!
Civics lesson 101: The Electoral College casts their vote for President based upon the popular vote in your state! They ideally follow the will of the majority of the people! That's why voting is a crucial civic duty not to be neglected!
What about the issues? What do young people really care about? Well, Mr. T is concerned about international affairs, hoping that the international community, and our next President, can work together to secure a healthy and prosperous future.
Cristiana, who self-identifies as a “gay woman, racial minority, and homeless young adult,” says she is highly impacted by who is elected, and the laws and policies they institute. She is worried about access to healthcare, reproductive rights, religious liberty, citizen status, racism, classism and access to mental healthcare, to name a few.
I was struck at how respectful the young adults were even when they disagreed.
Ice Cube says he is concerned about welfare, mostly providing support and resources for those who cannot help themselves. Cristiana has a somewhat differing view, believing that “welfare holds you back in a sense” and it should be about “helping people get back on their feet” and then providing the skills to support themselves
It was refreshing to see young adults engaged in the political process, actively questioning and criticizing motives and policy, all while remaining considerate to one another despite sometimes holding conflicting views.
I asked them to imagine that the two Presidential candidates are standing in front of them. What would they want them to know? The responses were thoughtful:
“Please listen to what people are saying.”
I’ll leave you with this: political discourse is healthy, but being respectful of others’ opinions is even healthier.
Cristiana echoed the sentiments best by saying “Everyone has a voice, and we need to learn to love."
The First Question
By: Sean Gilpatrick
First impressions are important. That's true pretty much all over, but in this line of work, they're especially crucial. When you're entering someone's home, asking really personal questions and expecting genuine answers, your first impression matters a lot simply because you might not get a second chance. I'm trying to establish a relationship with someone I've just met, and especially with kids, I might be working with someone who never asked my help in the first place. That's tough.
So how can I try and build a rapport? With the statements I make and, more importantly, the questions I ask. You can send a lot of messages with the asking of a question, and I try to take full advantage of that. I want the kids I work for to know exactly that: that I work for them. So the first question I ask is always the same: What's important to you, right now?
The "to you" part sometimes comes as surprise. For a lot of the kids, it's not a question they hear often. Sometimes "helping" adults can come across as more prescriptive than intended; with it feeling to kids like they are telling the kid what they should be doing. It can come off as: Here is what's important to you, and here is what we have to do during our time together. And, unsurprisingly, that can feel pretty alienating. My goal is to try and ease that feeling, because my job isn't to just give out the answers (because, believe me, I don't have them all). Instead, I'm aiming for a dialogue, one where we're working together, as a team, because ultimately that's what works. It's a lot easier to guide someone through a maze than it is to drag them behind you when they didn't want to go in the first place.
As social workers, a large number of the questions we ask during that first meeting are for us. We have assessments that need to be completed, histories that need to be taken, and releases we need signed. And even though these necessary items are critical for any number of reasons it can feel uncomfortable discussing the past when we're here to move toward the future. By asking this question first, I want the kids I work for to know that, in my role, their priorities are my priorities. Yes, I'll have to ask questions for myself later, and yes, sometimes the focus will be on something that seems trivial or unimportant. But the first question sets the tone: I'm here to help you in your goals.
And I like the immediacy of it. A lot of the kids I work with have a lot of things going on, and it's tough to really put those things in order of importance. This first question is designed to (hopefully) cut through that. By asking it, what I want to know is, what's going on right now that we need to address before we get to work on anything else? Because that's where the work is. The kids I work with are smart, and if they're telling me that the issue is really x when everyone else is saying it's y, I need to believe them.
I like "right now," too. I want to frame the conversation around what we can get done in the moment. We all have goals, some we can accomplish by the end of the day and others that'll take years at least. But we have to start somewhere. And we might as well start with what's pressing.
Someone much smarter than me once told me that social work isn't about giving out the answers, but being curious enough to find them. I believe that. I believe that I need to convey that message as soon as I can. And I believe that the questions you ask are sometimes more important than the statements you make.
So I'll keep asking this question. And I'll keep asking it first.
Why I Love Halloween on the Wayside Campus
By: Sara McCabe, Campus Director
Every year beginning in September, or honestly, mid-August, we start the planning of the annual Wayside Campus Halloween Dance. Since this is still summer time and the weather is warm, this is usually met with eye rolling and smirks from the other Campus managers. No one wants to think about Halloween in the summer. No one, except for me. We reluctantly pick a date and book a DJ and then… we wait. And what happens during the next two months is the most exciting thing to witness.
Everyone starts to get excited, and I mean REALLY excited. The Kitchen staff begins planning their spooky treats, the Maintenance department works endlessly at decorating and getting us set up, the Program Directors start to plan their costumes, the Clinicians start to organize activities and games, the two Day programs start spreading the word and drumming up excitement, and best of all….the kids begin to look forward to an awesome night of fun! Every year it happens the same way.
The Halloween dance has been a tradition for the last 8 years. We get lots of decorations, lights, food, costumes, music, and more candy than we know what to do with! It’s definitely no secret around here that I love Halloween but I am not sure people really know why.
Until I started writing this blog, I don’t think I ever explained what this holiday means to me. This holiday means kids get to be kids. Truth be told, they don’t get many opportunities for that. This is one holiday where they don’t have to feel the pressure of not being at home with their families. They don’t have to feel the stress of buying gifts for their loved ones or missing out on a big family meal at Thanksgiving. Holidays in residential are so hard for the kids. Even though we try our hardest every year to give them the best holiday possible, we cannot fully understand or heal the grief they experience from not being at home. Halloween though…is different.
This is the one night where they get to dress up, dance, play games, hang out with friends, eat candy, act silly, and experience what it’s like to be an adolescent. It is the one night they get to forget about being in residential treatment. It’s an opportunity for us to provide them with a normal childhood experience. It’s a chance for our staff to dress up and act silly with the kids. That’s why we do the dance every year. Even though I get eye rolling and smirks in August, I know in just a few months it turns into something wonderful.
So why do I love Halloween on this Campus? Because I get to witness 80+ kids and staff sharing in a collective experience of having fun. It’s that simple. There are hundreds of moments in any one year that make me love the work we do at Wayside. This just happens to be on the top of my list…8 years and counting.
By: Amy Hogarth,
Director of Agency Recruitment and Talent
I feel I should begin with an apology to Marisa for some of the less than positive thoughts I had about her while running the 5K. Upon waking up to the pouring rain, I may or may not have yelled out Marisa’s name, as if she had endeavored to create the climate. However, I am in my nature a “make the best of things kind of gal,” so I pulled my curls into pig tails and got ready to run.
When I went to the booth to get my number (118 in case you want to order a jersey), the person signing me up pointed to a sheet with my AGE on it and asked if it was correct. I will be speaking to Marisa about this later. Why does anyone need to know my age? I efforted to ensure a vow from this person that she was sworn to lifelong secrecy. She then said “I would have guessed you were 35.” I pledged to her that she was my new, finest friend. Then- well,
I started to run.
First, there were some dastardly thoughts as I was trying to regulate my breathing and settle in for the run. My mind then went to Lori – who has been training for the 5K since the summer. I didn’t see her, but I knew she was there because that’s how people are at Wayside; if they say they are going to do a thing, they do the thing! When I thought about us running on the same road, it brought a smile to my face.
My cranky thought slowly quieted as often happens when I run, as if there was a clearing in my mind.
I thought about my own Mom whom I lost when I was younger than 35 leaving me with a longing for that complicated relationship. She died of a heart attack. I started to work at Wayside when I was 9 months away from being a pack a day smoker.
I am grateful to work at agency that we get to raise funds for our programs; we don’t put on fancy dresses. Instead, we put on sneakers and show up even when it’s raining.
Heart health is not a small thing, it is what allows us to keep going.
I loved an artist once, who often made drawings of the heart. Not the swoopy valentine heart, but rather the drawings and paintings that depicted the organ of the heart with valves, curves, caverns, and cells all helping us to breathe. The heart in this fashion looks like an alien or sea creature or flower gone awry. The heart when you see it as a picture is not beautiful.
It rests right in the middle of us.
I thought about hearts because it represents the middle of the human, and that is the basis of the work that we do at Wayside.
I also do clinical work at Wayside, just a bit- not as rigorously required of the over 110 full time clinicians we have at Wayside. This is the thing though, clinical work is almost always about two things: letting go of what is no longer of service to you AND claiming that that emboldens you to be you. That work is hearty, often brave and immeasurably surprising. The youth and families can be doing some real uphill work. Facing things that are difficult, important and lacking answers that can be found in the mind; they are located only in the heart. I wondered then why this organ heart painting was the one made over and over -but now that I am over 35- I think I know why.
This is a depiction of what the heart must do. The organ of the heart is not beautiful but what we can do with the heart, and with others- walking with them until they can run – (or fly!) That is so magnificent!
We do work of the heart at Wayside; it’s a wholehearted, show up and be a part of things even when all of the hearts have unseen and untold pathways, but together they beat as one, and remind us to move on.
So, once again, all of my complaints of rain and running seemed to melt away as I relished how lucky I am to work with folks with undeniably amazing and beautiful hearts!
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted October 6, 2016
Lori Schwartz, Assistant Clinical Director at the Wayside Campus, went to Wayside's 5K4Kids last October, for the first time.
She cheered on her colleagues who crossed the finish line, some running, some walking, but all satisfied that they had accomplished their goal. She was there to watch and take it all in, have coffee and donuts, and, as we all dreamed, to win the $5KGetaway raffle (she didn't win).
This year, Lori will be one of those crossing the finish line.
Lori said, “I am not usually a runner - my colleagues are runners - but I was motivated to run because it was more than just raising money.”
We will get back to that in a moment. I asked, “How has the training been?”
“I hate it, every minute of it, but I’m doing it,” Lori responded. She used the Couch to 5K plan and she started training in July.
I asked the obvious question: "What made you do it?"
“Well, it’s the kids,” Lori said (That’s the “more than just raising money” part!). “They don’t want to do something. Sometimes it is a struggle; they need a lot of support from staff at Wayside, their family... Yet, when they accomplish and achieve self-esteem and personal growth it’s really something!” She continued...“There was this client who was very anxious to do physical activity, which I understood so well because I was that kid who pretended to have asthma so I could stay out of gym and no one pushed me. So, with this client I used exposure therapy with her and eventually she was moving."
This is the thing at Wayside – there are no hypocrites here. We ask you to do it and we do it too.
If we push you, we are also pushing ourselves. Everyone here has our hearts in it.
We are all in this run thing, 5K thing, and life thing- together.
Have YOU registered for the 5K4Kids yet? Click here to get started.
By Sean Gilpatrick
Posted September 29, 2016
We were in a warehouse in Brighton, surrounded by thousands of pounds of donated clothing, and we were in the middle of a debate. At the Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory, all of those donated clothes need to be sorted by gender, by age, and by size. And it sounds easy enough, until the four kids on either side of you tell you those jeans you just put in the ‘boys’ pile are clearly, obviously, for girls. And even with my lackluster sorting ability, it was clear that our group was going well. Really well. It's tough to remember in the moment, but these kinds of groups are part of a concentrated effort by Wayside to provide a service that's tough to replicate elsewhere.
In the past year alone (August 2015 through August 2016), Wayside Waltham has run 19 different community-based groups serving an estimated 81 kids. Since January, the Wayside Campus has held an additional 25 youth support groups, all of which take kids off campus grounds and into the community. And Wayside's Saturday Club (a recurring youth support group based out of Framingham and Watertown) has held 30 different group sessions during the last school year. All of the groups are supported and funded through the Department of Mental Health.
I've co-led a number of these groups myself, so I've gotten to see what makes these programs so unique. And here's what I've learned:
Mental health doesn't fit into neat little boxes, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. And Wayside's groups reflect that: our agency has run youth support groups based around a number of different topics. Our groups have gone on community outings ranging from creating and custom-making bath products to promote self care to cooperative questing where kids must work together to accomplish a shared goal.
We've run groups focused on girls' self-esteem, exploring our state parks, and even learning to play the guitar—the latter as a way to help build new skills and interests for youth who are having difficulty identifying and engaging in positive activities. Some of our groups are even run as volunteer groups, where our kids give back to the community by volunteering their time at places like the Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory—all the while helping them build empathy for others. Some groups are highly structured, and others are somewhat more informal. By offering such diverse options, the idea is that kids can find something tailored more toward their own interests. It also allows us to meet the needs of the most diverse set of kids who might benefit from such a service.
And even with the variations, there are some constants. Each group is staffed by at least two Wayside clinicians, and the number of participants usually ranges from four to twelve. And while the individual group activities might vary (volunteer at an animal shelter, explore the beach and a sandcastle competition, solve a live-action adventure puzzle), there is a uniting theme that runs through all of them: the focus is on bringing youth together in a shared experiential way, to help them build skills or enhance skills that can help them become their “best selves.”
It's About Connection
The 'peer' part of the peer youth support group is incredibly important. Being a part of a group offers a chance to make some organic connections with other kids. There's a sense of shared experience, that these groups offer a safe space for kids who might not otherwise have access to one. And it works.
But it's not just about peer connection either. It's an unfortunate truth that a lot of children we work for aren't able to attend the traditional summer or after school programs. For some, conventional camps aren't an option, sports leagues won't work, and there just isn't anything else available. And it's tough to feel connected to a larger community when it's difficult to, well, go out and be in it. These groups provide an opportunity for kids to explore their communities, to connect with the places they live in, in a safe and supportive space.
Our experience has shown that of the kids who participate in one of Wayside's community youth support groups, about one in four will attend at least one other group within the year, but usually more. That kind of recurrence is vital to building those peer connections, and it's a clear message that these groups are doing something right. And parents agree, calling these groups a "great opportunity for our child to socialize, work on peer relationships, and try new things," and an "awesome experience for my child."
Wayside already has an ambitious schedule for new groups for the next calendar year, and I hope I'll get to co-lead more of them in the future. They definitely work for the families we serve, and they provide some unique opportunities for the kids we work for.
And hey, maybe I'll even get better at sorting clothes.
A Special Series by Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted September 29, 2016
My first job, of the four I’ve held at Wayside Youth & Family Support Network, was to be the Program Director of a residential program before the Wayside Campus existed and before the Wayside 5K4Kids Run/Walk was even conceived.
We were a scrappy team of folks who wanted to do residential care, and to do it thoroughly and well. I was smart enough to have hired many Type A personalities.
So, after our first year as a team we thought we might stretch ourselves to do a small fundraiser for our program. I –stupidly, and without any thought to who was on my team- asked, “What should we do?”
One of the supervisors, a regular long-distance runner, said, “What if we do a run to raise money and awareness for the program?” I laughed out loud. I was not a runner, and at that point in my life I was not particularly interested in exercise at all.
The supervisor was joined by other zealots- folks who honored and appreciated the effects of exercise. However, that is not what convinced me.
It was when one of my team members, a 24-year-old smoker, said the dreaded but irresistible statement: “Amy, if you run, I'll run.”
They had me.
What would any good leader do? So, I “trained” for months, which consisted of running driven purely by the fuel of showing my team I could do it. Well, I really obsessed about how I might stay alive during the run.
We made t-shirts. We raised money, although I don’t remember how much now.
I learned about being able to see the possibility in a new venture and not being concerned with appearance, because I am a flap-runner. You know what I mean… my arms flap, my feet flap. It is not the least bit graceful.
I had to let the staff and our young female clients see me leave to “train” with the other team members. Some rainy afternoons my team would all go for a run and show back up as the girls were getting off the bus. The look on the faces of the adolescent girls as we ran back in (well, some us may have been walking briskly) - that look made it worthwhile, for the most part.
I have a cowardly heart about exercise in general; however, it is impossible- just impossible- to be afraid or gutless around Wayside staff. They are brave, wholehearted people. That’s what they bring every day to, and for, the kids and families we serve. They know (even when I don’t) that our kids and families show up to work through fears, pain and challenging hills and they keep at it. If the youth and their families can show up for that, and if the team can, then … well, so can I!
A Special Series by Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted September 20, 2016
I love working for Wayside. The work is busy, change making, creative work. The people are fun, zealously hardworking and effortlessly kind. There’s one thing that is a trial for me.
Wayside's 7th Annual 5K4Kids Run/Walk takes place on Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the Walsh Middle School in Framingham. Since its launch in 2010, the 5K4Kids has raised $400,000 to help children, young adults and families in Wayside's community. To register for the event (or sponsor someone like ME!!!), check out our event website here.
It’s completely Marisa‘s fault. She came up with the concept. Marisa Rowe is the Director of Development & Communications here at Wayside. She is smart and creative and excellent at her job with the exception of this harebrained idea.
Why not a Yogathon?
Or a Readathon?
Or a coffee drinking contest ? (5$ for every cup you drink!)
I’d be GRAND at those...
I’m going to say it. The darn running.
I like walks. I appreciate Netflix. I receive pleasure from books.
I do not find Running to be an enjoyable endeavor.
Well, I find running hard.
There is the pace, the moving of the legs up and down, the sweating and something happens in my back that seems like something backs aren't supposed to do. For a while I foot-slapped – I literally would slap the road as if I were saying “Good job road!” with my feet. This then really hurts the knees.
I find Cardio mean.
I also have almost no arch in my feet.
Little known fact - I have seriously gorgeous feet. I have the feet of a Princess or a Queen. They are my best feature.
This is why I could not be a dancer because it would have decimated “my greatest beauty" (It's also possible that my nearly complete lack of rhythm and tone understanding could have been a factor).
However, I have fragile feet. They don’t like too much wear and tear.
They want to be treated gently, kindly with care; they do not feel running supports their royal qualities.
Run I will.
Because people have already contributed to my fund. So. I don’t want to have to give the money back (Awkward!).
I am almost ready to start running.
I have thought about it quite a bit.
Just yesterday I missed my yoga class (again this was Marisa’s fault as our meeting ran late).
So, I said “maybe I’ll go for a run!”
I returned home at 6:30pm and the light in the sky was simply smashing.
My little dachshund and my terrier (Maude & Rusty) ran at me with true fever of love.
So their energy was in the mood for a run.
We had lamb stew for dinner and Netflix.
"Maybe I’ll run tomorrow," I thought.
The 5K is in 38 days.
I have time.
By Sean Gilpatrick, Wayside Social Worker & Clinician
Posted September 6, 2016
It happened on my first meeting with a new family, during that awkward phase where I try to ask some get-to-know-you questions of a child while a parent fills out intake paperwork. I made a comment on this young boy's hat, a weathered Patriots cap, and his face lit up. “You’re a football fan?” he said. "Do you want to see my jersey collection?” Of course I did.
All across New England, there are countless closets stuffed with Patriots merchandise, from t shirts to sweatshirts to jerseys. And for this young boy, it was especially true. A Rob Gronkowski jersey? Check. A Julian Edelman t shirt? Check. What about Tom Brady? Two of them.
But, right in the middle of the red, white, and Patriots blue, there was something I never expected to see: a jersey for the Pats’ biggest rival, the New York Jets. So I had to ask, why that one? And the answer was simple and immediate: “It’s Brandon Marshall’s, because he’s just like me."
Now star wide receiver Brandon Marshall is 6’4”, 224 pounds, and is set to make just under $10 million this year playing for the Jets. This 10-year-old is… not. I was scrambling to think about some way, any way, that this boy could relate to Marshall, but I couldn't. And he must’ve seen my face, because he explained before I had a chance to ask. “He has a mental health diagnosis, just like I do.”
Marshall has been very outspoken about his struggle with his own mental health, and has been a staunch advocate for an often-overlooked segment of the population. He's worn special green cleats on the field to promote mental health awareness month, even after the NFL threatened to (and did) fine him for doing so. And this ten-year-old kid wanted nothing more than to tell me all about it.
And that really stuck with me. When I was his age, with my own scant collection of sports memorabilia, it wasn't hard for me to see myself reflected in my heroes. It wasn't hard for me to find role models, to imagine myself in their place. It wasn't hard to find people like me doing the things I wanted to do. So it's easy to forget that not everyone gets that same representation. And it's important, especially for children.
For those struggling with mental health, there aren't a ton of reflections out there, let alone positive ones. Our news and media repeat and reinforce the message that mental health issues aren't just abnormal, they're scary and dangerous. For kids, especially those coping with their own mental health issues, it's tough to come away feeling that mental health is anything but terrifying. After all, even Batman's villains are sent away to Arkham Asylum, a "home for the insane."
It shouldn't be surprising that Brandon Marshall's story resonated so strongly with this boy. Marshall's not a perfect person, but he's real. He's fighting the same battle as this child, and he isn't painted like some Batman villain. And that kind of representation, that kind of role model, transcends the superficial things like regional sports boundaries.
Ever since that meeting when I first saw that jersey, I've been looking for more positive reflections of those living with a mental illness. It's important to me to have an answer when my clients say that they feel alone, or that it feels like no one else struggles the way they do. And it's important for the children I work with to know that there's a future for them, a real one, even if it's hard to see at that moment.
The representation matters. The visibility matters. The jersey in the closet matters. And now, I can’t help but see Brandon Marshall the way this boy does: somebody he can look up to, somebody with a future, somebody inspiring, somebody real.
Somebody just like him.
By Tyler Adams, Communications & Development Associate
Posted August 11, 2016
The month of August produces a lot of feelings...and sweat! It’s bittersweet for the kids because summer vacation is ending and school is just around the corner I’m sure we all have memories from our days of going back to school, whether it is a last minute beach vacation or shopping the weekend before for that “perfect” new school outfit.
Do you remember your first day of grade school? What about Middle school? How about High School? Do you remember what you wore that first day? What you had for lunch?
Going back to school can be daunting for a lot of young people Life can be hard enough, but between classes, homework, and trying to maintain a school-life balance, it can also be overwhelming.
So, we decided to go right to the experts – the kids!– and ask for some advice to share with other students facing a new school year. We sat down with some of the students at Wayside Academy and asked them about their experiences of going back to school.
Perhaps meeting at 8:30am in the classroom to talk about school life doesn’t produce the most stimulating conversation, but it became a lot livelier when we began talking about the Olympics.
Personally, I’ve never been one for watching the Olympics, although I can appreciate the hard work, dedication and practice that go into their art- much like schooling. Chris, John and Amanda have been enjoying watching the Olympics. John likes to play basketball and run, but he says “I don’t like to say I enjoy running, because then people will think I do track, and I don’t do track!”
John is looking forward to participating in our 7th annual 5K4Kids on October 22 at Walsh Middle School in Framingham. In fact, he’s going to take home the gold in his bracket!
Much like the Olympics, school takes a lot of hard work and practice. Just as Simone Biles gets scored on her landing, in school you get graded on learning new things.
Just like Olympic athletes have phenomenal accomplishments, the students at Wayside Academy have also made significant strides. Chris says school is what he is most proud of achieving. He says, “I’ve turned my life around. I’m keeping up my grades.” He says, “Clothes and bags are important to kids, but school supplies, backpacks, [books] are what is most important to teachers.”
When asked about what advice he would give someone heading back to school, he says, “Make a mental note of your teachers, classes, and projects....carry a binder and stay organized.”Amanda offered a philosophical worldview of what is needed for school...yourself!
I think they may be on to something here whether intentional or not. It’s one thing to be physically present at school or work, but there is a difference from being there and really being there and making a positive contribution.
Of course, it is not all about the serious things in life. We have to learn to laugh at ourselves, because embarrassing things happen to us. My most embarrassing school story involves a bathroom mishap in the first grade that required my dad to pick me up with a new pair of pants. Marisa says her most embarrassing school story was the day she accidentally wore pajamas to school and was teased.
Chris also had an embarrassing wardrobe experience. He made his dad buy him a leather jacket, sunglasses and hair gel combo, and he thought he looked really cool going to school. He was even directed to the upper-grade classrooms, which made him feel even cooler. He soon realized that maybe the leather jacket wasn’t that fashionable anymore, unfortunate for a day with temperatures in the 70s. I’m sure we can all think of that one embarrassing moment that haunts us several years later, even into adulthood.
So as we head back to school and into another year, remember the words of wisdom from some terrific teens at Wayside:
- Be present.
- Be organized- know your teacher, classroom, and schedule!
- Keep a binder to stay organized.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Have a support network in place.
- Clothes are really not that important.
- Set goals, and check how you’re doing.
- Make a schedule- and stick to it!
- Appreciate your teachers, and caregivers!
- Challenge yourself to have new experiences and meet new people!
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted July 28
Wayside employs more than 450 staff who provide a wide variety of counseling, residential treatment and family services to over 5,000 children, youth and families each year. The work is complex and challenging – and sometimes we need a reminder to pause and reflect on the positive impact we make on folks each and every day.
Every summer at Wayside we gather for a Staff Appreciation Event. It has had several evolutions over our almost 40 years. For one stretch of years, we gave out staff awards; but now we do that at our December All Staff meeting. Some years there’s a barbecue and in others we’ve had pizza. It is almost always hot and there is never enough shade. There are often games- I remember a softball game when – to my great shock – my bat hit the ball and I had to be told to run! Run the bases! It was quite thrilling to this non-athlete!
This year we hired a terrific DJ to keep things moving. The heat was brutal, but our DJ bounced around energetically, somehow convincing sweaty picnic-goers to play party games like a cake walk, trivia and some sort of thing with a sled. Each activity ended in laughter, as folks who usually do quite serious work got the chance to get silly.
People catch up, eat, tell stories, joke around and trash talk during competitions for which team is best at volleyball or trivia (or that sled thing).
Our annual summer event is a way to track time passing, to notice the past year but also all the years spent at Wayside.
At one point the DJ requested hands up from “anyone who has worked at Wayside for more than 15 years” and several showed up to collect a prize. Then we were asked “Who has worked her for less than a year?” Those folks collected prizes too.
We need both groups - our elder statesmen and our newcomers – to keep things moving with synergy and history mixing together toward a place where folks feel valued.
What I notice each year is Wayside’s culture.
I was in a meeting the other day with other nonprofits and someone said “Culture is what people really do.” And that resonated with me because it’s true. While the words we use to describe what we do and why we do it - our Mission, our Core Values, our Strategic Goals - are critically important to us, they don't precisely describe our culture.
Our culture is made up of a lot of voices with a lot of ideas; but more than that, it is made up of our actions.
To put this event together there is a committee. Let me tell you about this committee:
Alyssa just joined Wayside this spring and is one the committee. When Alyssa heard that folks who had been to event in the past did not find the bathrooms accessible to those with disabilities, she went to the event site and measured the bathrooms to see if they met ADA guidelines. They did not.
I am going to say it again because it bears repeating: She measured the bathrooms. So the park provided us with free fully-accessible bathrooms after she nicely let them know about this omission.
Richard, Wayside’s Facilities Director, saved the day repeatedly. Richard is the guy who keeps calm and carries on. He understands how all the pieces fit together in order to pull it all off. He also is a bit of a perfectionist. We needed numbers to play our version of a Cake Walk (Only cakes would have melted in the heat so we asked staff to make themed baskets to win in a “Basket Walk”). We discussed writing numbers on pieces of paper. Richard says “I’ll handle it.” He found stronger board and he had glossy numbers made. I may use the boards to wallpaper my new house they are so fine. It was perfect.
There was Marisa whose years and years of event planning helped us newbies keep things as simple as possible, while remembering all the picky little details that make these things go smoothly (Tape and scissors! Bubbles are fun and easy! Create a schedule and a plan! Cakes will melt, baskets are better!)
There was Tina who showed up at all the meetings to plan and with her kid in tow ran the welcome table.
Jodie decided to forgo bringing her own family to the event so she could be our photographer and the pictures she took show better than anything the Wayside Culture: colleagues and families talking, playing and laughing. Everyone looks so beautiful.
There was David Sebastian who created over 100 beautiful airbrush tattoos!
I think that is because when you belong you can be open. You can risk and grow.
This is Wayside’s culture: people do the things that need to be done.
Further, they do it better, with more care, with real creativity and with absolute passion for this thing we all have. This commitment to the families we are privileged to serve and to each other, this community that holds on to each other.
As for me, I have made my way in lots of communities. I moved a lot as a kid, and traveled a lot too. This taught me how to shift into a new group. I was often trying to find my way into belonging. It’s this part of me that I think resonates with Wayside. We work with lots of people who are exploring how and where they belong and our work is show up for them with kindness and accompany them on whatever path they take. We see them, we support them, and we serve them to strive on.
We can do this because that is how we as staff are treated. We are seen, because someone measures the bathrooms! We are supported because someone welcomes us to the event!
And our work is recognized and treated with respect by having a Wayside Staff Appreciation Event together in the company of a culture of individuals with huge hearts who share awe for what we all can do together.
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted July 6, 2016
Children who have experienced loss or trauma need stability. They thrive on structure, routines and clear instructions. And here at Wayside, we provide a highly-structured therapeutic program so that our youth can heal and grow.
However, what is harder to provide for our youth are certain types of experiences that we think of as almost universal in childhood. While many of us recall days where our parents would say, “It’s a beautiful day – go outside” and we would spend hours roaming around outdoors having adventures big and small, it’s not that simple in a program where kids need to stay safe.
Our wonderful Wayside staff are passionate about finding creative ways to create special childhood experiences to the kids we serve.
This is a story about one of those times.
One summer, a team of Wayside staff decided to take a group of 16 girls camping in the mountains, a new experience for all of them.
One of those girls had just arrived and had only been with us for three days when we planned to leave.
Andi (not her real name) had had a really rough start to her stay with us.
There was concern that she wasn’t up to the trip.
But we knew that this trip would help Andi heal.
So, we all piled into vans and headed to the mountains.
We got there and played games outside all afternoon. The girls grew tired from running and yelling and hearing the echo of their voices in this grand space. Their radiant faces reflected the sunlight and their cheeks were flushed from running.
The next morning we gathered to hike up the mountain.
For a moment, as we stood in line gazing up at the height of the peak, the climb seemed impossible. Andi threw down her backpack and said “forget it” and stormed off.
Moments later, she was back and without a word, put on her backpack and got in line.
And she did it. We did it. We climbed a mountain.
As we drove back, we heard a quiet voice from the back softly remark: “I can’t believe I climbed a mountain.”
When we returned to Wayside, Andi painted a picture on the swinging door into the kitchen of a line of people with many colors climbing a mountain.
Every time the girls went through the door there was a burst of color and the memory of when we did something special.
Andi stayed with us for six months and never forgot that trip.
When she was ready to leave, Andi said: “That mountain climb? Well, that was something.”
Dear Members of the Wayside Community,
Today I am horrified, as are all of you, at the terrible mass murder in Orlando, Florida, over this weekend. The targeting of an LGBTQ nightclub, possibly in response to the shooter witnessing two men’s affection a few days earlier, is a frightening reminder that homophobia is still ever-present and real. The additional fact that a man was arrested on his way to the Los Angeles Gay Pride Event with a car full of weapons, underscores even further the fragility of the social gains the gay community has made in recent years.
This shooting was the largest killing ever in the US. Make no mistake, this was a crime of hate. While there are other important issues involved, such as terrorism and the shooter’s identification with ISIS; the continued availability of military weapons to the general public; and the killer’s significant history of domestic violence, the message that this happened at an LGBTQ nightclub is unavoidable. People are still not safe to love who they love.
Wayside offers a wide range of programs and services designed to help at-risk children, youth and families. Viewing this tragedy through the lens of those we serve, we understand that this act of violence and hate is especially traumatic to those who are already marginalized and vulnerable. This February, Wayside’s Diversity Committee hosted an excellent agency-wide training by Colby Swettberg
on working with LGBTQ youth and their families. These folks will need our help and support even more now.
I am grateful to the MetroWest Health Foundation
for its recent grant allowing Wayside to partner with Out MetroWest
to bring clinical consultation and counseling to the young people they support. Out MetroWest is an organization devoted to enriching the LGBTQ community in MetroWest Boston and the larger world through programming, education, and advocacy.
If we can provide support or assistance, please refer to Wayside’s website for our location nearest you: www.waysideyouth.org.
Below are some national resources as well.
Eric L. Masi, Ed.D
President & CEO
Ways to help the survivors and victims of the Orlando mass shooting
1. Support organizations working with the impacted community:
2. Reach out to friends and family in the LGBTQ Community. Be sensitive and accommodating to their particular needs, hurt and frustration during this difficult time.
3. Attend a Local Event: http://www.weareorlando.org/
The Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990. The Helpline can provide immediate counseling to anyone who needs help in dealing with the tragic event in Orlando Florida. The Helpline is a 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling after experiencing a natural or man-made disaster or tragedy.
National Resources for LGBTQ Community Members
www.lgbtcenters.org find listings of local LGBTQ community centers, check their websites for vigils and mental health services
www.glma.org find listings of local LGBTQ friendly providers
www.radremedy.org find listings of trans friendly health providers
www.psychologytoday.com therapist listings nationally
www.helpstartshere.org social worker listings nationally
www.translifeline.org trans specific support services
www.trevorproject.org -- LGBTQ youth specific support 24/7 - text START to the crisis text line for text support
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted June 2, 2016
When I was a little girl I was a bit anxious. I worried about my eight-year-old concerns as I was falling asleep: Would I remember my ice cream money? Would I have to stay seated in the front row all year (because I talked too much)? Could I get a tape recorder for my birthday?
And sometimes I grew nervous about what might or might not exist in the darkness of my pink gingham-curtained room.
So, I invented what I now know was a “relaxation technique.” I would think about Glinda the Good Witch from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ I was a fan. She seemed really chill, non-judgmental and super kind. I imagined she had a sister named Belinda and she, too, was this calming presence. I could summon her by opening my hands and she would appear in my imagination. I knew she took care of ice cream money, seating charts and wishes of 80’s technology. When I would tell my mind to think about Glinda, my whole body felt looser and less tense.
Sometimes I worry that we are teaching new generations to rely on digital media like tablets, smart phones and gaming devices to distract, to calm and to quiet down their brains.
Now, I am not against these types of gadgets at all.
In fact, when I was a kid, we often drove ten hours from Illinois to Georgia. I remember asking my Dad how much longer the trip would be and he would measure the increments of time in television shows. For example, “Three Dick Van Dyke Shows left” meant six hours and I would sigh and wish I were watching that instead of looking at Wisconsin cow patches as we whizzed past.
So, I get it that technology can be a great tool at times.
All kids need ways to relax and to self-soothe. The ability to self-soothe is a critical tool in regulating one’s emotions. While for some folks, self-soothing comes naturally, for others it needs to be taught.
Here are some techniques that I have found successful for children and adults:
- Deep Breathing Techniques: Take slow, deep breaths in through the nose. Hold for 2-5 seconds. Then, breathe slowly out through the nose. Repeat 10 times. One piece of advice never “assign deep breathing” when your kid is really upset, because that will create a resistance to it. This is an activity to be practiced when you are waiting for something, or sitting outside or giggling. Make the idea of it nurturing and fun. Here’s a video showing kids how to do it.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: another helpful stress reducer. Sit in a chair and tighten each body part- nose to toes and then relax it. So: First scrunch up your face very tightly then relax, then scrunch up your shoulders then relax, lift up your arms into a ‘T’ formation and make fists, then relax, maybe circle and swing the arms a bit, scrunch up your torso then relax, tighten the right and scrunch toes together and relax, then the same thing on the left leg. Then notice the breath in and out. Here’s a 5 minute video of guided progressive muscle relaxation:
- Positive Affirmations: Sit with a child who is under stress or has low self-esteem. Together, make a list of positive affirmations. They may seem silly but they work: an affirmation is, simply, positive self-talk. It’s a statement about ourselves or our situation, phrased in the present tense as if the statement is already true. The number of affirmations should not be greater than the kid’s age. I like to use markers and crayons to make the list pretty and colorful. Try to make the affirmations very real, very true and authentic. This will help. Then ask the youth to pick two to tell themselves each day, or say in the mirror. As a parent or a mentor you could both make lists and ask one another to spin though the positive affirmations whenever you need it! Here’s a video with some affirmations to get you started.
- Visualization is also known as visual guided imagery. This was what I was doing (unbeknownst to me) when I invented Glinda’s sister Belinda. I was picturing something that calmed and comforted me. With kids you can help them do this by asking them to pick a place, a person or an animal that is comforting. Help them create a story that appeals to them. Remind them they could bring it to their mind if they need a lift of their heart. Click here for an example.
I think the act of doing any of these with a kid is almost as helpful as the technique itself. By doing this you are teaching kids how to manage their own emotions and to practice self-care and self-soothing.
In today’s cluttered, crowded, noisy landscape, teaching children to self-soothe is a real gift. I encourage you to try some of these techniques with the children in your life!
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted May 26, 2016
| Ally Law, RN, BSN, & Dana Zais, LICSW
While nursing isn’t the first role we think about when we think about therapeutic treatment, it’s a critical service offered here at Wayside Campus, where more than 76 teens reside and an additional 40 come for day treatment and school. The Campus nursing staff provides for the physical health of our youth and ensures that they are up to date on their physicals, eye and hearing tests. They oversee medication distribution and the ongoing treatment/care of any health conditions among the kids in our care.
To learn more, I reached out to the Wayside Campus Nursing Director Ally Law with some questions.
Amy: What is one thing you wish folks knew about Nurses?
Ally: We don’t have all the answers all of the time, but we know how to get them for you. Nurses have specialties just like doctors. We learn most of what we know when we get out of school on the job. Ten (or 20) years ago when we were in school, we may have read the answer to your problem in a textbook. The best nurses I know are the ones who are able to admit they may not know but they will certainly find out for you!
Amy: How did you become a Nurse?
Ally: I imagine it was the typical reason you always hear, I wanted to help people and save the world. There were times along the way that I questioned my decision because my interests run deep. Only recently have I realized that being in this profession has taught me some of the most important lessons I will ever learn. Being a nurse has taught me resilience, persistence, patience, strength, empowerment and compassion. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Amy: Who is your role model? Why?
Ally: I have many role models in many different aspects of my life. I can find a role model waiting in line at the grocery check-out line having a conversation with the customer in front of me. Currently in my role at Wayside, I would say the people that work for me are my role models. I learn from them every day. They are incredible, strong, resilient, hard-working and dedicated. They are a small group who do enormous things on campus, most of which are behind the scenes. They are constantly striving to grow and improve, and they do it because it’s who they are, not because it’s a job. They motivate and challenge me every day to always strive to do better, to teach more and to inspire their development. They make me a better boss and for that I am always eternally grateful to my team. They are all role models to me.
Amy: Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Ally: I’m not sure there was one particular accomplishment that I could focus on that was the turning point in my career, but becoming someone’s supervisor was definitely a game changer. I think it was a slow progression in realizing my potential to change the course of people’s lives around me as much as I’ve been changed by them. I’ve become more present in my job, I listen to understand and I care deeply about what I do.
Amy: Tell me how being the Nursing Director on Wayside Campus is different from being a Nurse somewhere else?
Ally: I’ve never been a Nursing Director anywhere else. Wayside has been my home for 16 years, but I can tell you what I believe to be the difference. Here we rarely feel the word “no” is an option. My medical team reminds me of the scene in Apollo 13 where the engineers on the ground have to figure out how to make a square peg fit in a round hole using some duct tape and tubing in order to save Tom Hanks in space. We don’t always have the answers right away, and sometimes we don’t always have the resources that other facilities may have, but my team has the ability to think WAY outside the box. It’s not a rare occurrence that one of my staff come to me saying they solved a problem while running, or getting ready in the morning, or driving in their car. They are smart and they know how to problem solve like no one else I know. Try to tell them it can’t be done and they will figure out a way. The clients and families we serve are lucky to have them.
Amy: What’s your superpower?
Ally: Authenticity. What you see is what you get. I’m not saying it hasn’t gotten me in trouble a couple of times here or there, but for the most part it’s the foundation of who I am. People call me blunt, which is true, but in reality I am not hiding who I am. It’s what I try to teach the people who work for me. Be yourself, be confident, be vulnerable, be introspective and be real. Everything else we can work with if we feel comfortable being ourselves. It’s not always easy but it’s what makes every interaction you have genuine.
Amy: What were you like in high school?
Ally: The same I am today. Quiet and introverted on the outside and strong-willed on the inside. I was authentic, sensitive ….and again, blunt. If you asked me to tell you the truth back then I would, and everyone knew it. Oh, and did I forget stubborn?
Amy: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
Ally: I rode my bike across the country with my husband when I was 27. I had left Wayside after being here a year because I was unclear what I wanted to do with my life. I left without a job (you know, young and not very bright), and I was up late one night and wanted to think of something I could do that would challenge myself. I woke my husband up one night and said I wanted to buy a bike and ride the country. The next day he called me from work and said he got a leave of absence and he’d go with me. We left 2 months later. It was a rough first 2 weeks having completed only 3 bike rides to train. We called it “on the job training”. We live in an amazing country with amazing people who are caring and gracious and good. We may not always realize it but it’s true and I got to witness it firsthand. I learned perseverance like you wouldn’t believe those two months, and it’s carried with me over 15 years later in everything I do.
Amy: You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?
Ally: I’d do nothing. I live out in the middle of nowhere. I would let her walk off. My town would be psyched to get in the newspaper for something other than apple fests, and I’m pretty certain there would be someone out there willing to take it in. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. I already have 3 boys and a dog…. An elephant is NOT in my future.
Amy: How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?
Ally: You mean what’s my management style? Consensus building is management 101 to me. I listen….really listen. I hear the reasons why people aren’t on board and then we talk. I let people think things through and I explain to them why decisions are being made. I help them feel part of the process so they don’t feel like they are being told. I acknowledge their concerns, and 9 times out of 10, even if the decision is final, I learn a whole lot in the process. More times than not, people don’t want to do things because they don’t understand why the decision is being made, so I tell them and we work through their anxiety together. People I work with want to be a part of something meaningful, and they want to know they are valued. I try my hardest to give them that.
By Brittany Ruggiero, Communications & Development Specialist
Posted, May 16, 2016
The current Presidential election has sparked a lot of lively discussions among young adults and staff at Tempo Young Adult Resource Center in Framingham. When pressed, we found that many haven't yet registered to vote nor understood their vote's importance.
On May 11, Tempo hosted a barbecue event to register youths to vote. Voter registration cards were on hand and they walked over as a group to Framingham's Town Hall to complete the process.
At a time when young people -especially the ones walking through Tempo's doors - are facing enormous challenges, supporting them to vote encourages a new generation to actively participate in our democracy.
Participating in politics is a hard-won right in our nation and the importance of exercising your right can't be emphasized enough. When you vote, you are using the opportunity to have a say in important issues that affect you and your community.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
reports that millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) represent a major potential political force: 49 million young people, ages 18-29, are eligible to vote - more than seniors, who number 45 million.
As a millennial, I realize my generation has the power to shape elections. Working for Wayside has also shown me the power of our collective voice in influencing legislation and public budgets to help improve the lives of those we serve. However, many of my peers may feel that voting isn't something that will affect their lives right now and their voice won't make a difference.
Believe me, facing new challenges - as a millennial entering adulthood - your future self will thank you for choosing a candidate or an issue that resonates with your personal beliefs and vision for the future.
We have the ability to change and directly influence issues that might affect us right now, or in years to come. It can mean the difference between whether or not you can afford health care. It can mean the difference of giving up control of your reproductive rights. It can mean whether you can afford to attend college to pursue your dreams.
No one is going to look out for issues that will affect us except - you guessed it - us, the millennials. Using our right to vote is using the opportunity to make the system better. It may never be perfect, but together, we can make things better.
So, young adults, listen up: I urge you to take part in the upcoming election, to use your voice and to encourage your peers to join you! Your vote matters!
To learn more on the Presidential Election process, visit: www.usa.gov/election
May is National Foster Care Month.
Wayside Youth & Family Support Network is a nonprofit human services agency that helps families under significant stress due to mental illness, behavioral problems, addiction issues and other challenges. We also support youth who have experienced abuse, neglect and trauma. Many of these youth are involved in foster care.
This year I became a foster parent for the first time. I expected this experience to be complicated yet fulfilling, and so far that’s proven to be true. What I didn’t expect was to be peppered with questions that I’m not quite willing or able to answer. I am grateful for the interest and concern and know (well, hope) that the questions come from a place of love.
Here are a few I dread hearing, so I’ve answered them now so that I don’t have to again:
1. “What happened to him?”
No one ends up in foster care because something great happened.
The most likely scenario is that a child ends up in foster care because that child has experienced things we hope no child will ever know: abuse, neglect, violence and trauma.
So, the answer to that question is always the same: “Sad things. Loss.”
I will not give you specifics because that is my son’s story to tell – or not.
Please stop asking me to tell you the details of his map of a journey that he took alone until now and that hurts him and me.
There are three large binders that piled on top of each other are about 3/4 the size of my foster son. These are papers written by professionals about him. They are comfortless papers reporting on the worst kind of brokenness.
2. “Why would you want to do that?”
Why would I want to grow my family? The same reasons most people do, I expect. I have a happy, loving relationship and we want the life experience of raising a child and/or children.
3. “Won’t it be so hard?”
Yes. Raising children is challenging. Raising kids with extra challenges is perhaps more challenging, but I am not sure that is true. What I am sure of is this: the youth who have experienced trauma are the youth I have known and supported in my adult life as I have worked at Wayside and elsewhere in residential care.
I can do hard.
If those kids can – I can.
4. “Won’t you get too attached?”
I am attached to my foster son. My heart has opened to him and he has crept in, sometimes rappelling in and sometimes sneaking in… so, he is in my heart. I am astonished by my fierce love of him. I refuse to guard my heart to attempt to love less of all he is in an effort to be hurt less. This seems an improbable solution to a non- problem. Sometimes we are hurt when we love.
5. “Why don’t you foster a baby? Isn’t it too late to fix a teenager?”
There are lots of reasons we decided to grow our family with an older child. Some believe that a baby is a “clean slate,” but we know that the effects of trauma can reveal themselves later in unexpected ways. Life brings no guarantees.
According to the Children’s Action Network, there are an estimated 408,425 children in foster care in the United States, and more than 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted. The average child waits for an adoptive family for more than three years. The average age of children waiting for an adoptive family is eight. So we both feel that older children need families and we like kids who talk back.
Our son’s character traits are all well known to us. He is a fully-formed human.
We know what we are getting. Those three large binders document his history in excruciating detail. What those reports miss are the other things we know about him: his ability to put people at ease with a wide smile and outstretched hand; his intense intellectual curiosity; and his eagerness to be a part of this new family.
6. “Aren’t you scared he might be dangerous?”
I have been working with youth impacted by trauma for 15-plus years. I am 5’0. Not once have I been hurt by a kid. Some youth have been aggressive because they are afraid and hopeful that if they roar first, they will be seen as in charge and thus safe.
I have learned that calm non-reaction combined with verbal de-escalation techniques work. And as one my great teachers taught me: “All behavior makes sense.” My work as a parent is to try to understand how it makes sense for my child, given what I know and learn about him each day.
7. “How could a mother hurt her child?”
Hurt people hurt people.
Foster children come into the system because of a cycle of abuse, neglect and often addiction or mental illness that is left untreated.
I have never met a parent who wanted to hurt a child.
Life is so complicated and is made more complicated when you have less access to help, resources and supports. And when that happens, you can end up with nothing to give but sorrow.
I will not hear you speak badly about the person who brought my child into this world.
I have no idea what kind of loss she feels and I will not judge her. She is part of him and I will support him in sorting through that relationship in all ways that are safe.
And finally, I have so much to say about this wonderful child and can’t wait to tell you all about him. So here’s how to start the conversation:
“Tell me about your child.”
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted May 4, 2016
When I was eight my Mom took me to meet a lady who asked me some questions.
This lady gave me plastic shapes and asked how I might fit them together. She showered me with compliments, which made me suspicious. I remember the florescent lights in her office hurting my eyes, and, ultimately, how my mind began to wander to thoughts of what my family would be having for dinner and if we would ever get a second dog.
One thing that came of that meeting was the suggestion that I "practice following instructions” (an earth-shattering revelation to both my parents). The exercise we came up with was for me to make Jello—lots of Jello. Each time, I followed the instructions carefully, mixing the sugary gelatin powder with water in a saucepan, heating it, and pouring it out onto a tray, cooling it, and slicing up the little cubes. Eventually I graduated to pudding. To this day I hate both.
My mom was always cryptic about what the lady I met with that day had told her. When I asked, she'd say, “They said you were just fine, just you.” My guess is she either didn't like what the woman told her or didn't want me to know.
What I did know back then was I was an odd kid—for sure. I talked non-stop, following my mother around the house chatting until she'd tell me to stop it and go read one of my many books. When babysitters arrived at our house to watch me, I'd greet them with my ambitious activities lists: bake cookies, dress up the dog, turn cherries into paint, make gum from mint leaves in the backyard, hunt for all things green in the house and two or three other things if time permitted. I often created an agenda with markers, crayons and homemade cherry paint. It’s possible that babysitting fees led to shorter vacations.
My imagination and creativity knew no bounds. Neither did my instinct to just go ahead and do something if the fancy struck me.
Left to my own devices, I tried to create a pool in the back yard with a garden hose and I built kites from garbage bags. I'd announce to my parents I was going on an exploration then take off down long tracks in my neighbor's woods, ending up in fields staring at insects and flowers.
School was easy peasy and I loved it—until it wasn’t and I didn’t. That was about the third grade. I couldn't always follow along. The teacher would be talking about something interesting and then I’d notice how her earrings matched her dress and, oh, how they matched her shoes, too. Then I'd think: When will I get to wear shoes like that? And when's our next vacation?
One time our class was doing an art project as a group, moving sheets of construction paper into cylinder shapes. Everyone had made a penguin, and they all looked alike, of course with one exception.
“Amy, what did you do?” My teacher gasped. As if I had brought my pet mealworms to show and tell.
My response: “What?” That was one of the many times someone gasped at what I came up with, “you look at that?” but sometimes it was the kind of a gasp of horror and sometimes it was a gasp like – “Huh? - you look at that?”
But all along I surrounded myself with folks who could help. They were calm, centered people with vast amounts of patience. I remember telling my best friend, “Things are just harder for me than for other people” and her telling me, "You can do anything."
It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I learned I have ADHD. By that time I had gone to six schools before college, two colleges and, miraculously, graduate school.
A moment of silence here for those teachers who taught me with gentleness and grace.
Some things I have learned since then:
- I wish I had been diagnosed earlier. I know my parents were trying to protect me, but an explanation would have helped. Because I thought maybe my “just you- ness” was just dumbness warmed up.
- My brain works differently. My ability to see so many things is terrific and it keeps me busy. It’s like there are lots of paths and I want to try every road. There are not just two roads in the wood- but eight or 30 and I want to see all of it.
- Details are often lost on me and I need help checking them. Even if I check several times – it is hard for me to find my own mistakes.
- I can slow myself down; I usually have to leave and return and that helps me notice what I missed. Exercise, meditation, color coding- these things help.
- There is a time of day that is best for me to do things that require careful attention. Use that time.
- People do not understand ADHD. You know the phrase “I have ADHD – it’s hard for me to focus” - this joke annoys me. It’s easy for me to focus – I have the capacity for HYPER-focus when I love a subject, which is honestly a good thing. But this focus can also get me off track and I focus on too many things or for too long…and while I am doing that I can miss stuff.
- I love to learn. I cannot really learn by you explaining it to me. I have to do it. Often badly, then still terribly, then better and then well. That is just how I learn. It is slower than trying to herd 100 ladybugs and hard to watch- but I will get it.
- I am smart. In fact I have a brave and bold mind. And… I am, as my Mom said, “Just Me” figuring it out…
John Keating: “We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
During the month of April, Wayside extended a call to action to help us celebrate National Poetry Month and oh my! The outpouring responses of poems, most of which were original work from the youth we serve and Wayside staff, was extraordinary.
We are overwhelmed to know that we have so many writers among us. It makes us confident that future contributions on Wayside’s blog will have many creative and inspiring voices. (Please email[email protected] to add your voice.)
Putting an image, emotion and words onto paper is a risk we take with poetry. At Wayside, we understand the youth and families at Wayside are taking risks every day to face hard things, difficult moments and sort though the next steps.
Poetry prompts us to do difficult things, it’s quite similar to how counselors, clinicians and the administration team at Wayside are ‘in this together’ to guide those we serve. We are all trying our best to be open, learn and grow in the wild walk of life!
Though everyone is a winner in our hearts, the winners of our poetry contest are Suzanne Boucher for her poem ‘Androgyny’ and ‘Treatment’ submitted by Anonymous!
Thank you for writing and reading poetry this month and throughout the year!
Until next year’s contest, happy writing!
Take a look at our Poetry Contest Winners:
Suzanne Boucher - Androgyny
Anonymous - Treatment
Check out other amazing poems that were submitted throughout the month of April here
By Brittany Ruggiero, Communications & Development Specialist
Posted: April 15, 2016
If you live in Massachusetts, you know what the third Monday in April means…Marathon Monday!
The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon; this year marks the 120th race! The event attracts as many as one million spectators and approximately 30,000 runners.
If you work in mental health field or are receiving treatment, you can relate in more ways than one to those competing in the marathon.
The marathon puts runners into an unknown zone where they confront their true selves, and discover inner strengths and limits, much like therapy.
Running a marathon requires commitment, dedication and perseverance. Most runners will tell you that running a marathon is an exciting goal to achieve, but training for months leading up to it can be trying, particularly in the thick of it, when you’re feeling tired and race day seems so far away.
Treatment isn’t a place where you can power through quickly. You need to create goals, build up your resiliency, and focus on what’s in front of you to produce the best possible outcome.
Each runner has their own gold medal in mind ranging from beating their personal bests, keeping a steady pace with limited breaks, or actually crossing the finish line. They focus on the process rather than the outcome; to them it’s not about winning but putting in a winning performance.
In the mental health field, we understand that everyone’s gold medal/end goal is different and achieving it can be tiresome but worth it in the end.
Wayside staff tenaciously “do what it takes” to help our clients and families fulfill their hopes for the future. Positive expectations promote psychological and physical well-being. Our staff focuses on developing hope-inspiring strategies that mobilize internal and external resources for sustaining healthy change.
Same as runners do, we need to take care of our bodies. We need to listen when it’s being pushed to its limits, when we need to take a break and when we need to re-evaluate our goals.
As a society, we have been programmed in the philosophy, “No pain, no gain.” However the best runners are the ones who develop a plan and are disciplined enough to stick with it or have a support team to help them through it.
Whether you’re running 26.2 miles or receiving counseling, family support, residential and educational services, when you cross the finish line or reach your goal you never stop training or preparing for your next challenge.
By Linda Noble
Posted April 14, 2016
As Marathon Monday approaches, we are reminded that there are heroes everywhere. Inspirational stories that leave the reader in awe and thinking, ‘wow, that’s amazing’, and ‘if they can do that, maybe I can be strong.’
The following is an introduction of such a hero by Wayside's Vice President of Community Services, Andrea Salzman, LICSW, at the awards ceremony immediately following Wayside's annual 5K4Kids run/walk last October.
“Before we get started with the medals, I’d like to acknowledge someone who has accomplished an extraordinary feat today, someone who truly embodies Wayside’s motto of Strength, Hope and Resiliency.
“David Polidi is a clinician at Wayside’s Framingham FamilyWorks program.
“Last winter, David slipped on ice and shattered his ankle. Throughout his recovery, David stated that his goal was to run the 5K4Kids. Doctors told him they were not sure if this would be possible. David persevered through this and used the motivation of Wayside’s 5K to get him through the winter.
“In April, David went to the hospital to get his pins removed - what was supposed to be a routine surgery. However, there were complications and David ended up fighting for his life. He went into septic shock and respiratory failure and was placed on a respirator, as he couldn’t breathe on his own. For 72 hours, doctors weren’t sure if he would make it.
“Against all odds, David pulled through. As he was recovering consciousness, he repeated to his wife Heather, who also works for Wayside, that he was going to do the Wayside 5K. As he recovered, he kept saying he was going to run. Doctors warned him that it was very unlikely his lungs would be strong enough.
“Today, months later, David has crossed the finish line of Wayside’s 5K4Kids, met by his proud family. I would like to congratulate David for this remarkable achievement. We are all proud of you.”
Congratulations to all those, like David, who push through the odds and accomplish their goals!
By Amy Hogarth, MFT
Posted April 12, 2016
April 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which got me thinking about my love for poetry.
I am a zealot about beautiful, breaking open writing, and the practice of being present to every moment I have in this life.
This is why I love poetry.
For me, it’s hard to inject yourself into a poem and not be present. I think paying attention matters.
When do I read poetry?
When I want to laugh, feel troubled by my mistakes or if I am afraid.
When I am terrified.
When I want to celebrate someone or something.
When I need to feel reality in a way that will impact me.
When I am in love. When I am in lust.
When I am wishing for a just world.
When I am sad.
When I want to feel the depth of my gratitude for this sassy, strange life.
When I feel scattered or lost.
When I am wild awake and aware of this beloved, broken, silly world.
When I am in an argument with the God of my understanding, with someone I love or with myself.
When I am discouraged.
When I grieve.
When I am overjoyed
Or in wonder.
When connection is needed and I have not found my own words.
When I want to charm a child.
When I want to let someone know I understand.
When there is absolutely nothing left to do…
By Amy Hogarth
Posted March 28, 2016
I don’t like when folks are mean.
I am not sure why I even need to write that; however, in these times, and with public rhetoric that has been belittling and cruel, it seems worth saying.
Bullies hurt folks. When there is talk about some groups being “right” and other folks being “wrong” it seems like our world is split up as if we don’t all want to have more health, happiness and love in our lives. I am bothered by any hate language, whether or not I am a member of the group being targeted.
What I do love is a debate.
I was raised by two “vote-in-every-election” parents – one on the right and one on the left. I know debate! When I took debating in junior high, one the main constructs was to never use “coarse language” because this lacked dignity and, frankly, intellect. Now let me be clear: I am capable of disagreeing with folks. I appreciate that people will vote for candidates or believe in things with which I don’t agree with or even strongly oppose. I want to be able to have conversations where we agree to disagree. It is hard, because equal rights for me are not a small thing. It’s everything. However, I advocate for open-mindedness – a willingness to have those difficult conversations.
Where this gets dicey is the use of oppression to be sure that those who have less are not able to advocate and offer change and impact our growth as a country. “Oppression is customarily experienced as a consequence of, and expressed in, the form of a prevailing, if unconscious, assumption that the given target is in some way inferior.”
Oppression is the life breath of a bully.
It is based in the idea that some do not deserve an equitable path in the world. The problem with bullies is we all become afraid. A bully works on using shame. Shame is an enemy and it is in direct opposition of love and healing. When someone feels shamed they cannot move- let alone grow.
At Wayside we work with shame all the time.
Because youth who have been traumatized or harmed will always believe it is their fault. It simply never occurs to children that the person hurting or traumatizing them is wrong. Instead the youth believe that their very being is wrong. They think they are in fact a bad person. That is shame. Guilt is “I did a bad thing,” a person can move when they have guilt. A person can look at what made them engage in an action and then they can apologize (because emotionally intelligent people know they are wrong sometimes).
But shame, though. Shame leave you stuck.
Shame makes folks do terrible things because they are trying to put hurt away from them. So even the bullies are just hurt kids. We teach our youth at Wayside that bullying happens when we have a part of us that we deem as weak or fragile and so we hide it. We then cover it by lashing out at any part of vulnerability in other folks.
I want our youth to learn from brave people who risk everything and show up for themselves and for other people who have fewer resources and fewer support, and thus need more kindness. That is what the team at Wayside strives to be: the kind of people who stand up for kindness.
I love politics. I even won the quiz in “Political Junkie.” I learned to love politics from my parents who were on two different sides of the debate. However, there wasn’t name calling when they talked, there was discourse. Conversation is a willingness to try to understand someone else’s view.
I am a deep believer in the power of non-violence. I do not honk or yell or give the finger when someone cuts me off while driving. I do not yell at anyone. I prefer to assume “good motives” of others and I believe in peaceful dialogues. I simply do not understand why tearing down other people is considered a view. To me, that is bullying.
Anyone can be a bully. And how bullying happens we know isn’t so much the power of the bully: it is in the power of those who watch and laugh or do nothing.
So, I propose we commit to doing the following three things to make a positive change:
- Instead of being “bystanders” to ugly rhetoric, let’s be “upstanders:” upstanding citizens who explode stereotypes and the assumption that there is some set of "others."
- Let’s engage in real conversations with active listening, where the goal is understanding rather than convincing.
- Let’s teach children how to welcome conversation where parties disagree with respectful dignity. And teach them that to be kind first – and always – is also truly smart.
By Amy Hogarth, Talent Acquisition Manager
Andrea Salzman, LICSW, is Wayside's Vice President for Community Services. Andrea began her career at Wayside just after completing graduate school in 1993 as a clinician for our HomeBase program in Waltham, which provides in-home services to families across the Waltham/Malden/Cambridge catchment area. At that time, the program was made up of ten employees. Andrea rose through the ranks, becoming Program Director four short years later. Under her leadership, the program swelled to over 55 staff and interns.
Intrigued by Andrea’s journey here at Wayside, I sat down with her a couple of weeks ago to learn more.
“When my staff come to me with a problem, I want to try to be part of the solution with them. I don’t always have the answer, but I feel like the answer will develop as we work it out together.”
She went on to say she learned a lot about her own management style when she was on maternity leave. “I had a team of people who were very competent and expert and they all just stepped up and were great.”
As Karen Dexter, Program Director for Wayside’s Arlington Continuum Program, said:
“Andrea brought me to HomeBase 19 years ago. Andrea has always been creative and forward thinking. For example, as the HomeBase Program Director at the time, she was instrumental in creating the idea of a job share at Wayside almost 15 years ago for Allison White and me in an effort to keep us at HomeBase and support us as new mothers.”
"She has been creative and thoughtful in all the ways she has worked to help me grow and continues to spend time working with me on imagining what could be. I have known Andrea for half my life and often wonder if she knows what an important role she has played in it. When I think of all that Wayside stands for, I think of all that Andrea has given to get us there!”
Let this be another example of Andrea’s management style, as she knows that the best managers can leave, and the work keeps happening, because the team is motivated, capable and focused on providing excellent service.
When Andrea was promoted to Vice President for Community Services in 2013, she now admits: “In the best possible way I never had the sense that people missed me.”
The admiration of Andrea’s team is best exemplified in some thoughts Allison White provided.
“My relationship with Andrea spans twenty years dating back to when I was an intern. From the moment I met Andrea, I admired everything about her: the way she talked about clients in a strengths-based way, the vision she had for the future of home-based work, her “out of the box” and innovative thinking, her communication style, her ability to support her supervisees, and how she made me personally feel as an intern. She’s one of the main reasons I chose to stay on in HomeBase when my internship ended.
“I’ve had the privilege to be supervised by Andrea for my entire career at Wayside. I’ve learned most of what I know about being a Program Director from her. When the opportunity presented itself to apply for the Program Director of HomeBase, I had a lot of ambivalence, mostly about whether I was competent enough to fill her shoes and lead the program. She had set the bar sky high. Andrea was, and continues to be, one of my biggest cheerleaders and for that I am incredibly appreciative.
She believes the work of supporting her team is to “recognize and embrace each individual’s strengths and help them to feel good about what they are doing.” She also adds that she doesn’t dismiss areas of development because that will help folks get to be even better.
Allison Parks agrees: “She is so wise and is definitely smarter than I am. She knows what buttons to push to challenge me to be a better Program Director. And she has been the person who has kept me in the role even on the hardest of days.”
“When Andrea came up with the idea of the Community-Based Clinician where the position would do both in home therapy and outpatient therapy, I was skeptical because it seemed logistically difficult when it came to the details but then… we started doing it. We hired one, then two now it’s something I am really proud of.”
“We would not be able to keep serving our outpatient families without this model of a clinician doing both in home work and outpatient work. Now we have hybrid positions in MCI and CSA We are proud and really excited to say we have a lot of Outpatient folks served.”
This evolution is how it often works in Community Base – there is a need, a problem, a quagmire and the folks who are there in the work need to find solutions. This collaborative approach is often how Andrea solves problems.
For Andrea, “Being approachable is the most important thing. I want the team to shine. I want the people who implement change to know that they are making a real difference.”
By Amy Hogarth
Posted March 16, 2016
I had three interviews at Wayside when I first came to work here in 2003. When I went to my second interview, located in the same location of the first one, I was 48 minutes late. I could not find it. I called but I kept thinking I was very close so I kept saying “I am very close,” when in fact I was terrifically lost. When I finally arrived I thought I had blown the opportunity. My future boss, mentor and great friend Betsy Reid greeted me: “Do you want a glass of water? I am glad you made it!”
Sometimes words of kindness can change everything.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Wayside does this. We help people who have can’t seem to get back to a place they know have been at one time. It is what Wayside does best. Making room for someone who wants to investigate something; or sort something out; or find where they are supposed to be.
Betsy Reid was the Vice President of Residential Services in 2003. So. She was very, very busy. She had been in charge of Quality Management and had recently taken on this new role at Wayside. Quality Management folks like order and clarity; basically, they are in charge of measuring risk. I had been making my living supporting and helping adolescent girls who were locked up. So you could say I hung out with risk all the time. Betsy is humble, calm and furiously smart. I speak faster than 10 New Yorkers, I get lost to my second interview for a job I want and I am sure no one has ever described me as humble. So, we are, Betsy and I, very different. No. We are almost opposite.
She asked me “Why do you want to run a program?”
I said, “I’d like to run my own show.” See? Not humble. At all.
This is one of the many very smart things about Betsy. She didn’t want to hire someone like her. She wanted to hire someone not like her. Someone very, very different.
I was not that great at the job in the beginning. I had a lot to learn. And while most things I do very quickly, learning I tend to do very slowly.
So today I am thinking about how it was that working for Betsy helped me come to feel I was dynamite.
She made me feel appreciated.
She usually did this by giving me more work.
Asking my thoughts about something.
Or suggesting I go start some new project.
She made me think I could do things and in fact I could do many things really well. What mattered to me the most was the way she was open to my humanness. She laughed at my jokes. She gave me (and our entire team) the most scrumptious homemade jam. As a team we would all get shining glass jars of beautiful blueberry, mixed berry, any- kind- of- berry- jam. Sometime a silly Program Director would leave that jam on their desk. It would always disappear.
One year there was no jam- we all got gifts. Mine were mittens the most delightful colors of red, orange and yellow. I hope I have made myself clear here: I am the person most likely to misplace a mitten. She gave me those mittens in 2005. I still have them.
Betsy helped me feel appreciated by helping me be the absolute best at what I was good at and asking, prodding and pushing for me to get better at what I was poor at. She never ever wanted to be her, or my colleagues, she was vastly encouraging for me to be ME at MY best.
I should not be surprised! That is what Wayside has been doing for youth and families for almost 40 years.
Sometimes, it is helping a family and watching them move on and up and out. Sometimes it’s helping a parent add to their skill set. Often it is being there as someone who until they find that achievement is right around the corner.
I had not blown the interview. The way I think about Wayside Youth & Family Support Network staff is that they are the kind of folks who just want to do good stuff together. They are interested in how you are who are and how that will improve the lives of our youth and our families.
Betsy gave my colorful mittens because she likes my colorful style. She saw me. Her vision of seeing me helped me be smart enough to hire people smarter than me, different from me and get out of the way while they did fabulous stuff.
One time when I was going through a rough time, Betsy said: “Life is long Amy, and a lot happens.”
So, the message was be gentle with you and keep on keeping on.
Thank you Betsy for all of it!
By Brittany Ruggiero
Development & Communications Specialist
In honor of Women’s History Month, we are proud to share the story of a young woman making a real difference right here in our backyard. Wayland High School student Elodie Carel, whose volunteer efforts we covered in September, has continued her program to collect and distribute diapers for families in need.
Elodie learned about Wayside’s Tempo Young Adult Resource Center through a neighbor and heard about the young adults that use the program’s resources; she knew this would be perfect place for her to achieve her Girl Scout Gold Award.
The Gold Award is the highest and most prestigious award in Girl Scouting. This award challenges girls in high school to change the world, or at least their corner of it, by developing a sustainable project that will benefit a community.
Elodie has coordinated donations for diapers and wipes every month with various local organizations including: the Boy Scouts of America, BJ’s Wholesale and Stop & Shop. She hopes by the end of the project, donations will continue for years to come.
Most recently, she recruited the Good Shepherd Parish in Wayland to run a diaper drive during the month of February. The generous community at Good Shepherd donated over 10,000 diapers to the young adults at Tempo.
Tempo has been able to help over 20 young adult parents with diapers, wipes and formula over the last year thanks to Elodie’s efforts and the help of Michelle Poor, Transition Facilitator at Tempo.
Tempo would like to let young parents know that this summer they will be hosting a young adult parent group for young or new parents between the ages of 17-25 with questions or needing additional resources.
"I wouldn’t change it,” Wayside Peer Mentor Della is quick to point out when telling her story. She wants to make sure this is no sob story – it’s just her story.
By the time she was 16 years old, Della had been through a lot. Her family had some hard luck and many tough times. Addiction, illness, separation and loss are just a few of the difficult situations Della had faced in her young life.
Della witnessed her mother struggle with addiction, which she was able to overcome, and then cancer, which took her life. Both took her away from Della.
“I wish my mom could have had a Family Support Specialist from Wayside.” She said, “No one seemed to understand her or related to what she was going through, but I think a family support specialist might have helped her because they’ve been through it and she wouldn’t feel judged.”
Family Support Specialist are parents of children/adolescents and young adults who have firsthand experience navigating service systems. They are a part of Wayside’s Parent-Peer Partnership program which offers guidance, resources, and direct support to parents, guardians, and caregivers of children/adolescents who may experience social, emotional, behavioral, learning differences or mental health needs.
As a teenager, Della struggled with her own anxiety and the affects of her family’s addiction had on her. She tried to hide her emotions by not allowing anyone into her home or letting someone give her the help she needed.
“I was ashamed of my pain.”
When her mother died, things became more difficult for Della. A doctor finally suggested to her to seek support at Wayside’s Tempo Young Adult Resource Center.
With the support of Wayside, Della was achieving her goals and was then hired as a receptionist at Tempo.
“Soon after being hired, I found out I was pregnant and I wanted to make sure my daughter had a different childhood than the one I had,” She said. “That’s when I found Healthy Families, a national program model designed to help expectant and new parents get their children off to a healthy start, and obtained my license.”
Soon after, she was approached to become a Peer Mentor in the Parent Partnership Program.
"When I was asked to become a Peer Mentor, I said, ‘Wait, let me get this straight…you want to pay me because I have had a mental health diagnosis and struggle in my life? That’s so cool!’”
Della has now been a Peer Mentor for 3 years helping teach people the things she never knew. She has gone to “one million trainings” thanks to her supervisor, Irene Roche.
“I am an expert at not being an expert,” she says. “I tell the young adults I work with that I’m not a clinical person but I want them to describe to me their struggle. Even if we have the same diagnosis, we may experience it in different ways.”
Della continues, “People who are experiencing an addiction or have a loved one struggling are usually unable to manage their emotions. When I was sad, I would get angry because anger made me feel in control and I was afraid to be vulnerable. Now, I feel safe to grieve my history.”
“I wouldn’t change anything I went through because it made me who I am now.”
If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’re familiar with the announcement: "In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others." You can’t take care of anyone else if you yourself can’t breathe.
That same analogy applies to those of us working in health and human services. If we get caught up taking care of everyone but ourselves, we’ll eventually run out of oxygen. This work is emotionally taxing and can overwhelm if you let it.
That’s why here at Wayside, supervisors stress the importance of self-care – of finding ways to ensure that we are able to manage the emotional and physical toll this work takes on all of us who work to help children, young adults and families in crisis.
We are encouraged to develop our own tactics – which could be exercising, meditating, listening to music – to help us cope with the stress.
For some folks at Wayside, they find creative ways to have fun! Wayside Campus Nursing Director Alicia Law, RN, BSN, and Clinical Director Dana Zais, LICSW, oversee the therapeutic and medical treatment of close to 1,000 teens each year. They’ve seen it all. Between the two of them, they have racked up close to 20 years at Wayside and their longevity is partly due to their ability to have fun at work.
According to Ally and Dana:
- Having fun at work makes you excited to get up in the morning. You look forward to what the day is going to bring for your clients and coworkers.
- It brings light heartedness when the work can be a heavy.
- It’s infectious! You could make someone’s bad day better by helping them smile.
- It helps build relationships and makes the workplace feel like a community.
- Fun increases your health and boosts your immune system.
- People are more relaxed and productive.
- It promotes creativity. Getting young people to open up during a clinical session can take activities that are outside the box!
While Wayside staff participate in special outings and team-building activities, we also find ways to weave fun into our workday. These include cooking contests, silly costumes, hiking up Mt. Wachusett and memes that never end!
To join the Wayside team and participate in all the fun, visit our careers page!
By Jessica Begans, LICSW
Wayside FamilyWorks Clinician
Posted February 12, 2016
Reading “Strength to Love,” a collection of Dr. King’s sermons, was like a sack of bricks to my soul:
Due to my involvement in the struggle for the freedom of my people, I have known very few quiet days in the last few years. I have been imprisoned in Alabama and Georgia jails twelve times. My home has been bombed twice. A day seldom passes that my family and I are not the recipients of threats of death. I have been the victim of a near-fatal stabbing. So in a real sense I have been battered by the storms of persecution. I must admit that at times I have felt that I could no longer bear such a heavy burden, and have been tempted to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. But every time such a temptation appeared, something came to strengthen my determination. I have learned now that the Master’s burden is light precisely when we take his yoke upon us.
-Martin Luther King, Jr, Strength to Love, p. 152.
I read this book because I wanted to know more about Dr. King, whose words and image are so often invoked, but whose meaning is often lost.
Reading King’s sermons and learning more about the terror that he and his family endured rattled me. I couldn’t imagine having the bravery of Dr. King, his wife Coretta, or that of his children.
How did King soldier on after he, his family and his home were all attacked? How did he cope with the constant threat of death? In 1963, the year this book was published, schools were desegregated in Birmingham and whites responded with eight bombings of black churches, including one that killed four little girls. How did he keep fighting?
Trauma is an event that overwhelms our ability to cope. Trauma threatens to shatter our selves, on a physical or spiritual level. But King was not overwhelmed by the racist violence he and his community experienced. I was struck in King’s sermons by the clarity of his ideas, vision and purpose. His Christian faith inspired his bravery and helped him give meaning to his suffering. The love and the trust of his community sustained him. To survive trauma, that’s what you need. You need a mission, spirituality or a connection to something greater than yourself, and a beloved community.
What lessons do civil rights leaders have for social workers in 2016?
Many people who work in social services are warm and comforting. We are experts in mediating conflict. We want to protect the people we work for. We want to be “good people” but most of us don’t spend time in jail for our ideals.
Wayside is, by far, the most safety-conscious agency I’ve worked for. I have worked in the community with children and families with histories of violence, but have felt equipped to handle crisis situations due to extensive de-escalation training and immediate access to supervisors when necessary. Our supervisors help us to make the decisions that can be agonizing – whether to have a child sectioned to the hospital for suicidal ideation or to file on a parent for abusing their child – with care and respect for the families we serve. My supervisors have always encouraged me to trust my gut and to leave any situation that felt dangerous. My colleagues care deeply about me, and are there to process and feed me chocolate after a rough session.
You know the phrase “safe holding environment”? That’s this place.
So, I wondered how to reconcile these two values: fighting for what is right, versus prioritizing emotional and physical safety and comfort.
I am enormously lucky to live a life where I usually feel safe from violence. I don’t know if I could put my own life at risk like Dr. King did. I am not asked to do so in this line of work. My own resolution is to use the blessings of safety, security and comfort to be as brave as possible; go to more protests, advocate with my legislators, support friends who are facing discrimination, speak up in meetings where people listen to my voice. I have enormous privilege as a white woman. No one is going to firebomb my house. I can tolerate the discomfort that comes with asking nicely, or even assertively, for some justice around here.
By Eric L. Masi, Ed.D
President & CEO
Posted February 9, 2016
Recently, I was walking through Boston’s Prudential Mall when a young woman approached me asking if I would be willing to participate in a research project. Her project consisted of filming the participant’s responses as she asked two questions.
I agreed and we began.
The first question was “What is your name?”
I think I got that one right.
The second question was “Are you gay?”
My reply was “No…?” with my voice rising quizzically.
She dismissed me with a polite “Thank you very much.”
I said, “Wait a minute, I’ve got more to say!”
She laughed, and we went on to engage in a conversation about her project. Evidently the purpose of her research project was to observe facial responses to the questions. The camera was there to catch the subjects’ real, unfiltered, responses to being asked about their sexuality. Her end result was to compare video responses and to see what she could learn from those unguarded reactions.
Which made me a little sad – because unfortunately she probably is going to get some mixed reactions.
I was reminded about that experience recently, as I opened an email from the national research group that conducts our “staff organizational climate survey” (a fancy way of saying staff satisfaction survey). The organization was proudly announcing that they were adding questions related to diversity issues in the workplace and wanted my feedback.
I wrote to the lead researcher saying that I was very happy they were (finally) adding questions related to diversity and I saw that they specifically referenced race, ethnicity and gender but I felt it was really important to highlight LGBTQ issues, as they relate to the children and families we serve and our staff who serve them.
She got back to me immediately saying, “Will do,” which was great, but it left me with a feeling of disappointment that I even had to bring this up at all.
And similar to my feelings about the young woman conducting the research project in the mall, I felt sad.
Disappointed and more than a little frustrated, but mostly sad.
Everyone is Talking About Motivational Interviewing
Motivational Interviewing Part 1
By: Amy Hogarth, Director of Agency Recruitment and Talent
Everyone at Wayside is talking about Motivational Interviewing.
Motivational Interviewing (or MI) is an innovative evidence-based therapeutic method that is known for working well with individuals who aren’t quite ready to make changes. MI focuses on ambivalence; that is, when people are not yet ready to make changes. Motivational interviewing also can be very useful in combination with other therapeutic interventions when the person decides it is time to take action.
This summer, Wayside embarked on an ambitious training schedule to ensure that all clinicians, clinical supervisors and managers learn this approach, which we believe will elevate our clinical capacity in order to partner with our clients to make positive change. In short, adopting MI into our clinical wheelhouse will help us achieve our mission: “Empowering children, young adults and families to achieve greater independence and emotional well-being.”
There are three hallmarks to Motivational Interviewing:
· MI is collaborative. The work rests in how the client examines and understands the behavior change needed
· MI is evocative. Seeks to evoke what skills, motivation and resources someone already has to offer.
· MI honors client autonomy. The clinician becomes unhooked from outcomes –“not an absence of caring, but rather an acceptance that people makes choices about the course of their lives. Clinicians may inform, advise, even warn but ultimately the client decides what to do.”
(From Motivational Interviewing in Health Care by: Stephen Rollnick, William R. Miller, and Christopher C. Butler)
If you’re still a bit confused, think about it this way: Your friend wants to get in shape. Complains all the time about it.
“Join the gym,” you suggest. “Come to Zumba with me,” you urge. Every time you make the suggestion you are met with resistance. “I don’t have the time; I have no rhythm.”
After a while you stop “helping” and simply listen. One day she tells you that she started doing CrossFit and loves it. You think “well, gosh, I TOLD you so,” but are also thrilled that she has made a positive step to achieve her goal.
That’s kind of how MI works; by understanding that your friend will (or won’t) make a change to get in shape all on her own. By listening to your friend and NOT telling her what to do, you are giving her the space to make that decision.