One step forward…and another step back.

In this job we celebrate a lot of successes–both small and large–with the families we work with. However, the reality in life (for our clients and ourselves) is that sometimes, with each step forward, we are forced to take one or two steps back.

Brick Wall with Woman on GroundIt can be very frustrating for the teens I work with through our Teen Parent Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope: when they are trying to make a better life for themselves and their children, at times it seems that they run into wall after wall (or in social work jargon, “barrier after barrier”) that just stops them dead in their tracks. Luckily, more often than not, the teens I work with are very resilient and keep trying to push forward despite the difficulties. For example:

Erin is 18 and has a son, Derek, who is 11 months old. When I first met Erin, she was going to high school, was on track to graduate, and was planning on starting college in the spring (one step forward), but there was no room for her to start until the fall (one step back). At that time she was living with her dad and brother, and she found out she was going to get into housing of her own (step forward). Two weeks before she was set to move in, she found out that the previous tenant would not be moving after all (step back). Shortly after that, her family was forced to vacate the apartment where they were living, and her dad and brother moved out of town, leaving Erin alone with Derek (step back). Thankfully Erin was able to live with a friend and found a job (step forward). She began to receive some child support, and with her job, she was able to stop receiving county cash assistance (step forward). Then, her hours at work were cut and the child support stopped too (step back). Erin decided to look for more work (step forward). She is limited to where she can search because she does not have a driver’s license or a vehicle (step back). She was able to obtain a bike and a carrier for Derek (step forward). Shortly after obtaining her bike, the wheel on the carrier popped and she does not have the money to fix it (step back).

And on and on it goes for so many of the families we work with–sadly, this is the day-to-day reality for many living in our community. I see it as my job to help walk alongside and celebrate the successes, as well as provide encouragement during those (sometimes difficult to swallow) steps back.

Happily, Erin is once again on the “step forward” track: she recently obtained housing of her own, is still looking for a second job, and she continues to push forward to provide for Derek. And no matter what, I’ll be there to support her in in her journey.

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Crisis Nursery to the Rescue!

Sally called Bridges of Hope, crying hysterically. She is the mother of three children: Jackie (age 7), Holly (age 5), and Tim (age 3). I had previously worked with Sally for several months through one of Bridges of Hope’s in-home programs,  which is why she asked to speak with me on this particular morning. Sally explained that her 5-year-old, Holly, had been taken to the emergency room the night before because she had been exhibiting very violent behavior toward her two siblings, and she also had begun inflicting self-harm, banging her head against the floor. Holly had been examined by the ER doctors and then transported to a mental health facility several hours away. Sally wanted to be able to go to the facility to stay near her daughter while she received treatment, but she did not have any friends or family member available to watch her children and had turned to Bridges because of our history of working together, hoping we might know of a local resource that could help her.

Crisis Nursery Services LogoI spoke with Sally about our Crisis Nursery program. The Crisis Nursery is a program available to connect families with short-term childcare by a licensed provider, during a family’s crisis, at no cost to them. Sally was so relieved that there was a service for her to utilize during her crisis. I was able to place Jackie and Tim with one of our amazing Crisis Nursery providers within one hour of Sally’s call.

Several days after the placement, Sally stopped by the Bridges of Hope office, asking to speak with me. Sally reported the children had LOVED the provider and had been able to roast marshmallows during their time in her care. Sally let me know that Holly had been released from the mental health facility a few days after arriving, and that she had been diagnosed with autism. Before leaving, Sally asked if she could give me a hug because she was so grateful for all the time and effort that was put into helping her in her time of need. I was happy to oblige, and even happier that Sally had been able to care for one of her children in crisis while not having to worry over the safety or comfort of the other two.