Happy Sunday, all!
The combination of COVID and George Floyd rocked Minnesota like no other. As the summer progressed, 2020 continued to prove the most challenging year of the lives of so many. Thankfully for me, my work life didn't change much - I still remained in the office and on track to continue the work I had always been doing. That was until June, when I was asked to support our residential substance use disorder program for women and children. The program had recently lost its program director and a couple internal staff were doing what they could to support. Our organization knew it needed a major overhaul, and as I saw what was happening in the program, to the extent I could at the time, I was drawn more and more to making a difference.
I agreed to move over and begin supporting at a higher level in mid-July, including operations work, strategic planning, and everything that comes with both. I didn't know what that meant or looked like, but would find out quickly. During my first week, two major events took place. First, I began to witness how the program was running, how the staff were toward clients, and how much work was needed. I left a couple times in that first week with tears in my eyes, watching and knowing how the women and kiddos were viewed and treated by certain staff, knowing this had been going on for a long time. That was NOT going to continue on my watch. The restructure and staffing plan was first on the list!
Second, we ended up with a COVID outbreak, something that would bring positive tests to all of the kiddos, about 80% of the moms, and about 35% of staff. No one had ever dealt with it before, so it was all learn-as-we-go type work. It was quite possibly the most challenging month I had experienced in many years. We made it through, and began on the path to a better program.
Early in the fall, after promoting another team member of mine to program manager, we began to hire, hire, hire. We built a team of support staff and backfilled another lead role, filling out the team that had been so problematic and short staffed for so long. We were getting closer, with just a clinical supervisor and/or program director to fill. At the same time, we began the physical renovations, something that was desperately needed. One by one, day by day, rooms and space began to turn...
Later in the fall, we lost a regional director who had been supporting the clinical staff, and no longer had a VP present in that division, so things became even more hectic for me, managing all teams in the program and dealing with every aspect of management, including everything clinical, something that was not in my background. Not long after, we lost both counselors and were at a very challenging point in the transition, all during the holidays. We did the best we could to provide beautiful holidays for the moms and kiddos. Santa came, presents came, parties were thrown, and comfort was provided in any way possible.
By the time early 2021 came, we had found both new counselors and were on our way to a full team again. More importantly, over the months previous, we implemented so many processes, policies, and procedures that supported staff, moms, and kiddos. We began bringing in beautiful welcome baskets, ordered in food every other week, and planned regular activities. This all led to a new spirit, one where women and their children were treated with respect, honor, and dignity, something we all deserve.
By March of 2021, we had found a permanent program director, and the realization of my time coming to an end was so incredibly relieving, so incredibly sad, and so incredibly gratifying. I always sum up my time in the program like this: I have a sister with kids, and if she needed treatment in the summer of 2020, even though I was overseeing the program, I would not have allowed her to come there. By spring of 2021, my attitude changed tremendously. Not only would I have her there, I wouldn't have her anywhere else. Period. A new staff, a new physical appearance, a new way of treating one of the worst diseases we know of. A complete flip, what a beautiful memory. Here's the recently published video that outlines what the program looks like today! And a picture of what greeted my final walk away as the interim director, from moms and kiddos of the program...
Though there were many days I wanted to give up, to quit the job, and to get back to some normalcy, something in me kept fighting. Fighting for the staff that needed it. Fighting for the moms that needed it. Fighting for the kiddos that needed it. And as is usually the case, the dawn on the other side of the dark proved to be more than worth it. That's how life goes, if we let it. And the reward on the other side is unlike any other. In one last post in the effort to bring my blog up to current state, I will share about returning to that balance, planning time with family and friends, and reaping the benefits of doing God's work, something that can only be felt through experience.
Until then, stay safe and happy!