Helping Women and their Families ASPIRE to New Heights!
Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia is proud to announce that we will be a partner alongside ForKids, in Women United’s ASPIRE pilot program. Women United is a group of women philanthropists, organized through United Way of South Hampton Roads, whose membership is dedicated to eliminating barriers women and children face to escape poverty and achieve permanent self-sufficiency.
Women United has established funding for the ASPIRE pilot, which will provide intensive case management services to women and their children in an effort to increase financial self-sufficiency as well as improve overall family functioning. By serving women and children, the pilot hopes to provide education and services to empower families to create generational transformation. We are working hard to plan the pilot and will be bringing on other community partners to address the specific needs these families face. The program will be ready to serve our first families by January 2019, and we expect to serve 50 families through the pilot for up to three years.
For more information, please contact Tracy Fick at (757) 456-2366, ext. 1011.
Truly Changing Lives!
Initiated in 2015, CCEVA’s Strengthening Families Program utilizes evidence-based curriculum, paired with common sense, advocacy and lots of love, to help families grow closer and stronger. The 14-week program includes education for the whole family, with curriculum for the children and adults mirrored in separate sessions, and then a family dinner together with CCEVA staff. Education focuses on better communication, appropriate and effective discipline, developing family goals as well as substance abuse prevention. The program is free to any family and many of our families learn and grow so much that they attend another session.
CCEVA currently has funding from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to provide the program to families on the Virginia Peninsula. Classes are also held for families on the southside thanks to the generosity of the United Way of South Hampton Roads and our agency donors.
Although a myriad of issues are addressed in classes, we have seen recent success in less truancy for families with teenaged students, and better family functioning with the increased supports and knowledge.
Recently, attending a community function at a local hotel, our staff ran into a former participant who was so eager to reunite with our Program Director, Milcah Wade. “The program really made me a better step-dad, and has prepared me to be a good dad my daughter, who is due in January.” he said. “We still have our vision boards at home!”, he reported.
The program is such a success because CCEVA staff build on families’ strengths. Helping families effectively problem-solve and communicate through this program has been incredible. We are truly grateful for all of those who support this important, meaningful work!
For more information, please contact Milcah Wade at email@example.com.
Is it me or are you getting on my last nerve?
Written by Kelle Watson, M.A. LPC
Director of Mental Health
Being in a helping profession is a noble calling. It can be rewarding beyond anything money can buy. It can make you feel fulfilled and left with a feeling that all is right with the world. This is how we all begin as helpers, wide eyed, naïve, with lofty notions of changing the world one person at a time. While being a helper is truly an altruistic thing to do, it can leave us feeling stressed, defeated, unappreciated, resentful, exhausted, and angry. If we are not careful, being a helper can lead us down the road to a bad case of burn out.
Think back to a time when you had a bad friend. You know the one who always talks about themselves and interrupts you if you try to change the subject and if by some chance you do get to talk they don’t remember anything you have said to them? The friend who borrows money from you and doesn’t pay it back and also forgets that you loaned them money to begin with? The friend you dread when you see their number come up on your phone or in a text because you know it is them wanting to drain the life out of you? The friend who is so dramatic you wonder why they didn’t go into acting? The friend who has a string of horrible relationships and wants your advice about why they keep ending up with the same type of person when you’ve already told them three relationships ago? The friend who meets you for dinner, forgets their wallet and then challenges the tip you are leaving the server? We have all had this kind of friend. This friend left us feeling pretty resentful, unappreciated, and angry. Most of us eventually realize the relationship is neither a relationship nor reciprocal and we cut our losses and are no longer friends with these people. We walk away.
When we are a helper, it is not about us, it is about the other person as it should be. This one sided relationship can be extremely draining. The lack of reciprocity combined with the continued giving of ourselves can cause us to feel resentment towards the person we truly want to help. If this festers and grows, resentment turns to anger, anger turns to fatigue, fatigue turns to burn out and the burn out may make us want to walk away from the helping profession.
I remember years ago meeting an older man at a counseling training. He told me he had walked away from the profession for several years because he was, “just so burnt out”. He looked at me with little to no confidence in his eyes and said, “I hope this doesn’t happen to me again”. I remember wondering what his plan was. Was he planning on leaving the profession again and again? That didn’t seem like much of a plan. I remember being grateful for meeting him early on in my career as it made me realize I did not want this to happen to me. So, I began to put a self care plan in place.
What is self care? Self care is attending to all facets of your life. If you break your foot you would go to the doctor and get it fixed and no one would call you selfish for doing so. You are just taking care of yourself. People empathize with our broken foot, open the door for us as we hobble through it, or ask to sign our cast. We get the compassion and empathy we deserve for our broken foot. While everyone can spot a broken foot, not everyone can spot a weary soul. So, when a weary soul asks for time to take care of themselves emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, unfortunately they may be viewed as being selfish or self indulgent.
Think back to the last time you boarded a plane. You excitedly or maybe anxiously were awaiting takeoff. The flight attendants began their safety talk as you buckled in half listening. They instruct you if the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first so you can help the person next to you. I’ll admit the first time I heard that I thought that seemed selfish but then again I was new to the helping profession. Logically, if you are gasping for breath you are in no shape to help the person next to you. You have to take care of yourself before you can begin to help the person next to you.
Part of my job is teaching counselors how to learn the balance of helping others while also remembering to care for themselves. I know they will not last long in the field if they don’t find this balance. Balance is very important in life. You can’t continually withdraw from your bank account without putting more money in. You can’t continually drive without filling up your car with gas. You can’t continually give to others without giving to yourself.
A helping professional needs to have a self care plan in place. If they do not have one, burn out may begin to creep in. Burn out may start slowly and then build. Some common signs are anger, resentment, irritability, apathy, and stress. By the time these signs begin to appear, it is time to take action and address these negative emotions before they get worse.
If your engine light comes on in your car and doesn’t go out you wouldn’t ignore it because you know if you do, you are eventually going to break down on the side of the road. You would make an appointment with a mechanic. You would learn what the problem is before something worse may happen. Think of the beginning of burn out as your engine light coming on. Your emotions are trying to tell you something is not quite right. You need to slow down, listen to it and attend to it. Becoming self aware is the first step. Once you become self aware you are heading towards burn out you need to take action. Taking action is what calms you down, what destresses you, and also what builds your reserves back up. Building your reserves back up allows you to continue on so you can help others.
I’ve heard miraculous stories of people surviving in the open sea for hours. One thing they always mention is that for a while they just floated on top of the water not expending much energy. It helped conserve the energy they needed to keep treading the water because they didn’t know when or if they would be rescued. So they would tread, then float, tread, then float. No one would call them selfish for floating. They were conserving their energy and building back up their reserves. Not only was this a smart thing to do, it ended up being life saving.
As helping professionals, sometimes we are working with clients who are also experiencing burn out. Our clients may be giving to others in their lives at the expense of themselves. Sometimes our clients allow others to take advantage of them, use them, or worse, abuse them. If we, in the helping profession, have our own self care plan in place we can easily teach clients how to do the same. If we do not have a self care plan in place, then we will have little success in trying to teach it to others.
So what does a self care plan look like? It is as varied as we are. For some it is being alone, for others it is being with friends and family. For some it is going to the beach, for others it is going to the mountains.
The following is a list of self care options to put into practice to reduce the stress in your life and build your reserves back up. It is not an exhaustive list but rather a starter list so you can begin to think about what your own personal self care list would look like:
Take a 20 minute nap
Learn how to meditate
Sit outside and enjoy nature
Take a long bath
Talk with a supportive friend
Write in a journal
Do something creative like draw, paint, or play an instrument
Make something creative, bake, create a new recipe, knit a scarf
Close your eyes and count slowly to 100
Do some deep breathing
Spend 5 minutes being grateful
Take time to exercise
Try yoga, Pilates, or tai chi
Spend 10 minutes stretching
Go to a park and swing on a swing
Light some incense, close your eyes and let it take you to another place
Have a cup of tea
Go to the bookstore and read for hours
Watch you tube videos that make you laugh
Watch you tube videos of animals and babies
Work in the garden, arrange some flowers
Take a long hot shower
Unplug from social media
Go to a museum
Go sit on the beach
Tell corny jokes
Go to the spa for a massage or facial
Google inspirational quotes
Doing things that you enjoy, that are relaxing, restful, creative, restorative, and good for you helps build your reserves back up. Once your reserves are built back up you are ready to help others once again. After all, that is why we all chose a helping profession in the first place. I encourage you to take the time to care for yourself and incorporate a self care plan into your life. Once it is incorporated, it will become second nature. You will have a go to list that replenishes your emotional reserves and gets you ready to give to others once again.
I would like to leave you with one final thought. Have you taken care of yourself today?
When talking about adoption I often hear it referred to as a journey. When I think about a journey I think about something that is ongoing with no definitive end. One of the definitions for the word journey is “passage or progress from one stage to another.” I think it is that definition of the word journey that best describes the journey of adoption. You see, adoption is not a one time thing. It is not just the event that happens on the day that your child is placed with you. It is an ongoing journey or “passage or progress from one stage to another.”
Last year Catholic Charities started a post adoption program to support families who have adopted. It doesn’t matter if you adopted the child as an infant, internationally, or through foster care. It doesn’t matter if the adoption happened a month ago or 11 years ago. The program was designed to support families through all stages of their adoption journey. As an adopted child myself it has been interesting to work with families who have adopted. Every story is different, each adoption is different, and there are no two stories that are the same. The only commonality that I see is that each family is on a journey trying to navigate the world of adoption.
I was brought home from the hospital at just a few days old. Having been adopted in the 80’s I have little information on my birth family. I know their ages and that is about it. My parents have always been open and honest about the fact that I was adopted and have always been supportive of whatever decisions I choose to make when it comes to searching for my birth family (but that is a whole different story). I was never that kid who asked a lot of questions about my adoption; it never bothered me. In fact, it has never been a big deal in my family (immediate and extended). Truth be told I think that most of my extended family forgets that I was adopted. I have always been secure in who I am and never really struggled with the fact that I was adopted; at least until my late 20’s. It was during that time that I was diagnosed with a genetic medical condition. I remember being on the ultrasound table and the technician who was working on me was giving me a really hard time about not knowing my medical history and how irresponsible it was of me to not have pursued avenues of finding it. To be honest, I was shocked. I didn’t know how to respond. I had never in my life had anyone respond to the fact that I was adopted in that way. I remember leaving the office, getting into the car, and immediately calling my mom upset. I would say that this was the first time in my life, in my adoption journey, that I had ever struggled or had doubts. Was I being irresponsible or was that woman just being insensitive. My mother talked me through it of course and by the time that the conversation had ended I was fine and had just chalked up the woman’s comments to complete ignorance. But, it was at that moment that I realized how adoption is truly a journey.
It is a journey that will bring great joy to both the adoptee and the adoptive parents but it is also a journey that can bring sorrow, hard questions, and strong emotions. November is National Adoption Month. It is a month to celebrate the joys of adoption. And adoption does bring so much joy. However, I also see the struggles. The parents who can’t understand their child’s extreme behaviors. The adoptee who is trying to come to grips with the loss of their biological family. It is important to remember that these struggles can hit at any time. Your child could be like me and have a really tough day when they are in their 20’s. Or, it could be the 8 year old who has experienced extreme trauma before coming to you and doesn’t know how to properly express it.
What I want each adoptive parent to know (whether you are just starting out or you have been parenting for years) is that the journey is continuous. Have a support system, especially a support system of other adoptive families. Seek out training opportunities; there are some wonderful conferences and trainings out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; there are agencies out there that will support you. It is a personal passion of mine to walk beside families throughout their journey so that they know that they are not alone. I know many other adoption workers who feel the same way. But we can’t help if you don’t ask for help. Be honest about both your joys and your struggles and remember that this journey of adoption that you are on is an amazing one.
For more information on Catholic Charities’ Post Adoption Program go to our website www.adoptionandpregnancycenter.org