This month’s post is written by Anne Konen, Workforce Development Manager with Caregiver Connections. Outside of her work at Chaddock she enjoys spending time with her husband and two young kids, exploring local farmers markets and playgrounds, reading, and having family dance parties.
I began working at Chaddock in January of 2022 as the Workforce Development Manager for Caregiver Connections. In response to a statewide expansion to Mental Health Consultation, my role was created, in part, to work alongside the leadership team to onboard, mentor, train, and support new hires as they begin their journey as consultants in the field infant and early childhood mental health. Prior to this role I myself was a Caregiver Connections consultant in Chicago so I knew firsthand how important it was to ensure that new consultants are given the tools, resources, and time to dive into the work. The Caregiver Connections program is all about relationships and how we bring new consultants onto the team sets the foundation for their growth and learning, and supports their capacity to build and maintain relationships with child care providers across the state, so young children get the nurturing and loving care they deserve.
Caregiver Connections is a strengths-based program that builds connections with home-based and child care centers across the state. Consultants observe programs, classrooms, or individual children (with signed parental consent) to get a sense of who the child care program is, including the environment, flow of the day/structure, how they interact and engage with children, how they react and respond, etc. in addition to better understanding who the child is and what is happening for them throughout the day. From there consultants provide space for the program to reflect on how things are going and offer any thoughts, ideas, or strategies for teachers to feel more capable and confident to handle behaviors. In meeting with programs and families, consultants gather information, talk about child or classroom specific challenges or behavior, learn more about what their experience is and get their perspective on what might be going on with or for a child. They work together to talk through situations and think about what other strategies, ideas, or things could be going on for a child that is impacting their behavior or how things are going in the classroom.
This role has been a great opportunity to blend my passion for consultation, understanding the importance and need for it, with being able to support the growing workforce. A strength of Caregiver Connections is in how we help our consultants develop in their roles. Caregiver Connections has created a unique model and perspective to onboard our new hires, welcoming over 20 consultants to the team in 2022 alone. The scale of expanding the program was huge and in doing so it was important to think about how to scaffold and build a workforce that can grow in their capacity to slow down, show up for, and truly be present with child care providers. There is a parallel process in play- giving consultants what they need to support child care providers, so in turn the providers can give their best to the young children in their care. This is the heart of consultation- supporting caregivers to be attuned and responsive to the needs of young children and knowing that every child deserves to be valued and understood.
Working with young children and their families has always been at the heart of what I wanted to do. After graduating college, I moved back to Milwaukee and became a case manager for children and families involved in the child welfare system. At the tender age of 21 my eyes were being opened to just how large the world around me was and how many systems are at play to keep our most vulnerable children safe and in stable homes. My years in child welfare exposed me to what it meant to be trauma-informed, way before I heard that phrase years later while in graduate school. I was seeing first hand what children and families were going through and understood that the challenges they faced were real. It is a tough balance to hold multiple perspectives and make sure all voices are heard, but this is something I came to understand the need for, and value of, while in that role. Everyone has a story, has a voice, and it is through the power of relationships that giving space to be heard and listened to can happen.
“Holding space” is a term that is used throughout Chaddock to refer to the process of reflection that we engage in across many different relationships, whether it be supervisor to supervisee or staff to client. This way of being with another individual is vital in our work as it communicates empathy, compassion and support. By taking this stance, you allow room for people to feel seen and heard.
It is often a difficult skill to master as it requires us to let go of our own agenda, and not jump into “fix it” mode – a trait (while full of good intention) that is often found in those in the helping profession. Next time you find yourself interacting with another person, we encourage you to hold space for that person’s thoughts, feeling and opinions and watch the magic happen!