This piece was written by Heather Baker, Cottage Manager of Simon Cottage. In her spare time, Heather enjoys relaxing and spending time with family, her dog Bear and warm weather. She also enjoys arts, crafts and baking.

I knew when I began my journey at Chaddock I wanted to make a positive impact on the lives of children and families. Here I am, eleven years later, still working towards that goal daily. Although this journey has had many ups and downs, it is only a fraction of how some families live their daily lives searching for someone to help them heal. I am proud to say that I am part of that healing process through the work we do every day here at Chaddock.

When I first started, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just came with the mentality that I loved kids and wanted to make a difference. I was met with some resistance in my efforts and some very long nights. I can remember rocking a young lady in a rocking chair, she was eleven. Some may think a child this age is told old to be rocked. I disagree. I can remember tucking her in and within a few minutes I heard some knocking, she could not sleep. We moved her mattress to the floor, I read her a book and I tucked her in. Again, “knock-knock,” and there I was back at her door, soon making a tent. I went back to my paperwork, tired, having worked since early afternoon and here we were after midnight. I just wanted to go home. “Knock-knock-knock,” this time she was crying, “Ms. Heather, I can’t sleep.” So, without hesitation, we went to our therapy room and I found myself rocking her in a chair until she fell asleep. Once she was asleep, my colleagues and I were able to gently place her in her bed. It was 2am when I left that night and I remember thinking then, “How do parents do it?”

I have been fortunate to be part of an in-home intensive (where a therapist and parent coach work directly with a family in their own home for a series of consecutive days). During this time I was able to appreciate things from a different viewpoint. I found myself looking at things through a parent’s eyes. In my earlier example, I had a whole team there supporting me, making those long hours seem much shorter, and I got to go home at the end of my workday. While I was on this intensive we worked as a team of two. We were in the home from morning until night – I was ready for bed by 8pm! I can remember seeing how tired this parent was but all she wanted was to provide for her family and for them to be happy together. On our way back to Quincy, I was asked what I took away from the intensive experience. It was easy, “I have a better appreciation and understanding of our parents.” They do not get to go home at the end of the day, they do not have a team of four or five helping them manage the everyday struggles, and on their worst days they cannot have a break.

Family is important, and here at Chaddock, we find ourselves gaining another family. We come to work every day not knowing what it might to bring us but when you have coworkers that are there with you daily you know you can handle it. You become close. Some days you know that it is going to be tough, but you also know your team is there supporting you. One thing I have learned in the eleven years I have been with Chaddock, is that when you are hit with the “lows” of the job, that is when your team steps up. They take on extra shifts. They stay late to help not because they have to, but because they want to. They text or call to make sure things are okay and provide an ear to listen after a long day of work. Despite the sometimes long days, we come back every day because the most important thing we want our kids to know is that when they are with us, we’re family.

I am now a cottage manager and recently was able to share some of my experiences with a newer staff member. I reminded her that some days are simply going to be tough and we are just going to have to ride the storm out. And most importantly she was doing a great job. Sometimes we measure our success by how our kids are doing, which is unfair to both ourselves and our kids. We don’t always see the rewards every day of the hard work we put in. Some days you feel like you’re failing because it isn’t going as planned. Maybe you’ve tried five different ways to help a child and yet you are still met with challenges be it outward behaviors or shut down and refusal. That doesn’t mean our kids don’t care or that they don’t want to do better, it means that something is going on and we just haven’t found the “why” yet.

There is no greater feeling than watching a family reunite, seeing them laughing and smiling, and seeing the light back in the parents eyes. And years down the road, having them call and let you know they’re doing okay. I’m thankful God has placed me in the position to make differences in the lives of kids and families, whether small or big. I pray for His support as I drive onto campus, and I thank Him when I leave my shift. I’m thankful I work for an agency that values family.

Editorial Note:
Our In-Home Intensive program is for families parenting children who have attachment and trauma issues and find themselves cycling through therapists and services without seeing improvement. Our Intensive Team, consisting of a Therapist and Parent Coach, is able to travel anywhere in the United States bringing Chaddock’s extensive expertise to the family’s familiar settings.

One of the main goals of our work at Chaddock, whether in family’s homes, on our campus, or with students in our Special Education school, is to uncover the meaning or need behind a behavior – the “why”. When we place the emphasis on this discovery, instead of just seeking to stop the (often) unhelpful behavior, we are treating the root cause and not just using a Band-Aid approach. This is the key to long-term success. In our latest book “Raising the Challenging Child” you will find some great examples of how we do this and what this approach looks like in action.