This post was written by Kazden Lewis, Family Services Coordinator for Simon Cottage. In her spare time Kazden enjoys cooking and spending time with family and friends.
I found Chaddock, or rather it found me, my senior year of college. I was studying social work and needed an internship for my last semester. I had never heard of Chaddock but was encouraged by my professor. I applied for their internship program and ended up filling the last spot. Within my first week at Simon Cottage I was convinced that this place was different than any other I had ever witnessed. I had never heard adults speak to or speak about children in the way that the youth counselors did. They worked so hard to understand and care for the kids. I remember being amazed at the tenacity! I didn’t have any experience in the trauma and attachment world and certainly didn’t know anything about how that informed the behavior of a child. The staff were so calm and patient – in the beginning of my internship it was almost addicting to be there because every day I saw something new.
After a four-month internship I was offered a position at Simon. I accepted without hesitation, graduated from college, and then got to work. At Chaddock, learning and training are integral parts of the job. I had friends who had accepted other social work positions nearby and were just thrown into the work but my experience was much different. In my first month of the job I spent countless hours learning about the brain, learning about therapeutic interactions, and learning how to be a staff that could be counted on by the team and by the kids who lived on campus. This job wasn’t easy by any means but I can’t imagine doing it without all the training that new employees get. I was a youth counselor for three years. In that time, I saw success and I saw challenge. I saw big wins and I saw heartbreaking losses. I worked with countless families and really saw the difference in care that Chaddock offers. There’s this saying around campus that talks about finding and knowing your “buttons” because if you don’t, the kids will. That’s indicative of the work that is done here. This isn’t a job that you get to work at passively.
It takes the ability to be humble, learn from mistakes, try new things, and overall, it takes showing up day in and day out.
When you’re doing those things for work, it’s impossible not to grow as a human. I became a better communicator, a better friend, and gained an understanding of the importance of relationships.
My time as a youth counselor ended when I accepted the position that I am in now. I work as the Family Services Coordinator for Simon Cottage. I work more directly with the families that we serve and have the opportunity to teach and really walk with them as treatment progresses. Seeing a family grow stronger together and really fight to heal has been incredibly impacting. Some of these families have tried for YEARS to find solutions before learning about Chaddock. To have the privilege of seeing sparks of hope beginning to form again for a family that has tried and tried to make things work isn’t something that I take lightly. When the exhaustion inevitably happens and the long days seem to never stop, I can hold on to the little buds of hope that have began to grow. I love working for an organization that is as determined as the families that we serve. We have generational impact happening everyday here and most people can’t say that.
Without Chaddock I wouldn’t be the person I am today and that sentence can be echoed by families all over the nation. I am so thankful to be here.
At Chaddock one of the biggest aspects of our training process is working on our ability to be reflective and vulnerable. We do this for a number of reasons, with the most important being that we are asking our children and families to do the same.
The second being that we know we cannot support a child and family fully until we truly know ourselves, our why, our triggers, our strengths and our own history and how it impacts us. Once we have this information we are able to approach our work with our children and families without distraction and with heightened self-awareness. This level of self-awareness allows us to be fully present in the relationships we have with our kids; if we are not, our kids definitely recognize this and will challenge us as they need adults who are predictable, consistent and reliable.
As employees we recognize that this is an ongoing process due to the fact that our work takes place within relationships and every time we encounter a new child or family we experience a new set of interactions that influence us as individuals.