What Does It Mean To Be a Caring Adult To These Kids?
This month's guest post was written by Pam Sheely, the Therapeutic Activity Manager at Chaddock. In her spare time Pam enjoys hunting, playing golf, spending time with friends and simply enjoying life. Pam is a huge Cubs fan despite the fact that most of her friends are Cardinals fans!
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story” - Josh Shipp
I found that quote a few years back and since then it is always with me. It is the quote at the bottom of my work emails and it is a constant reminder of who I want to be to the kids in my care.
What does it mean to be a caring adult to these kids?
When I started working at Chaddock almost 30 years ago I thought it meant that these kids just needed someone to hug them. I was fresh out of college with a degree in Sports Management and no idea of what I wanted to be or do with my life. I needed some money and was looking for some coaching experience. I was told Chaddock was hiring and thus my journey began and I quickly learned that a hug was definitely not all these kids needed. So what do they need?
Well, each kid is different and unique which is what makes them so special and also means that each kid might need something different.
For example, some kids need you to tell them over and over to do something. Across campus I am known (among the kids!) as the person that will get on their case about wearing proper clothing for the weather. One day, after I asked one of our more strong willed boys where his coat was and why he didn’t have it on he asked me why I was always on him about wearing one. I simply said “I remind you because I care. If I didn’t care I would quit asking you. Would you like me to stop asking?” He said “Oh, I see. No.” I could tell that this was not the response he expected and I think he was taken aback by it. I believe in his mind I was just someone nagging him to do something.
Another way I try to show the kids I care is by cooking for them during Holidays. Recently I asked the staff and kids to let me know what would make their plates happy on Thanksgiving. I worked hard to make as many of the items they listed so that it would make being here on the holiday a little less painful. That weekend I was our supervisor on campus and one of our young men said to me: “I wanted to make sure to thank you for cooking for me. Everything was good.” He then said “I wish you could be my grandmother” (he talks about his grandma quite a bit). Now first let me tell you that the grandmother part hurt a little because in my mind I am not old enough to be anyone’s grandmother (!) but then I thought about what he had said. I don’t think he really wanted me to be his grandmother. I believe what he wanted was someone to take care of him by cooking for him, listening to him and telling him he was worth caring about even though he was not feeling that way.
I am extremely fortunate to get to work in an agency that looks at each child as an individual and we measure success not only in the big moments but in all of the small ones too. For example, when a child got mad and instead of running from our campus they chose to climb a tree instead. Of course we don’t encourage kids to leave and climb trees but we celebrate the fact that this was a better choice than running away. And when that same kid says they are not coming down from the tree because no one cares you let them know that there are people who care and who are ready to show them that care, unconditionally.
I leave you with the same quote I started with, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story”.
Will you be that adult?
At Chaddock we use the phrase “meet the child where they are at”. This means physically, geographically, biologically, emotionally, psychologically and individually. Our responses are matched to what our kids need.
All children need to know that someone cares for them, no matter their history or previous experiences. Some children need to hear this a lot, whereas others just need small doses, it all depends on where they are at emotionally.
Many of the kids we work with at Chaddock believe that they are not worthy of love and that no-one cares about them (despite having caregivers who do indeed love and care for them), so every single member of our staff works to show them otherwise.
We let our kids know that we care for them in many different ways but the biggest and most important way we demonstrate it is by showing up for them predictably, consistently, and absolutely unconditionally. So whether we are repeating a direction for the fifth time, celebrating a new skill, emotionally partnering during a behavioral crisis or sharing a joyful experience, our kids learn that we do and will care about them, no matter what.