We occasionally hold staff retreats as a way to bring staff together that would normally be too busy to constructively discuss the work we're doing and come up with new ideas, plan goals and solve problems. Our Community Programs staff recently participated in a department-wide retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Reconnecting to the Work and to Each Other”, and was held St. John’s United Methodist Church. It was cheering to see each other outside of the confines of the agency grounds, making the mood friendly and welcoming. The retreat brought together Case Managers, Activity Therapists, the Licensing Department, supervisors, and our Parent Outreach Coordinator.
Director of Community Programs, Doug White, opened with a story about his experience as the commencement speaker for his graduation ceremony at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University in Manhattan, New York. He spoke of close bonds forged with his peers over that time and the many changes in life each of them experienced. Former Clinical Case Management Supervisor Jen McLaughlin led an icebreaker where each person partnered with another and had to answer seemingly easy yet hard questions such as, “Describe yourself in one word.”
Treatment Foster Care Licensing supervisor, Holly Grant, led an activity where each person spoke about how they initially got into varying aspects of social work and / or clinical therapy and “reasons why I do the work”. A theme emerged where all were interested in the ‘helping’ professions. Many of us started out in wanting to be doctors but found we weren’t very good at math. This was one of the favorite activities mentioned in the survey after the retreat. It was interesting to know more about the person you work next to and how they got into this field.
The group was then treated to a presentation by Facing Foster Care Alaska. Several of the youth on the panel had been in services with AK Child & Family. It was great seeing them say hello to former Activity Therapists and Case Managers. They spoke of the positive things AK Child & Family helped them with, such as building relationships and “knowing my Case Manager was going to be there” or ”spending time with my Activity Therapist.” They also spoke about the importance and need of permanent homes and situations. One student communicated that he had moved placements over 40 times. They also spoke about the importance of listening to the youth in care and considering their opinions and feelings when making important decisions such as placement. The youth on the panel spoke of their current successes such as attending college and starting families. The FFCA panel was the number one favorite activity of the group mentioned in the survey.
Up next was success stories presented by Case Managers Tammy Radke and Keita Senaga and Activity Therapists Jacob Dee and Victoria Barnes. Each spoke of triumphs and successes about the youth they work with. Tammy shared a story about the steps it took to get a transitional age youth into Job Corp and appointed an adult guardian. Keita spoke about the years he has spent with a specific family and the tremendous progress the family has experienced. Jacob and Victoria shared stories about seeing goals and objectives achieved through activity therapy.
The group was treated to a session of Yoga led by a professional from the community who was also the husband of our former Case Manager, Darcy Stein. The group was shown breathing and poses one can do in an office space. Yoga was another favorite of the group. Social services can be stressful at times so it was helpful to learn breathing strategies and stretches to help de-stress.