Our Social Workers

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Contributed By: Jessica Brumbaugh, LMSW, Evaluation & Program Director at SPCC

Over the years, I have talked with co-workers and friends who also work in the field of social work or a similar helping profession about how their friends and family feel about their work.  Similar to first responders, much of what social workers witness and experience on a daily basis goes unseen by the majority of the world. Which puts us in an interesting position. After years of being asked casually, “So what do you do?”, referring to my job or employment, I have learned to choose my words carefully. My husband often jokes that when I first started working in this field, I would routinely bring a conversation “down” within seconds when explaining my job. The truth is, much of what social workers experience every day can be very intense and often leave us with a heavy heart. Other days, we might witness an amazing breakthrough for a person or family – sometimes small but something that seemed impossible just the day before. Baby steps is what we like to call it. And those are the moments that help us to endure the next, and to keep pressing forward toward the next breakthrough.

The social workers here at SPCC (and I include in this term the counselors, the therapists, the case workers, the supervisors) are inspiring. They take on incredible challenges with such passion and determination, despite the fact that the work is not easy or simple. It is complex. And when presented with a new family to help, no matter how heavy the circumstances, they dive right in and give it their all. And they believe in people and their ability to not only survive in life, but to thrive. I read a quote recently:

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.” – Benjamin Disraeli

The professionals here at SPCC do not pretend to be the answer. Instead, they set out to help families find those “riches” that reside within and to learn to tap their strengths in ways that allow them to heal and to grow in life.

Below are a few words of thanks and appreciation from those who have been touched by our staff over the years. I wanted to share them as a way to say THANK YOU to the social work staff here at SPCC as we celebrate Social Workers Month.

“I am really able to talk with my social worker to problem solve issues that may arise and having her support has been great.”

“I cannot express enough how pleased I am with my children’s counselor. She has always made my children and me feel comfortable and safe.”
“I can’t believe I have only known you [her social worker] for about a year. So much has happened, and you have been there through it all.”

A past client, now in her 30’s, referred her teenage daughter’s friend who is 16, and just learned that she is pregnant. This past client stated, “She doesn’t trust anyone, but I know she can get the help she needs from your program.”

A past client recently shared with us: “I am working on a Bachelors in Social Work and I work full-time as a Family Advocate for a local Head Start program. I enjoy working with families and a lot of how I work with my families stems from social workers that I had at SPCC. They taught me a lot and I definitely credit them for where I am today!”

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Serving Young Parents & Young Children with Commitment and Skill

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Megan & her sweet baby Aubri

Megan Rundle, MS:

Serving Young Parents and Young Children with Commitment & Skill

By: Sarah Fitzgibbons & Laurie Valentine

Recently we realized that although we have many extraordinary staff we don’t slow down often enough to highlight their skills and contributions to SPCC and the community. We would like to start taking the time to do this more regularly. As a start, SPCC would like to highlight one of our counselors in our Building Healthy Children (BHC) program.  Although she is preparing to leave SPCC due to a shift in funding, Megan Rundle, MS truly exemplifies the passion, commitment, skill and energy that SPCC often brings to our relationships with families.

Megan was inspired to join the field of human service because of her own mother’s work as a passionate school counselor. She describes her mother as a “great role model who showed me the difference I could make in kids lives”. Megan quickly found her academic and career path, earning a Master’s Degree in counseling. Starting in 2008, Megan completed two internships in two different programs at SPCC during her Master’s program, and after she graduated, Building Healthy Children program snapped her right up for employment!

In describing her experience at SPCC and her professional growth during her time at the agency, Megan had this to say:

 I have had an incredible learning experience at SPCC. Over the past five years, I have learned so much about the field of clinical work, and about myself. I feel incredibly lucky that through my work with children and families, I have learned so much about being a good parent. I learned the important nuts and bolts of parenting through the models we use (Incredible Years and Parents as Teachers) but I learned the heart of parenting through my work with families. I have seen such strength in the girls I work with. They face so many barriers and obstacles to their goals of success, but time and time again make caring and loving their children a priority.

There are many things about Megan that SPCC and our clients will miss. Staff at SPCC are eager to describe all of the wonderful things that Megan does and is in her professional role. Supervisors, colleagues, community professionals and clients describe her as approachable, having a strong and passionate work ethic, committed and passionate. They speak often of her professionalism, reliability, and her seemingly never-ending energy and willingness to say “YES!”.

Megan’s willingness to say “yes”, and go above and beyond in donating her skills and time is exemplary. As she faced the difficult task of saying goodbye to her clients, colleagues and agency, she also donated countless hours of skill in other programs at SPCC, in addition to her job responsibilities in Building Healthy Children.  Megan often jokes that she needs an assistant to hold her “yes, I will volunteer” arm down in meetings as her passion keeps motivating her to assist in everything client related! “I donate extra time because I truly have passion for the families that we work with, and try to keep a focus on them”, Megan says. “A little bit of extra work or time can make all the difference”. Megan worked extra hours in SPCC’s Supervised Visitation Program this summer, supervised by Lisa D’Orsi.  Lisa shared, “I was so impressed with Megan’s willingness to help another program. She jumped right in to her work here, and I knew that both visits were in great hands. One of the family’s Megan worked with included a very active, young boy with developmental delays; Megan was patient, kind and supportive to the whole family. We have been so grateful for Megan’s commitment to teamwork!”

Anyone who is in the field of clinical work knows that saying goodbye is a complex and challenging process for the clinician and the client. As she prepares to leave, Megan has had to say goodbye to all of the families on her case load. Because so many of the young parents she works with have experienced extreme loss in their lives, Megan worked hard to facilitate a ‘healthy goodbye’ process for each of them- some young women have seen Megan in their homes every week for three years. She says, “Saying goodbye to all of my clients has been one of the hardest things I have faced in my career”. Megan points out that some of the young women have not even been able to meet with her after hearing the news, “I know that for some of them, saying goodbye is just too hard”.

In wrapping up her time at SPCC and her current work with young parents and children, Megan wants her clients will hold on to what Megan believes in her heart:

You have what it takes to achieve your goals and dreams. 

Even though life can get in the way at times, keep pushing and you will get there.

At times, you will lose sight of your goals.  Do not see this as a failure. See it just as a speed bump.  It is never too late to get back on track.

Hold on to the idea that your children are the most important thing in your life.  Yes, they may be challenging and frustrating at times (and don’t feel guilty on the days you want to run away!), but remember that you will never get this time back with them.

The most important person you can impact is your child. And this is a powerful, powerful thing.

 Please join us in celebrating all that Megan Rundle has done and been to SPCC, the community, and to the Building Healthy Children program. Her grace, commitment, skill and passion are irreplaceable. We wish her the best.

this moment.

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A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

 

A Reader’s Reflections on: Out of the Darkness

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Katherine Hannula Hill joined the Supervised Visitation Program at SPCC in the winter of 2012, after relocating from Seattle. She is inspired in her work helping families reunite after lengthy separation, and loves to facilitate growth and repair in parent/child relationships involved in the child welfare system. Katherine lives in a small town outside of Rochester, NY.

Inspired to learn more about SPCC’s history, Katherine recently read Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson by Eric A. Shelman & Stephen Lazoritz. SPCC was created as a direct result of Mary Ellen’s maltreatment, and she was the first child to be served by SPCC. Mary Ellen’s life, survival, and SPCC’s interventions mark the beginning of the child protection movement in the United States.

Coming by a job these days is no easy task, so when you manage to get one everyone asks about it. And when you live in a small town of 400 (including cats and dogs) that means everyone— even that person at the deli you’re pretty sure you’ve never met before. After three months of looking, I was happy to tell everyone when I finally found a job at SPCC. It quickly became apparent that telling that I got a job was the easy part. Explaining what the job was, and who it was with was more difficult. Conversations went something like this:

Them: “I heard you just got a job! Congratulations! Where do you work?”

Me: “SPCC!”

Them: “SP… what?”

Me: “The Society for the Protection and Care of Children.”

Them: “Oh…”

Me: “I work in the Supervised Visitation Program.”

Them: “Oh…”

This only happened once or twice before I came up with a spiel. I would cut them off at “SP—” and say: “The Society for the Protection and Care of Children. It’s a long name with a really cool story. It used to be called Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, mirroring the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the ASPCA. In the 1870’s a little girl was being horribly abused by her parents, to the point where neighbors wanted to get involved to protect her. But get this—there was nowhere to bring a child being abused. At this time an agency had just been formed to protect animals and the neighbors brought her there, hoping they could help her. Isn’t it weird to think that our country had a place for animals to be protected before we had even considered creating a place for children to be protected?”

After six months of working at SPCC, this story comes in handy when I meet new people—it’s a quick, genuine and digestible beginning history of our agency. While I got comfortable telling it, I started to get curious about the child behind the story: Mary Ellen Wilson. I decided to learn more about her, and picked up her biography.

Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson (Eric A. Shelman & Stephen Lazoritz) brings to light what this little girl suffered before being rescued by her ‘guardian angel,’ Etta Angell Wheeler. This story weaves together three very different lives: Mary Ellen, who had been locked up, beaten, cut and burned by her foster mother for more than seven years, Etta Angell Wheeler, a missionary who spent her days helping the poor of New York City’s slums, and surprisingly, Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA.  It’s a story that illustrates empathy, determination and right and wrong. Mary Ellen was rescued in New York City, and brought to Rochester, NY to heal and find safety with extended family, in turn influencing the creation of SPCC of Rochester in 1875.

Our system is far from perfect, but reading Mary Ellen’s story made me appreciate the options that we have today. If I see— as Mary Ellen’s neighbors saw— a little girl who is never allowed outdoors, if I hear— as her neighbors heard— a little girl’s screams as she was beaten daily, if I know –as these neighbors knew— of torture happening to a child, I can do something to change that. Out of the Darkness is the story of one little girl and the men and women who brought about the child protection system.  They gave us the opportunity to say, “That isn’t right,” regarding child maltreatment, and tools to do something about it.

Out of the Darkness is the true account of a young girl whose suffering created the need for our agency.  After finishing the book, I clearly see that Mary Ellen’s story illuminates the history of SPCC, but it also tells the beginning of our country’s child welfare system and how SPCC helped lay the foundational idea that protecting children is critical for our nation.  For those interested in learning about the how our country began shifting its way of thinking around keeping children safe from abuse, I recommend reading this book.