DR. ENGLAND: My name is Doctor Liz England and I’m the Clinical Director at Providence House.
Providence House is a residential, family reunification program or family preservation program. So for families that are risk of having children removed or families that have had children removed and are working to get them back. Our goal is to strengthen and reunify that family and keep them together forever is our long-term goal. So we do that by providing therapy services to the families. We provide case management services and then they get to live on our campus where they get — at some point — they get their own apartment and it sort of becomes their own community. Many people think of us as another type of residential facility that is a lockdown facility where it feels like an institution and that is the opposite of what we are. We really want to create an environment that just feels like home. It’s just only temporary and they will be moving out at some point, but we want it to feel as normal for the children especially and certainly for the families. We want it to feel like it’s their home, not some place they’re staying.
We admit ten families at a time and — well, we have ten families that can take up spaces — and they come in with really varying levels of problems. Many of our families are struggling with substance abuse, but sometimes we get families that have been clean for a year and sometimes I get families where the mom has just come out of inpatient last week. So one of the things that is great about the community piece is that we have, sort of, those different stages and then the new folks can come in and see what it looks like and how the people are feeling about things that have been here for a while. It’s very scary for people when they first come here because we aren’t saying you have to stay here for thirty days like a lot of facilities, and that’s scary enough. We are saying you have to live here for six months, maybe up to a year. So, people are terrified to do that. They’re not quite sure if they are going to fit in and they’re not quite sure if it’s going to really be helpful, so it’s nice that they can kind of come and see other folks that are a little bit farther along. One of the things that I think is most important, for many of the referrals that we get they have tried other services through DCS. They’ve had home based services, the children have maybe been removed and gone to foster care and maybe they’ve received some services there. But if they are coming to Providence House, then those things have probably not been successful. So that means that these families are unique in some ways and that they have more barriers to really becoming successful. And sometimes they have no supports. They have no family supports and we are the only thing that they have. You know, one of the things that I think that has been the most touching that I’ve heard from some families that have graduated this program, was that being here was the first place they’ve ever felt supported. And that is crucial in feeling that they can be successful in the end. And these are families that, they didn’t purposely neglect their children, they love their children, that’s why they are working so hard to get them back. But because of their own life experiences, lots of our families have experienced their own childhood traumas. They may have had emotionally neglectful parents of their own and so they don’t even know what’s missing because they kind of never had it. And their just lost souls that need someone to love them and get them back to where they can move and be on their own.
I think the most important factor within the family is that they are committed and motivated for change. Sometimes they feel like, “OK lets say it’s a substance abuse referral. I’m clean that should be all I need to do.” But that’s not what we are about. We’re about really creating some of that internal change and change on that family level, so they need to be ready for that. And ready for direction from me and from the rest of my staff, that sort of serve as “pseudo parents” and I think that’s hard for adults because they’ve been adults for awhile and we are saying that you are going to feel like a child for a little bit while you’re here because we’re going to parent you. And that they are open and able to do that and willing to do that. Willing to connect with us, I think too is really important.
We are always looking for people that want to help us out and we are open to just about any sort of gift or talent, that anyone has. As a nonprofit of course, we’re always helped out by cash donations that helps us take the kids on trips, like to Holiday World, or may help us get them the Christmas gifts that they need. And we’re also always taking donations of household items from furniture, to dishes, to linens, children’s clothes, children’s toys, adult clothing, anything that you feel like that a family member may be able to take advantage of. Not only for the time that they are in our program, but also we try to furnish their apartments once they move out so they’ll needs things to kind of take with them. Also, we are happy to have volunteers at any time. The most important function of our volunteers I think is that they are comfortable really functioning autonomously. I only have four staff so if someone is interested in coming to volunteer, it’s really great if they can sort of decide on their own that they want to, you know, clean out a closet or come and play with a child or spend some time with an adult and that they feel comfortable sort of introducing themselves to our families and feel like they are just apart of the community.