Inside a Room of Secret Agents at Children's Hope Alliance

The LCSW’s (licensed clinical social workers), QP’s (qualified professionals), and LMFT’s (licensed marriage and family  therapists) are the staff members on the ground with our clients who have caused sexual harm. These TASK (Treatment Alternatives for Sexualized Kids) agents are less known to the rest of the world but celebrity to our kids and the communities impacted by their actions. They meet clients at school, over a basketball game, or with a mouthful of McDonald’s fries. Neither traffic, round-a-about Charlotte city routes, backcountry western Carolina roads, and unlisted addresses prevent them from spending time with the clients’ families. Trashcans, Jenga blocks, and snack packs are their weapons of choice to teach concepts like the difference between consent, compliance, coercion, and cooperation. TTFOFLA(two-three-four-or-five letter acronyms)is their language of choice:

TF-CBT: trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy

SA: substance abuse

CFT: child and family therapy

PCP: person-centered plan

DSS: Department of Social Services

DJJ: Department of Juvenile Justice

They encounter stories about clients stealing dirty underwear, experiencing daily emotional abuse, and getting into fights at school. And yet, our TASK staff find ways to laugh and continue to serve kids another day. As a result, our teenage clients and their families trust the agents who jump right into the mess of their real lives. In the short few months since joining the TASK and CHA (Children’s Hope Alliance) team, this physics major has watched people bring hope to hurting children and families when the world can’t always be explained with formulas and algorithms.

An update on our project

The TASK team has been working hard to establish a manual that reflects the diverse experiences of our staff from Charlotte to Guilford. Staffing and time with the kids allow us to watch the TASK model in action. Data collection is underway as we determine what TASK elements are most effective and efficient in bringing change to the lives of our clients’ and families. We are developing research procedures and structures to produce relevant and rigorous results. Those will be presented to our field and related subfields which include child psychology, sexual abuse, trauma care, child development, and juvenile delinquency.  The more research we do, the more excited we are about TASK and its potential to reach others who have caused sexual harm.

Lessons in Event Planning

For the last several months, my time has been consumed largely by planning DHC’s two biggest fundraisers. This includes a luminary fundraiser around the holidays and a soup tasting fundraiser right before the Super Bowl. At times, there seemed to be a lot of pressure; botching an event could reflect negatively on the organization or convince people not to participate next year. I made mistakes along the way, but I also learned so much, from enthusiastic volunteers, knowledgeable board members, and kind co-workers.

Below are some of the lessons I learned from planning fundraisers (disclaimer: I am by no means a professional, but speak from my own experiences):

-There are things beyond your control, some of which will go wrong. With these fundraisers we had last minute issues with electrical outlets, the amount of supplies and the beyond-our-control weather. After the fact, I learned that these things weren’t the catastrophes that they seemed to be in the moment and that panicking didn’t help the situation.

-Don’t stress about the little things (also see above)- It is alright if a mistake was made on the promotional materials or if you receive a piece of constructive criticism about the event logistics. In the grand scheme of the fundraiser, these set-backs don’t matter that much.

-Delegate tasks- I am 100% guilty of the mantra “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” Unfortunately for me, this can mean a very heavy workload and more stress (albeit self-imposed). With these fundraisers, I quickly learned that I could not do everything. I have been extremely fortunate to work with very dependable and organized people. I have also learned that it is important to be very clear about the role that volunteers will be responsible for to ensure that expectations are met.

-Be kind to yourself and others- I believe that it is very important not to be too hard on yourself; we all make mistakes because we are human and the best part is that we can learn from them. I have also found it very important to be kind to others. Even when you are stressed and everything is going wrong, it is worth the extra effort to be kind and polite to those around you. People probably won’t remember the mistake on the program but they are more likely to remember how you treat others.

After the months of planning and hundreds of e-mails, with a sigh of relief I was able to enjoy myself at both events. I was grateful that nothing major went wrong; luminaries were distributed and lit and over 180 gallons of soup was eaten. I was amazed by and grateful for the community’s support of these events. The big fundraisers are over and now I will have more time to work on grants and other projects. I hope to continue to learn and be challenged in my work here at DHC, no matter what I am doing.

A Return to Davidson

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Two weeks ago, the town of Davidson became inundated with students as Davidson College began freshmen orientation and the fall semester. For the last four years, I have been among the ranks of students visiting the bookstore in droves and moving an unimaginable amount of stuff into my small dorm room. But, this year is different, I am not a student but an outsider surprised at the transition from the quiet summer months to a busier fall with an extra 2,000 or so young people in the area. With the knowledge of hindsight, I can now look back on my time at Davidson College and how my perspective has changed as a Davidson Impact Fellow now working here in Davidson.

After graduation, I knew that I wanted to live and work in the greater Charlotte area; I imagined myself working in Charlotte, a somewhat unknown, big place where I would embark upon my first “real” job. Fast forward six months and here I am working as a Davidson Impact Fellow at the Davidson Housing Coalition (DHC). DHC’s programming is focused on four main areas: affordable housing, financial literacy and homebuyer education, job search assistance, and emergency home repairs. My role is the Management and Development Fellow, which means that I am the office manager (wearing many hats on a daily basis) and I also play a major role in fundraising and grant writing for the organization. I started my two-year position in the middle of June and with excellent training from the former fellow and current co-workers, I dove into my new title. In the ensuing two and a half months, I have learned so much and am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and make a real impact at DHC.

Working in this community, outside of the supposed “Davidson Bubble” of campus, has given me a new perspective of the town. Part of my job description is to be the first point of contact with anyone that calls or walks through the door at DHC. This means that I am able to have conversations with the people that our organization serves, providing me much-needed moments of personal contact to break the monotony of staring at a computer screen. Through speaking with our clients and viewing the neighborhoods in which some live, it has been eye opening to see the side of Davidson other than the idyllic college town, the so-called “other side of the tracks.” This side of Davidson is one in which many people live in substandard housing and/or in financial instability, one emergency away from not being able to pay their bills. Thus far, I have been fortunate to get the chance to get to know to the clients I serve, many of whom I immediately recognized as the friendly faces that work around Davidson. At DHC, we strive to provide safe, affordable, decent housing; I now comprehend just how necessary the services we offer are and what the consequences to individuals and the community would be if we didn’t offer them. Unfortunately, during the last several months I have also come to the realization that there are many people that need assistance that our organization simply cannot help, due to a number of circumstances. These experiences underscore glaring needs in the community, such as the lack of emergency housing in the area. Although this other side of Davidson is not as glamorous as what I was used to, the work I do makes a tangible impact in the lives of the tenants that I have come to know and respect.

Conversely, my time spent at DHC has also shown me some of the best qualities of the town of Davidson that I couldn’t appreciate as a student. While I was a student, I realized that Davidson was a close knit community; yet, during my time fundraising at DHC, I have gotten a new appreciation for how much community members and restaurants support local organizations that in turn strengthen the community. When there is a fundraiser for an organization or a family in need, action is taken immediately. Similarly, I have been amazed by the DHC board members’ dedication to the organization and inspired by the energy they bring to the table. Their example has provided me with a new definition of service, giving their time and their skills for the good of the organization. Lastly, by working with both middle school and college students in Davidson, I have realized just how important these young, inquisitive minds are for social justice and change, especially when these minds are encouraged and guided wisely. Local schools and the college cultivate this powerful combination of learning and service in the community.

Overall, my time at DHC has been one of transition; I have been learning a lot but have also started new projects and continued with ongoing ones. After two and a half months on the job, it is fulfilling to contemplate the change in perspective that (I hope) has made me a more informed member of this community that I am honored to serve as a Davidson Impact Fellow.

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