Small Successes Equal Big Wins

A Parent Partner’s Perspective
Tony George, FCNI Parent Partner
September, 16, 2017 -

Why are our success rates and our quarterly progress indicator numbers so high at the Family Care Network, you might ask? And what does “success” really look like with the families we serve? Confusion and skepticism about our reports is expected, until you experience a program like Wraparound (Familia de Novo) in your own family like I did, and then go on to support our families in the same program as a Parent Partner.

At the Family Care Network, our reported statistics on outcomes are high because we “meet people where they are at.” We don’t try to change who they are or how their family works. We try to help their family work the best that they can work.

If you were to come to my house today, you would see that we’re loud, boisterous and we’re a bit argumentative sometimes, but we work. We function. When we started with Wraparound services nine years ago, we each set goals, and my goal was to keep my kids out of jail until they were 18. I laugh now, but there was a part of me that really did fear for my kids’ future and wellbeing. Nine years ago, I wouldn’t have guessed the level of success we would come to achieve. Today, my kids talk to me about everything, which I never would have imagined! My daughters are both graduating college, one with a double Associate’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology, and one in Early Childhood Development. My son is going into the marines, and as a parent I could not be prouder. I owe a lot of their success to the Wraparound program.

Wraparound is so successful because when we work with a family, as a team we try to look at them and their culture, and dissect it to help them put it back together in a way so they can function in a healthy manner. Our whole goal in the Wraparound process is getting families to function well. An individual family’s success may not look the way you or I think it should, but if they’re working together as a family unit and reaching their specified goals, they are a success! When my family was in care seven years ago, my team didn’t try to “fix” me, they affirmed and built my family up, equipping us with the tools we needed to work together.

My Wraparound team acknowledged that our family culture was loud. They learned that my voice level goes up when I’m passionate about something, and I’m passionate about nothing more than my kids so I tended to yell a lot. My Wraparound team worked with me on how I expressed myself, because my passion for my kids was sometimes taken as aggression and anger, and there are so many negative ways in which it could be viewed. My team constantly affirmed me that I was passionate and not angry. I wanted to be heard so I raised my voice, but then our team members taught me that I would be heard and respected even when I talked in an even, low tone rather than raising my voice. It took me a while to learn this concept, but I think that this lesson was a huge part of my growth and success as a father.

So much of the work that FCNI Rehabilitation Support Staff did in our home was sort of an osmosis. I watched how the staff interacted every day with my kids and realized that there was a different style of communication and redirecting that could work. I watched, absorbed, and then started trying these techniques.

Our family has come so far since our days of Wraparound, and as I reflect on our journey as a family, I often become overwhelmed with emotion from the constant realization that you don’t always know what you need, but it still comes to you. Now it’s my turn as a Parent Partner to bring skills and the type of encouragement to a family who might not even know they need it. I love the opportunity to teach our families how to be harmonious and happy, no matter what challenges come along in life, because challenges will certainly come in all of our lives.

One huge success I recently experienced was with a dad I work with who had started Drug and Alcohol Services. At first, this father didn’t see these services as a need, but his team did. He spent months fighting people over the need for Drug and Alcohol Services, but his perspective changed when I told him, “Just take what you can use. It’s going to make you a better person no matter what, and you being successful is going to help other people.” Today, this father is on the road to success. Down the road, I see the strong possibility that his child will be returned home from foster care, and that he will be given the opportunity to be a healthy and loving father. That is success!

I think one of the beautiful parts about the Family Care Network is that we see the little successes, and acknowledge every bit of growth and functionality, every step taken in the right direction. When our families graduate, they may not look exactly like what we would have anticipated when services began, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t successes. Every family in Wraparound is almost always successful when we close; they know how to reach out for support for their child’s education, they know what part of Human Services to go to in order to get a need met, they know how to get their kids’ medical attention, and I’m blessed to be able to help them navigate a lot of these services. At the Family Care Network, we see such amazing success because we meet families where they are at, not where we think they should be.