A family is so much more than a group of people who live under the same roof. A family is a team – working towards a common goal and encouraging each other along the way. A family is a theater troupe – entertaining one another and making each other laugh. They are a doctor’s office, a school, a restaurant, a counselor and a million other things on a daily basis.
While being part of a family is rewarding, wearing all of these hats can get really hard and sometimes, families need a little help.
The Rossi Family – mother Caterina and her three children – came to Community Partners via a Department of Children and Families referral and connected with Community Partners’ Wraparound Case Management program.
The program works intensively with families and their support systems – an interconnected web of providers, schools, friends and family members. Since the program is provided to individuals with serious mental health or behavioral concerns, it emphasizes family involvement at the highest levels and requires an intensive team-based approach to care.
“We believe strongly in the concept of family voice, family choice,” Senior Targeted Case Manager Jody Olayinka explained. “It’s not about saying, ‘what is your problem?’ It’s about asking what a family’s needs are and how can we partner with them to ensure these needs are met.”
The primary goal of the wraparound philosophy is not only to meet the self-defined needs of the family but to also instill a sense of confidence and enable self-sufficiency.
In addition to struggling with homelessness, the Rossis also had a history of financial instability and domestic violence.
The stress from these factors manifested most strongly in seven-year-old Carlo. In addition to exhibiting both verbally and physically aggressive behavior, Carlo suffered from separation anxiety, had poor impulse control and exhibited signs of disordered eating.
Due to his upbringing and the prevalence of domestic abuse in the home, Carlo had a lot of anger and hate towards his mother. He blamed her for the fact that his father wasn’t around and was coached by his father to think the worst about her.
He started meeting with a CP therapist regularly and slowly, Carlo began to show signs of progress. He no longer screams when upset with his mother and when he does get upset, he has the skills to communicate and apologize if need be.
The improvement of Carlo’s emotional wellbeing was just one facet of Changing The Odds for the Rossis.
In the case of the Rossis, Community Partners was able to link them to a variety of resources ranging from the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) to food resources to assistance locating housing, assistance getting daycare vouchers and domestic violence support
Community Partners started the wraparound process a year and a half ago and have been going through the rigorous process of training and certification.
“We’ve been engrossed in it for the past year, year and a half,” said Jody. “It takes about six to nine months to get certified for facilitators and coaches.”
Assisting with the implementation was Julie Radlauer-Doerfler, a national certified trainer, consultant an principal partner of the Ronik-Radlauer Group.
“It’s not an easy undertaking,” Julie said. “Leadership really has to support the initiative and embrace the wraparound philosophy. It’s a big challenge to change a system but Community Partners has done a great job.”
Implementation of this new system meant changing a variety of processes and bringing staff on board.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to change because people are used to their methods,” Jody said. “When the possibility came to us, we knew it would be effective. We researched the data from other counties and realized that this type of case management is the way of the future. We knew we had to get on board and that when we change our mindset, we can change the odds.”
As of today, Community Partners has nine certified wraparound service managers and two coaches who can’t wait to invest in Palm Beach County’s families.
“We’ve been providing the service for a year now and it has been effective. The process is working for our families,” Jody said “People are more invested, people are doing more for themselves and real change is being brought about.”
The wraparound philosophy isn’t just suited to the social services arena. Once engaged in the process, many trainers embrace the model for their own personal lives.
“There isn’t a difference between our clients and us,” Julie said. “We are all people.”
The Rossis are proof of that change. They have better communication skills and a better understanding of domestic violence. They also know which support systems they can reach out to if the need arises.
“The Rossis have had highs and lows but have made significant progress since starting wraparound,” said their case manager Leona. “Caterina had lots of positivity and strength throughout this process and it was a long waiting game to get everything put together.”
Caterina Rossi’s confidence has greatly increased since completing the program with her family. They are still together and working on closing their DCF case.
“I am now determined that we can make it,” she said. “Leona was always there for us and never had judgement. She always had a kind word and was very uplifting. Leona was a God sent angel.”
The respect and admiration seems to be mutual and just another indicator that wraparound philosophy works.
“The Rossis have successfully graduated from the program and are prepared to handle any situations that arise,” Leona said. “I believe this is the most successful story I’ve had since working at Community Partners."