A wonderful part of being in the business of caring for children, teenagers and families is the privilege of meeting many people who have dedicated their careers to working with families undergoing very difficult struggles. I have 165 staff members at Lakeside committed to helping our students find success despite circumstances that have not gone well. Too, our professional development training for family professionals has allowed us to have a relationship with over 1000 professionals who serve children at a variety of ages and stages of life, along with their families. These outstanding people have worked diligently on some of the most difficult issues in our culture.
What makes these people continually dedicated to helping children and families?
Most people in our industry do not earn a high salary. They put in long hours. They deal with high stress situations. Their typically under-funded agencies and organizations have minimal resources to support them in their jobs. The daily intensity, and sometimes volatility, of situations they deal with is incredible. And through it all, they remain people who genuinely care for the children and families they touch each day.
One of the values in our training is that we strive to Nurture the Nurturers. This simply means that we will provide opportunities for these dedicated people—with their colleagues—to process new ideas, identify skills, learn of the latest research, and discuss the stresses inherent in the tragedies they confront each day.
We have come to realize, because of our relationships with the many professionals who assist the most needy families, how significant the stress, frustration and burn-out becomes from the load they carry. We as a society rarely honor them in any tangible way—or even give them what they need to do their jobs.
How do we support professionals who are dedicated to our children, so they may continue to help our children?
What we have learned is how beneficial it is to lives of these professionals to have a place where they can be the focus of attention and have their needs met.
As a result of what they see and do, they are filled with questions, concerns, empathy and their own sense of helplessness as they strive to help numbers of children who have more needs than they can possibly meet. Yet, they continue to try. They persevere to find ways to make the lives of families in turmoil just a bit easier.
If we want to truly help our children and families, we need to acknowledge and support those who are responsible for their dedicated service. How do we do so? We provide them with:
- ongoing training
- personal support among peers
- tools they truly need
- some kind of regular opportunity to renew and refresh their hectic and difficult lives.
I have witnessed how Nurturing the Nurturers replenishes dedicated professionals.
I have seen the impact of Nurturing the Nurturers. It is like an oasis in a dry and barren desert. It fortifies them to continue.
If we are to build better systems of care for our children, we will need professionals who are at their best to deal with the levels of crises that confront them each day. It is imperative that we as a society shift priorities significantly in how we build our systems and that we nurture those who nurture our children and families.
Unfortunately, we are continuing to cut salaries and positions of these dedicated people. This will not fare well for our children. We need to do better. What Lakeside accomplishes with our professional community in Philadelphia is proof that it is possible. I see transformation every day.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network