What does your organization do?The Settlement Home for Children is a licensed, non-profit agency that cares for children, adolescents, young adults and families with histories of severe trauma, abuse and neglect. Our mission is to promote healing and growth in children, young adults and families by providing a continuum of care, support and resources.
The Settlement Home provides a warm and inviting environment on ten acres in North Central Austin. We offer therapy for children and families, as well as provide unique educational and recreational opportunities for our youth that they may never have experienced in their lives. A child referred to The Settlement Home has a background of severe emotional trauma, and often has a history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
How did you become interested in this work?Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to help people, which led me to social work. I majored in Psychology at UT in undergrad and became interested in counseling. After a couple of years working in direct care at The Settlement Home, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. I really enjoyed being a therapist working with adolescent girls and I developed a small private practice outside of my work at The Settlement Home, which allowed me to work with a broader range of clients. However, after about five years of practicing as a clinician, I felt myself leaning toward the administrative side of things. I loved looking at the “the big picture.” As a Program Director, I realized what a good fit it was for me to be in a leadership role and to be more involved in planning, program development and fundraising. As Associate Director, I was able to work closely our Executive Director and other Executive Directors in the community and it just felt like the right fit for me.
What drives your passion?I feel driven every day to provide opportunities to deserving individuals who have had extraordinarily difficult and traumatic experiences in their lives. Life can be hard for all of us and we will all face challenges that at times seem unsurmountable, but most of us haven’t experienced a fraction of what our clients have.
My passion for this work is ignited when I witness the amazing resilience that exists in the human soul. On a regular basis, I have the privilege of witnessing strong young people bounce back from unimaginable adversity. Seeing the smile of a child making the A Honor Roll for the first time, noticing the sense of accomplishment in the eyes of a girl crossing the finish line at her first 5K race, or getting to congratulate a young woman after she learns she landed her first job in the community - these are the experiences that drive me
Did you have a mentor or a role model?I have been blessed with amazing supervisors, teachers, role models and mentors throughout my life. Growing up, my older brother set a good example of how to set goals and achieve them. He taught me that a “can do” attitude and a sense of humor could get me through almost any challenge.
In graduate school, one of my professors at the UT School of Social Work, Bonnie Bain, shaped my perspective on social work. When I grew impatient and hopeless about ever making a difference in the world, she gently reminded me that we plant seeds and must be patient as they grow - even if that means we don’t see this happen in front of our eyes - the seeds we plant are important and impactful.
Finally, my predecessor, Linda Addicks Kokemor, is my mentor in the truest sense of the word. She believed in me and gave me time to grow alongside her before handing me the reigns. She was an exceptional Executive Director and is my hero.
What's the biggest challenge in your work?Finding balance is the biggest challenge for me. Negotiating how to divide my time and my attention is an ongoing goal.
What's the best advice that you have ever received?You cannot take care of other people unless you take good care of yourself.
What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?(I am hardly in a position as a newbie to be giving out advice!)
- Develop a strong team…they are EVERYTHING in this work.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Be patient with yourself and others.