How Working from Home Saved Me from Burnout and Made Me A Better Youth Partner
Submitted by Erin Houston, Seneca Youth Partner, in September 2021
Has it been more than a year since the initial lockdown orders due to COVID-19? Whether this year has flown by or has felt like an eternity, many of us are still struggling, or still recovering in some capacity. As a state, a country and a world, we have experienced a solidarity with each other that we very well could have never experienced. Being a youth partner in the age of Coronavirus has its ups and downs (as does any direct care role). Wraparound in Orange County quickly adapted to telehealth to maintain our safety and the safety of the families we serve. As a Youth partner working for Seneca, the shift that took place in 2020 has both saved me from burnout and made me a better youth partner.
In Seneca’s Wraparound program we like to say we are constantly “putting out fires.” Little did I know I signed up to become an emotional, relational and physical firefighter for Orange County youth.
There are aspects of our role that go beyond training, teaching and degrees. These aspects can cause what we all know as burnout, compassion fatigue and potential secondary trauma. Pre-lockdown I noticed myself fizzling out... the long drives home after a particularly difficult session can take a toll on “showing up” fully for clients. The seemingly monthly Jiffy-lube dates for the good ol’ oil change became my enemy. Burnout was on the horizon.
While moving to telehealth to provide Wraparound services may have been my saving grace, I also acknowledge it has made me a better youth partner. Zooming out (no pun intended) of my role and stepping back allowed me to reevaluate my strengths and weaknesses and provide education where needed. I think I speak for many of us when I say how else would we have become Zoom aficionados if it were not forced upon us? As Wrap staff —and our families—we have become proficient in ways we could have never imagined, helping us grow professionally and personally.
During this past year, our Seneca program has leaned into each other’s strengths to become better as a whole. We have learned to help each other out by taking on unexpected roles, truly embodying a few of Seneca’s values of love, respect, equity, justice and compassion. As a program we have adapted to genuinely serve our families in a time where others may have been unsure. Seneca has developed new programs as well as goals to assist in ways we did not prior. I am thankful for Seneca’s ability to adapt to current events and respond to the needs of our community and beyond. We have responded by developing Todo por mi familia: a program which links case managers to undocumented immigrants to provide mental health support, family therapy and maintain connections to family. Seneca has equipped staff to travel to Texas and San Diego to assist in crisis intervention, and case management needs for newly arrived undocumented children in transitional holding facilities. I am genuinely humbled to work for an agency that is making such an impact wherever we are needed.