By Timothy Hunter, Family Advocate with the Wraparound program, Uplift Family Services, Sacramento
I have been working in mental health for 10 years. The first five years was in Santa Clara and the last five years in Sacramento. Through my personal experience, battling the many different challenges life can present, I have made a conscious decision to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. This sparked a passion in me to make a difference. So my journey began. As a family advocate with Wraparound, I have been given the opportunity to work side by side with many families, providing support. My work includes helping families navigate the complex systems. As they grow more confident, they re-establish independence as a family unit.
One of my missions is to ensure that the family’s Voice and Choice is being heard in the planning process and throughout our Wraparound journey with them. Voice and Choice is critical in many other places like IEPs with the schools and in the community while navigating multiple systems. Why is this important?
It can be very empowering for a family to have their Voice and Choice heard, respected and implemented. They have a greater understanding of and motivation for implementing their ideas since it is the families’ input.
The families are in it 24 hours a day, they live it day in and day out and for years to come. Eventually we go home or separate from services but the families’ choices live on.
The power of support through advocacy can sometimes encourage just enough confidence for the people we support to stand up for themselves, face different professional settings and share their concerns and ideas for solutions.
My biggest fear as an advocate is becoming a crutch to the families, therefore I always remind myself the process of “Do for (so they can see how to do it), Do with (so they can get used to doing it themselves as I support them through it), and Cheer on (to provide encouragement for the families to continue doing the next right thing).
I often say, “Since children are the one thing that doesn’t come with an instruction manual, it helps to have several ideas to try especially when we are being challenged”, hence the old adage “It takes a village”. My goal is always to provide support though Voice and Choice, encourage new ideas, celebrate all successes (large and small) and continue to work together for the betterment of our future.