I was in my first year of graduate school of social work. I had to pick an internship. I knew life was going to be challenging. I had a full-time job, was going to be in full-time graduate school and had to put in 20ish hours a week at a foundation internship.
I originally picked (and was chosen for) an internship at a domestic violence shelter. I was pretty excited. The work sounded hard but good, I was able to work some evening/weekend hours and the internship seemed to fit with my goals and aspirations for my future (i.e.: NOT working directly with kids). Sadly my university decided to pull students from that placement at the very last moment due to staff changes.
I was stuck at an agency that I did not choose in an internship that had a lot to do with young children. I was unhappy. With a heavy heart I trudged myself in that first day. Immediately I was enveloped in a cushion of warmth, nurturing and I felt "a part of" something really big, something really powerful and something really intense. I was at Southside Family Nurturing Center.
Southside Family Nurturing Center serves families who are at risk of neglecting or abusing their children. These families have layers and layers of stressors and histories that could so easily lead to abuse or neglect. Many families and children have in fact experienced both of these things and so much more, at the hands of each other, community and most recently politicians.
Southside is unique (in my opinion) in how we serve families. First we truly do NURTURE families. Many of the children here have missed out on nurturing primarily because their mother's have missed out on nurturing as have their mothers (and fathers). We take the children into our therapeutic preschool and nurture the heck outta them. Then we work with the mama's and the papa's (and the siblings) and we see the child in them, we nurture them, we at times love their children for them, until they are able to. We teach them how to play. Sometimes we give the mama's back a piece of their childhood that was stolen from them. All the while we are assisting in taking care of business. Finding resources, filling out medical assistance forms, getting them help with mental health, physical health, housing. Sometimes we are the first they call when they have new babies. OH and we LOVE those new babies. We have staff that have been around for 20+ years. Staff that once taught the same mama's who are coming in with their own babies. There is something about an agency that wraps it's collective arms around people who might otherwise be wrote off as hopeless.
My internship was soon over and I tearfully said good bye to my clients, my co-interns and the staff of Southside. Within months, while I was deeply entrenched in my clinical internship and my final year of grad school I heard that Southside had a staff position open. Despite taking a fairly significant pay cut (even while accumulating student debt), I knew I had to do this work. I've been working directly with the mothers, fathers and children of Southside ever since.
Last year our agency took a pretty hefty pay cut from Hennepin County (we are contracted through them), even though the expectations of what we needed to do (for the county) increased. It's been a stressful year.
A few weeks ago we were dealt the lowest blow. Funding towards social services was unalloted by our governor. Letters were sent. Budgets were cut in half for the first quarter of 2010 and no guarantees of contract extensions were made beyond March 2010. No matter what our agency will be laying off staff and cutting programming by the end of this y ear. We will all suffer. Staff will be cut, and jobs in the field are scarce and competitive. Worse of all, families we serve will be left without supportive services. The children who thrive in our therapeutic preschool will have nowhere to go. My heart is so heavy.
On Monday we will hear our potential fate. We will at least be able to plan for the future. Here is a link to our GiveMN page. It has a very nice slideshow detailing some of our work. There is also an opportunity to give (if one is so inclined).