A series of articles profiling the committed employees who work every day to strengthen YSI children and families

Cassandra Samuels is the Assessment Worker for Alternative Response System (ARS) and a Program Aide with the Enhancing Parenting Program (EPP)

Tell me about your career at YSI.

In 1989 I began my career at YSI¬†as an infant classroom teacher at ABC Day Care located behind the Sally Watson Center site.¬†When YSI opened¬†Sally Watson, its first crisis nursery, I took a position there. I remained at Sally Watson for about five years and transferred to Baring House when it opened because it was much closer to my home. From Baring House I moved to the Healthy Families program, where I worked closely with first-time moms. I worked at Family Partnership, a home-based case management program, for one year and then at Sunnycrest’s Child Abuse Prevention Program (CAP). When CAP ended I left YSI briefly, before returning to work at the teen mother and baby group home. A position became available with a new home visiting program, Alternate Response System (ARS), located in the Sunnycrest building. I transferred there as a Parent Aide and once I acquired my graduate degree I became the Assessment Worker.

What have you observed during your time with these different programs?

The Department of Human Services began placing an emphasis on prevention programming and¬†keeping families together when safely possible. YSI supports this through programs that focus on prevention and protection. Staff are quite creative in finding ways to help families without costing the city a lot of money.¬†If a family can stay together with some support it’s better for the family, because it’s traumatizing when a child is removed and parents are fighting with the court system. If we can give families the support they need they’ll be okay on their own and eventually¬†they won’t need assistance.

How does EPP impact families?

Many of our Enhancing Parenting Program (EPP) families are court ordered to attend, so the legal system is involved. But, when they come to our program and take part in the groups and family centered activities, they get the tools they need to be more effective parents and most remain out of the system. EPP has a following of parents who want to return for groups and special events. EPP takes place at Sunnycrest, which has become a home away from home for many. There is always great food, too.

Who does EPP serve?

We’ve had as many men as couples in our groups recently, which tells you that the families are working for reunification. They’re saying, “We want to be on the same accord so that we’re not fighting one another about what to do for our child.” We used to see more people from shelters and more single parents who came because it gave them something to do. Now we have more people who’ve been in trouble with the law and whose children haven’t even been born yet.¬†We have¬†two men whose girlfriends are¬†pregnant; it keeps the¬†guys off the streets and educates them so that they know what they’re going to do when their next generation arrives.

How do ARS and EPP complement one another?

We’ve had a lot of ARS parents come to EPP, which allows us to go back to the home and implement what we’re talking about in class.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the results of the work I have done is the most rewarding part of my job.¬†At the end of 90 days if I can get a parent in an ARS family to stop cursing at their child I feel successful. It’s the same when I visit the home of an EPP family and see the effects of the class. It’s seeing the seeds that I’ve planted begin to grow.

Tell me about successes you’ve had with clients.

I have¬†four families that I worked with in the Healthy Families program that still keep in touch with me. If they get into a situation and need help they’ll call me and say, “This is what’s going on; what do you think I should do?” In one of the families, a teen mom and her mother were living together and constantly fighting. I kept encouraging the teen to try to see things from her mother’s point of view. I could relate to the mother’s pain, being a parent of a teenager myself. Today they have a great bond and their relationship is awesome. The daughter even says that she’s proud of her mother.

What makes YSI special?

The work YSI does is worth it and the quality of our agency’s work is awesome. Also, the experience that you have when you work¬†at YSI¬†is special.¬†A lot of¬†that is¬†because of¬†how¬†supportive leaders¬†like Gwen and Vera¬†are¬†of¬†their staff. I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given for training and¬†learning where I’m able to transfer the knowledge I’ve gained to other people in a way that makes a difference.