WellLife Network is... Elena
This is Elena T. She works at WellLife Network as a Program Director of the Youth Community Residence.
She manages an 8-bed community residence for youth aged 12-17. “Kids live here 24/7, so my job is to ensure that everything goes smoothly, not only with their transition to the residence but also with their stay.” The kids who live in the residence are enrolled in a program that teaches them coping skills and provides support to them. Elena also works closely with the families of the youth in a family-guided informed care program with the focus of reuniting the kids with their family members. “The kids come here because they need a more supportive environment, something that, at times, their family cannot give them,” said Elena.
All referrals come from the Children’s Single Point of Access (SPOA); a program that helps providers connect people with serious mental illness to mental health services that can accommodate them. They receive referrals from hospitals, psychiatric facilities, or various programs in the school district. Once screened, they are invited to visit the community residence to ask any questions they have about living there, the programs offered, and/or if the community residence is the correct level of care that is appropriate for them.
In most cases, the referred youth have already tried different services, such as counseling or in-home services. When they are deemed unsuccessful, that is when WellLife Network steps in. “There are kids that have a lot of physical and mental trauma, so when they are not very trusting, which is completely normal, we work with them from the ground up,” Elena said. Unfortunately, there are also those who never open up, but Elena and her team keep on trying.
One story Elena recalls is that of a very timid 17-year-old youth who came into the residence and did not want to talk to anyone for a very long time. The team worked with that youth day after day. “We started with basic conversations about going out into the community, doing things together. It could be as simple as a board game, but the purpose was to try to find some common ground.” Soon, the youth was confident enough to begin establishing his own life as a young adult. Occasionally, they still come around the residence to speak to the staff and even serve as role models to other youths.
“I've been working in this field since 1999. At first, it was very stressful,” Elena says. “I had to figure out how to manage since I was very emotionally involved in the kids’ lives. I didn’t want to get burnt out. It was challenging, trying to find that spot where I felt confident enough to continue with my own life, but I learned that the kids teach us, and we teach them. I believe working in this setting is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.”