By Lester-Rose Mangubat, Community Care Youth & Family Counsellor, Wood’s Homes
Let me tell you a story:
Five years ago, I accepted a position in Wood’s Homes Community Care program. When I started, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. There were no services like it anywhere else in Canada, and to this day it remains the only service like it in the country.
Back then, all I knew was that I’d be going places I’d never heard of while working with youth and families involved with Wood’s Homes’ residential treatment programs.
In the early stages, I got to know the programs and youth I would be working with. There was Catalyst; a program for youth with complex mental health needs, Eagle Moon Lodge; a place for aboriginal youth experiencing mental health and addiction issues, and Phoenix; a program that addresses sexually intrusive behaviour amongst male youth. Each program worked with young people with various needs from communities across Canada.
It became clear that I would need to learn about the communities the youth came from to better understand their unique needs and encourage them to build and maintain positive relationships upon their eventual return.
Around this time, a community in Labrador, Nfld., was dealing with a crisis involving solvent abuse among its younger population. The community decided to reach out to Wood’s for the first time in more than 10 years to help with an at-risk youth.
When the youth, a young man, arrived at Wood’s, staff knew little about his community. So, with little hesitation, I, a Community Care Worker, set out to this 1,200 person community to meet those involved with the young man’s life.
When I arrived, a community case worker picked me up from the airport to take me to the hotel. As I tried to check in, I was told by the clerk, “We don’t have your reservation and we don’t have a room for you.” Thankfully, the case worker offered me a spare room.
The next day, I started getting ready for meetings planned with members of the community. Unfortunately, this wasn’t in the cards. The case worker informed me the band office was having a town meeting and all of the offices in the town — including the school — were closed. So, with little else to do, I spent my day with the case worker gathering information.
While things didn’t quite go as planned, all was not lost; I was able to introduce myself to the youth’s family, answer questions, and address questions his family had about Wood’s Homes.
Upon my return to Calgary, I began connecting with the family via phone calls and video conferences, hoping to create a relationship the family and community would see as helpful.
After the youth completed treatment at Wood’s, I accompanied him back to Labrador to help with the transition back to his family and community, and encourage the new skills he had learned. I was able to meet with the school, community case worker and the community health worker to ensure the returning youth had supports in place for both himself and his family in times of need.
I continued to followup with the youth and family for many months. It was through these followups that I learned that the youth was able to stay with his family successfully and that he was no longer involvement with social services.
This case was the start of Community Care’s strong relationship with this community.
After four trips, five youth and many phone calls over the course of two years, Wood’s Homes was invited back to the community to speak at a parenting retreat. This time, the hotel had a room, children on the street would run up to give hugs and parents enthusiastically spoke of the successful treatment of youth in the community and the signs of long-term success — success achieved by creating relationships, no matter the distance.
Fast-forward to today.
Community Care serves youth from outside Calgary who come for residential treatment in the Evergreen, Catalyst, Phoenix and Stabilization programs. The role of Community Care is to keep youth connected to their communities during treatment and helping them to transition back successfully.
Sometimes it’s frightening to go home to a place that only remembers the old you, and where community resources might be scarce. This is why Community Care will often make the journey home with youth, be it 100 or 6,000 kilometres, to help make that transition home easier.
Wood’s Homes has offered this service for five years with Community Care Workers travelling west to Vancouver Island, high north in the middle of winter to where the moon never sets in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, and almost as far east as Canada reaches, St. John’s, Nfld.
Community Care will continue to build and foster relationships, instil hope and strive for meaningful, long-term recovery for every youth who passes through our doors.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!
If you are experiencing a crisis and need to speak to someone, please call our counsellors at our 24/7 Crisis Counselling Line: 403-299-9699 or toll-free: 1-800-563-6106.
Wood’s Homes is a nationally accredited mental health centre – proudly helping communities for over 100 years. Learn more at woodshomes.ca.