By Angelo Remo, Wood’s Homes Youth & Family Counsellor
Earlier this year, I got to chat with Brendan Shea, Team Leader of Wood’s Homes’ Altadore program. Check out the below Q&A to hear what Brendan had to say about his experiences at Wood’s Homes!
What brought you to Wood’s Homes and what keeps you here?
I’ve been working in this field for about 15 years. I worked with the adult homeless population before coming to Wood’s Homes; however, I wanted to be able to intervene and help young people before they got to the point of homelessness, as well as build on some of their skills and steps to move forward in life. The work Wood’s does for hundreds of young people and their families is what keeps me here. It’s also the success stories; even though we don’t hear them every day, it’s when a young person calls and says, “Hey, remember that time you said this? Well, that really means something to me.” Another thing that keeps me here is the community and culture among staff and management.
How long have you been with Wood’s Homes? Please explain your journey to your current leadership position.
I started with the agency about 6 ½ years ago as a Youth & Family Counsellor in the Catalyst program, but left in 2012 to pursue other opportunities. When I came back, I worked at the Exceptional Needs Under-12 (U12) program for about seven months, and then applied for and became the Team Leader for our Capitol Hill program. From there, I became Team Leader of our Temple program and, about a year ago, came to the Altadore program where I’m the Team Leader today.
What makes the Altadore program different from the previous programs that you have worked in?
The age group. Before Altadore, most youth I worked with were under 12. In Altadore, we work with youth who are 15-17 years old. We work with youth who are transitioning into adulthood, which means we’re constantly working on building independent skills such as hygiene, budgeting/paying bills, cooking, etc. We do this so that when they turn 18, they are ready to move on from treatment.
What indicators show or prove you’ve been successful with the young people you work with?
It’s important to remember that, while youth are in the program, you’re not going to see success every day. Sometimes, it takes weeks or months. For example, when a young person enters our program who doesn’t want to go to school, but then starts attending a few months later (even if it is just for one hour), we would consider that a success.
What are some challenges you face as the Altadore program Team Leader with both staff and youth?
With our youth, it’s very challenging to see some of the ‘things’ they come into our care with, especially some of the traumatic backgrounds they have. Seeing what some of these young people have been through is something I often struggle with. I had a really good upbringing, which is why I think it’s so hard to see children and teens dealing with stuff most adults couldn’t even imagine. At the end of the day, it’s about supporting them through that trauma, and focusing on what we can do to help them work through the trauma, grief and loss they are experiencing.
When you manage 7-8 staff (including a couple of students), one of the biggest challenges is managing personalities, getting to know everyone and building strong relationships.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!