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Human services leaders fly under the radar

By Ben Rodgers

Last week in The Press we ran an article on a panel discussion about trauma-informed care and highlighted what politicians in attendance had to say on the issue.

Though the opinions of those who makes laws for Wisconsin and the nation are important, we feel the professionals who partook in the discussion deserve praise for working every day to improve the lives of others and sharing how they do so.

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is a framework that is responsive to the impact of trauma which emphasizes emotional, psychological and physical safety for service providers and survivors to create opportunities for survivors to gain back control and empowerment.

People can be seriously impacted due to previous traumatic experiences and TIC is a method to help them recover and make the best of their lives.

There is no office or department that handles TIC, but there is a plethora of agencies and groups which employs TIC methods to better help people.

These speakers spoke to community leaders in child welfare, foster care, law enforcement, education and more at the July 31 event in Suamico.

Laura Rapp is a social worker and family-find coordinator in Outagamie County.

Her job is to connect youth who may be entering the foster care system with family members to shift the child from a foster parent to a family member.

“Our big thing is youth have a right to know where they came from,” Rapp said. “When they’ve gone into the foster care system, sometimes we forget they have a whole extended family they were connected to before they went in.”

Outagamie is the only county in the state that has full-time staffing of this position.

The results also show how vital this type of work is, with a more than a 35 percent increase in family connections.

Judy Wiesbrook works in the Kids At Hope program in Manitowoc County. Her outlook is something everyone should strive for, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

“I believe all youth are capable of success, no exceptions,” Wiesbrook said.

Kids At Hope works with youth while placing expectations in potential, not behavior.

That potential comes from home and family, hobbies and recreation, community and service and finally education.

Sheri Konitzer is the independent living coordinator for Brown County Health and Human Services.

Her goal is to work with children, some in foster care, some not, in a program to transition to success and employment.

For example, one group is working with the Brown County Extension Service on a garden. They then will learn the financial aspect by selling produce at the farmers market.

Vickie Patterson, work experience coordinator with the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, has found more perspectives and extending working relationships help.

“The strength of the organization is we work as a team,” Patterson said. “We work with them while they are in care, and we work with them when they transition out of care.”

The goal is education, employment and self-sufficiency.

Sarah Inman from Brown County United Way talked about culture change and how to influence it by tackling issues on three levels, individual and direct service levels, advocacy levels and systems change.

Kevin Brennan from Brown County Health and Human Services closed by bringing it all together.

“No matter where you work, know how to recognize trauma, how to inform people to get help, and be empathetic to people and situations,” Brennan said.

When success is measured by people who make good in life and become self-sufficient, there often isn’t very much praise to be handed out. It’s not easy to gauge.

But to everyone in the room working to improve the lives of others, take a bow.

Thank you for everything you do. It’s a hard job but the work you are doing should make everyone proud.

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