I’m from: South Burlingame/Southwest Portland
Now I live in: The same house I grew up in
Job: Multnomah County Wraparound Family Partner
With the county since: 2009
First job: Paper route when I was 11.
Why did you come to Portland? I grew up here. I went to Wilson High School, and when I was 18, I moved away. I couldn’t deal with the rain. I went to go somewhere dry.
I went to New York for awhile. I went to school in Seattle. Lived in New Mexico, moved to Colorado and then moved back to Portland.
We couldn’t find the services we needed for my kids, and in looking at different places to go to access services, I looked at Portland. I had always heard about mental health being progressive here in Portland. It was worth packing the family up and moving 1,200 miles to do that. I was extremely impressed with what was available here for mental health.
What is Wraparound? Wraparound is a model of mental health service that brings the family and all members of the treatment team together to plan with and support the child and family. The overall goal is to empower parents to be able to access services and get the support they need.
What do you do? We provide services to children and families who are experiencing significant mental health crises with their child.
A family partner is there to support the parent in parenting the child. The number one criteria for the job is having been there, done that. So you can share your own story and say, “I know what you feel like. Let me share a little bit of my experience and help you be empowered to parent your child in the best way you can.”
How did you get this job? I have two adopted children, both who have significant mental health needs. I participated in Wraparound for my son, who was experiencing a big crisis after we moved.
I did a presentation at the Boys & Girls Club on how to deal with kids like my son, and asked Milele (my family partner) to come with me because I was really nervous.
After I did the presentation, she said, “You don’t need me, but we need you. Would you like to come to work for us?” I’d just been laid off from my teaching job. It was really good timing and I just love it.
What’s the hardest part about parenting a child with special needs? Things become increasingly isolated. Your friends with “typical” children think things might rub off. Family members don’t know how to deal, so they distance themselves. “I don’t think I can drive your child to school and have your child for the weekend because what if something goes wrong? What if I don’t get the medications right?” People don’t know how to help.
Parents of special needs children often have what we call “kitchen floor moments,” where you just find yourself sitting and crying on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night going "How am I going to do this? How am I going to parent my kid?” I don’t care who you are and how many skills you have, there is no one who can do this by themselves. You have to have support.
On the nightstand: I’m reading "The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide." All of the books on my nightstand are books so I can help parents.