Case Manager Pam Van De Walle offers her thoughts on what she has learned over the past 8+ years serving FamilyForward clients.
What were my expectations and thoughts when I was hired eight years ago at Faith Community Homes, now FamilyForward? I believed that I would work with families as they tried to achieve financial independence and stability and I would support the mentors who provided guidance every week to their clients. This is the FamilyForward mission, and I was prepared to educate myself on the issues of poverty so that I would “know” what our clients were experiencing. Thankfully, I was asked early on to mentor a family. That was when my education really began about low income, hard-working families and the issues they encounter as they struggle to make ends meet.
What have I learned during my tenure at FF? So much that I cannot put it all into words, but here are some thoughts I’d like to share. I’ve learned that each family we work with has come to us because of their own unique situation and set of circumstances. These clients have shown strength and courage in coming to FF and asking for assistance, which is a very humbling experience. I have learned that many clients have limited support systems, and this is a contributing factor to their situation. However, they are determined to make a better life for their children and that is their motivation to improve their situation. Our clients exhibit resiliency as they navigate new ways to achieve independence. I have learned that our clients want to make changes, but that change can be difficult and slow…but it happens!
I have learned that even when clients have made positive changes in their lives — including increasing income and receiving more education — emergencies occur and can exhaust their savings. Currently, the rising cost of rental housing in the northwest suburbs is creating a market that is unaffordable and unattainable to many, including our current clients. This is problematic.
I have learned that FF volunteer mentors are the key to a family’s path, not only to financial stability, but also to emotional stability. The support our dedicated mentors provide transcends the guidance they offer at weekly meetings. Mentors and clients work together to develop achievable goals. Mentors help clients stay on task to reach these goals. The relationships that develop are often strong and provide hope, as the client knows that there are people who care. I am grateful to all the mentors who have devoted and donated their gifts to our FF families.
I feel privileged to have witnessed the growth of many of our FF clients – financially and personally. I am proud to be associated with an agency that understands the needs of so many within our community and is providing the resources to assist in strengthening their ability to achieve financial stability.