If there is one thing Henderson Haven has always been and always will be, it’s anti-establishment. That is not an easy position to take in an industry that contends that doing it the way we’ve always done it is the best way. Thinking outside the box and trying new things is almost always viewed as a mistake, or worse, hazardous. But that is who we have always been and who we always will be; there is never progress without change.
Then there’s the one-size-fits-all mentality. That works about as well with people as it does with clothing and fits right into the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. How many warehouses of people, all doing busy work, do we need? How many times are we going to place individuals with behavior issues in a home with 5 other individuals with their own behavior issues and expect anyone to make progress? Not to mention these 6 people have never met and may have nothing in common, other than being placed into a state-run system, but are expected to live together in harmony. Are they safe and others safe from them? – yes. Will they make progress toward getting out of that home? – doubtful.
Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way saying the agencies that run these programs are bad. No one gets in this field that doesn’t care about those they serve, and no one gets in this field with expectations of becoming independently wealthy. Although, there are those who will jump on the current service bandwagon to chase the higher billing rates, and large, sometimes multi-state agencies with budgets in the millions cranking out the same programs and facilities because it pays the bills. People ask us all the time why we don’t expand and grow into a multi-location provider. We believe the bigger you allow yourself to become, the less attention those that depend on you get.
I know there are a lot of you out there that completely disagree with what I’ve just said, but let me ask a question: What type of product is always viewed as the best? Is it the product produced one after the other, each identical to the last? Or is it the product that was painstakingly crafted with great attention to personal detail? That is the approach we strive to take with everyone we serve and the approach we believe everyone should take and the programs we’ll be spotlighting in future posts. The only identical characteristic those you serve should share is the goal to not require your services any longer. Next, you need a full toolbox.
You need to keep numerous tools in your toolbox and keep adding to those tools to become a better provider. There is no such thing as the person that only needs one method or the one method that works for everyone. This is one of our biggest problems with the direction services have been moving. Everyone believes the tool they use is the greatest and the only one needed. In fact, some even go so far as to warn families that using anything else could jeopardize their progress or even placement. This should be a red flag in any circumstance. Which brings me to our next principle, true and complete choice.
Having choices in life is essential. Without it, everything else is irrelevant. Our mission statement demonstrates this is the walk we walk: To protect and support the inherent rights of everyone to choose where and with whom they work, live, and play. It’s the foundation of everything we do. Choice is something we so take for granted, that we rarely notice when we’re taking it from others. This includes choosing the provider you feel best meets your needs. From what job they have, to where they get to live, the system dictates every aspect of life to those in its programs. This is especially true from government financed programs – another issue we’ll cover in future posts. What is wrong with allowing those we serve to actually have a say in how they live their lives? Because we know better? Because we’re so superior to those we serve, we can’t even bring ourselves to allow them to make mistakes? Mistakes they will learn from and remember more than any programed simulation we can throw at them. You know, the same way you and I learned to be successful in the things we attempted? But to do so would mean we would have to recognize the final piece of program’s foundation: to assume competence in everyone we serve.
Assuming competence: easy to say, not so easy to put into practice. To do so means you must set aside the standards we’ve set on what it means to demonstrate understanding and convey that understanding to others. It means to accept that just because someone may not have ability to communicate in a way you’re able to comprehend, doesn’t mean they can’t recognize what they’re experiencing. We once had a visiting analyst tell a staff member it was an involuntary response when someone we served laughed at a situation in the room. “They’re not able to truly understand what’s funny or not. They are only laughing because others are.” That analyst is no longer allowed in our building. No one will belittle, de-value, or de-humanize the people we serve – I don’t care how many letters they have after their name.
Of course, people have limitations. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t need our services. But we simply cannot allow ourselves to project our own perceived limitations onto them. We MUST assume their competence and allow them to demonstrate what their needs and weaknesses are and only then can we move in the right direction. We must make giving them a voice our top priority and allow them to use that voice and have enough respect to “listen” to them. This is the only way we’ll find the right tool and use it in the right way to help them reach THEIR goals. Otherwise, you’re just pushing them to fit into your one-size-fits-all mentality.
So, there you have it; the way we believe providers should be assisting those they serve: assume competence, find their voice, let them choose, and then use the right tool from your full toolbox to help them reach their goals. We’ll be taking a closer look at all these principles on future posts and spotlighting organizations from around the state and the country we believe are doing just that. We hope you’ll join us on this journey. We may not always agree, but we must be willing to hear other ideas if we’re going to make real change and progress. It’s the Butterfly Effect in action!