Jeremy Wacksman is a Program Manager with Dimagi Inc and founding member of FLYP (Family Lifeline’s Young Professional Council) which works to develop and empower young professionals to assume leadership roles at work and in the community. He authored this guest blog post after attending an observational visit as part of a robust training and orientation process for FLYP members.
I was fortunate to be invited to accompany Savannah, one of Family Lifeline’s parent educators, on a home visit to one of her clients, Donna. Donna is a mother of four, which itself would be a busy and crazy enough life, but she also struggles with the stressful trappings of poverty – she is constantly trying to make ends meet, coordinate care for her children among limited options, and ensure that her children have a safe environment to grow up in.

From the moment we entered Donna’s home, it was clear that Savannah and Donna have a strong relationship; that Savannah really knew a lot about Donna’s children, and that Donna trusted Savannah. Savannah easily talked about each child’s personality, and had gone through the list in advance, highlighting all of the connections and examples she knew were relevant to Donna and her family.

We focused things you shouldn’t say to a child, part of the Parents as Teachers curriculum. But the conversation wasn’t just “don’t say x because y,” it was a full discussion into why a certain phrase might not be a good idea. Take “you know better than that.” When Savannah first mentioned this phrase I thought, well that’s not so bad. Savannah asked Donna if she ever said this, and she said that her partner had said that exact phrase to her son the other day when he tried to sweep up some spilled juice with a broom! As they dissected the phrase together I started to see how that simple phrase not only doesn’t make a situation any better, but just serves to put down the person it’s being said to while making the person who said it feel elevated.

I found myself reflecting on my interactions with others and realized that many of the things I say when I’m annoyed were also many on this list. Savannah didn’t realize that I was also benefiting from her lesson!

Key Takeaway:
It’s often easy to understand a material need — food or housing — but it is much harder to understand the need for soft skills training and empowerment. However, this observational visit was a great opportunity for me to get a real sense of how impactful Family Lifeline’s work really is — not in the sense of numbers of clients or home visits, but in observing the very tangible impact on one family’s life/

All participants are empowered to make more informed choices, learn as much as they are ready to learn, and engage to the extent they are ready to.

Interested in scheduling your own observational home visit?  Contact Rebecca Butler at 804.249.5424 or email [email protected]