Tag Archives: Pittsburgh


Hi Monday, how are you?  I scheduled the day off today from working at the hospital as part of my self care plan and somehow a cold decided to follow me.  It has been trying to make friends for a couple of weeks and Friday finally got ahold of me.  I’ve been going through a lot so I’ve actually been surprised it hadn’t caught up to me sooner.  So what did I do today?  I slept in.  I played with my dogs outside and enjoyed watching them watch the squirrels scamper up the trees.  I came back inside and did laundry and dishes and then decided to rest again.  Then I decided to go drop some donations off and would see where the drive would take me before my acupuncture appointment.  I had a great lunch watching people and looking at the gorgeous fall colors.  Enjoyed some sushi and thought of the family I used to nanny in Pittsburgh because that’s where I first tried and fell in love with sushi.  And I listened to one of them most fascinating conversations, likely fascinating because by the looks of these two men I never would have guess the words that would fall out of their mouths.  They talked of transference, addiction, and being addicted to the unhealthy mindset.  Right up this counselor’s alley.  And I looked around me and imagined all the lives and hearts of those around me, not really knowing anyone and yet totally comfortable with this fact.

So Monday, thank you for helping take care of me.  I’m watching, I’m listening.

Love these Fall days.

Love these Fall days.


National Foster Care Month

*This blog post was previously written when I worked at The Prevention Researcher on May 11th, 2010; titled National Foster Care Month-  Thoughts about Our Youth in Foster Care.  Promoting awareness of foster care youth is still near and dear to my heart; in the last year when one of my dearest friends died and her daughter was placed in a group foster home for well over a month.  May she always believe in herself and hold dear, the joyous memories she shared with her mom.100_0204

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about a group of very special young women that I met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 2000, I began a practicum with Three Rivers Youth, to fulfill my bachelor’s in Social Work at Chatham University.  Part of my field placement was at a therapeutic group home for 12 adolescent girls from the ages of 12 to 18.  Termon House was a home away from home. Many of these young women had been in and out of their parents’ homes, their extended families’ homes, and foster homes. Because of their mental health diagnosis and criminal behavior they were not suited for any other placement, or rather, no other placement was suited for them.  Daily activities at Termon House included helping youth prepare meals, set daily schedules, learn about basic hygiene, complete chores, set up therapy appointments, prepare for home visits, have daily group meetings together, and catch up on homework.

One young woman I’ll name Tracy, for confidentiality purposes, was 15 when I met her.  She was a bright young woman-musical, witty, funny, and very caring.  Tracy was also extremely angry, often arguing with her other house mates and staff about the injustices of the world.  Her diagnosis included Bipolar Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and PTSD.  Tracy first came into the foster care system at age 5, when a social worker found her caring for her 2 younger siblings, after her mom died of AIDS.  Tracy’s dad was killed in a gang shooting.  Not long after meeting Tracy, I learned that she was a mom of a one-year-old baby girl, who was being cared for by extended family.  There is one day I’ll never forget. Tracy received a phone call, and soon was in tears, sobbing uncontrollably.  Staff was informed that Tracy’s baby daughter’s cancerous brain tumor had come back.  I sat there thinking, at 15 years of age, how does a young woman like Tracy cope?  How do we begin to improve the foster care system so that it can support her many needs and roles–as a high school student, a person with mental illness, as a young mom, and as a daughter with no parents?

May is National Foster Care Month.  In the U.S. 463,000 children and youth are in foster care.  There are an estimated 12 million foster care alumni in the U.S (www.fostercaremonth.org).  In Oregon, where I now live, there were 5,833 youth served in family foster care in 2009; 65% of those youth were placed in temporary foster care due to physical abuse and 50% due to parental drug or alcohol abuse.   Find out about 2009 foster care statistics in your state.

Casey Family Programs is one organization trying to improve the lives of those in foster care.  Their 2020 Strategy aims to ensure that every child in America has a safe, permanent family.  Their hope is to reduce the number of children in foster care by 50 percent and improve self-sufficiency for those that are.  I highly recommend this video they created.  It uses art, stories of youth, families and staff to call to action anyone compelled to do what they can to improve the lives of foster youth across the nation.  I thank Tracy, and all the youth out there trying their best, who continue to show us compassion even when our families, communities, and systems have not always made them feel safe at home.

Street Medicine: Person Centered Approach

Just about to finish my masters of social work at the University of Southern California. Each week we have a little over an hour of videos and online content to cover before we go to class. Today I had the opportunity to watch a documentary about an organization called Street Medicine, which you all can watch too. I found out this organization was started by Dr. Jim Withers who dressed as a homeless person in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in order to make medical visits to homeless. My undergraduate degree was at Chatham University in Pittsburgh so I really enjoyed learning this. This particular video takes place in Los Angeles. I found out more about Street Medicine, whose website is also on WordPress.

I especially like the approach of Street Medicine because they use a person centered approach, which includes being accessible to folks who otherwise may not see a doctor.  Watching the video you see the staff members in plain clothes, the doctor has a back pack and they drive a van together to meet with folks.  They talk about encouraging folks to go to their clinic if they need, or taking folks to the ER if that is necessary.  In working with one man, they understand that first they must meet his wishes of getting a shower and clothes before they can get him to agree to go to the hospital for a large facial abscess that they believe could be life threatening  if not treated soon.  They are so patient with him and answer all of his questions and are willing to sit with him in the ER waiting room.

Using a person centered approach in the medical field means using user friendly language, listening openly to what the patient has to say, is concerned about, and approaching them in a way that shows respect  in the most dignified way possible.  This got me thinking about a past client I had, a single father who was raising two teenage sons who were homeless when I met them.  I remember being impressed by their creativity, humor, musical talents, and dreams for the future.  To be part of the program I worked at, they had to follow certain rules and we had to create weekly agreements they would follow in order to continue to live there.  I knew this weekly agreement not followed had serious consequences; one thing I like to do was add a piece in it about self-care.  While I wanted clients to understand the importance of maintaining a safe environment, I also wanted them to understand the value of taking care of themselves.  And so each week clients would come up with something to do for themselves that we would add in this contract (my person centered approach).  I hope that the father I mentioned has been able to continue to incorporate self-care into his life some 8 years later.  His talent is still greatly appreciated by me.  IMGP3742