Erika walks into her home at 2:40 p.m., on a Thursday afternoon. It isn’t her home she’s stepping into, but her second home- her work home, Dalla Vicenza. Erika says hi to house manager Mike and sits down with youth care leader Brody to go over the planning book and decide what activity (program) to do with the youth that night. It’s been decided, the kids will go for an evening swim.  

Erika and her fellow staff head out into the Ranch van to pick up the kids from school. After the excitement of getting home, youth and staff dive into chores – some shower, others throw on laundry, they make school lunches and tidy their rooms. Once all is complete, the youth have time to play before supper.

There goes the dinner bell - not really, but the kids are called for supper, and everyone sits around the table to enjoy a meal together. The kids share highlights from the day, the staff share their stories, and once everyone’s full they clean up and head out.  

To the pool they go. After a couple of hours of dunking, diving, spraying, and splashing the kids and staff make their way home for a bedtime snack and sleep. Staff ensure teeth are brushed, and everyone’s tucked in with a bedtime story by 8 p.m.

Staff then head downstairs to complete a nightly report (a debrief of the day) and clean the house for the incoming overnight staff. Erika and Brody talk about their day with the youth and discuss any crisis that may have arisen, things they could do differently, and review the plan for the next day.

As the clock strikes 11 p.m., Erika gathers her things and heads home, while the leader hangs back awaiting the arrival of overnight staff.  

Youth care workers are a special kind of staff who show up every day, bringing authenticity, flexibility, and a handbag of hope to the youth who live in our group homes.  


Erika Lopes thrives as a youth care worker at Dalla Vicenza house, spending her days connecting with youth through play. The 22-year-old said the job brings out her best self, whether she’s playing pretend, swimming at the local pool, or hearing about a youth’s first day of school. 

“It’s a fun job, especially at the home I’m working in now. We have a young group that is very interactive and high-energy. Most of the time here at Dalla you’re pretending to be a pony,” she said laughing. “You have to have energy, imagination, and high spirits to work with these kids.”

Erika works with nine boys and girls, ages ranging from eight to 12 years old. She is one of 10 staff at Dalla Vicenza, although established “shift sets” have her working with the same people each day.

Erika said working with the same people forges a special bond, helping to strengthen the team and the work they do with the youth.

“We all communicate really well and work together like a family,” she said.

Whether the job takes her to a skating rink or to a stool perched outside a bedroom of a child who can’t sleep, Erika said her job is more fulfilling than she could have imagined.

“I just really enjoy helping people,” said Erika. “It’s so rewarding to see the youth grow. The best part is seeing them discharge from the program knowing I made a difference.”