All Ranch Ehrlo employees – from direct care workers to administration and everywhere in between – have or will take CARE training. CARE, Children And Residential Experiences: Creating Conditions for Change, was developed by Cornell University to improve services for people in care. Though we all understand the importance of the CARE principles, for those of us who are not direct care workers, opportunities to directly apply those principles are less common.
Earlier this month, Ehrlo Housing employee Terry-Lynn Triffo received a call about a tenant who was locked out of their apartment.
Ehrlo Housing operates as part of Ranch Ehrlo Society’s community services and its mandate is to provide affordable housing to low-income families, individuals with chronic mental health conditions, and young people transitioning from care.
“I’m not required to respond to calls that occur in my off hours that aren’t emergencies, but I saw it as an opportunity to meet a new tenant, so I went,” Terry-Lynn said. Relationship building is one of six CARE principles.
When Terry-Lynn arrived, a young girl – Terry-Lynn estimated her to be around 9 or 10 – was the one who was unable to get into the apartment through a miscommunication with her parent. Though she has no experience working with children in her role, Terry-Lynn adapted on the fly once she realized the mix up.
“Initially she said she would be okay because the daycare was right there, but when I explained to her that the daycare would eventually close and there would be no one around, she changed her mind and asked me to stay.”
Able to tell that the youth was scared in this environment – a new apartment, with no parent around – Terry-Lynn, who by then had unlocked the door and let the youth into the house, asked if she wanted some company while she waited for her mom to return.
“I asked her some questions; and tried to get information in a gentle way,” Terry-Lynn said. “I remembered what CARE training teaches us about listening and lowering our expectations, as well – so maybe we wouldn’t expect a nine or ten-year-old to be as frightened as she was, but because of CARE training, I knew meeting the youth where she was at and lowering those expectations to her developmental level was important.”
“We talked about her family a little, but mostly I tried to keep her calm and laughing,” Terry-Lynn explained. “It was more or less about making her feel safe.”
CARE teaches us that children need to be and feel safe in order to develop, grow, and heal from past traumas. While we may think of this as being solely applicable to times when children are in active treatment, Terry-Lynn’s interactions are proof that it extends to any time in a child’s life.
“Ultimately it ended up being a really good experience for both me and the youth,” Terry-Lynn said.