One of the most common responses when someone hears about working in a group home is: “I couldn’t do that. It would be too hard.”
For Caroline, an Alternate Teaching Parent at one of Closer to Home’s Community Teaching Homes, working with youth who have experienced trauma is certainly a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to help them grow into successful, healthy, whole adults.
“There’s a young woman I’m working with now who I have seen so much progress with,” Caroline says. “I can see her taking a pause to think about what she says before she says it and to get her emotions under control before reacting. I’m seeing her develop the skills we’re teaching her and apply them in really stressful situations in her life. To know that I’ve had a hand in helping her through a lot of different crises is so rewarding.”
Caroline moved to Calgary a year-and-a-half ago from Golden, BC, where she spent much of her time volunteering at the local high school. “I volunteered for the circus club,” she says, “and typically the kids in this club are more disadvantaged. So I worked with the school psychologist to teach the kids circus skills that helped them build both their athleticism and their confidence, along with learning how to problem solve.”
Caroline turned her hula hooping hobby into a business, launching Geometric Revolution in 2014. She’s seen firsthand the effect that hooping can have on a person’s mental health, and often brings this passion to her work at Closer to Home.
“If any kid from any of our houses makes the slightest indication that they like to hula hoop, I’ll ask them what their favourite colour is and make one for them,” she says. “One of the kids has really taken to it and uses it a lot as a coping tool – to get in there and do that moving meditation when he’s not feeling happy.”
“It’s a good form of low-impact exercise,” she continues, “but it can also have a big impact on how they deal with the stress in their lives.”
Bringing some of the values from her outside life – like expression, inclusiveness and community – into her job is a form of self-care for Caroline. “It’s important for me to stay involved with my passions, stay connected to my community and continue to pursue my own goals,” she says.
Caroline points to Closer to Home’s management team for also being a big part of what makes her job so fulfilling. “It really does feel like a family,” she says. “There’s so much support and positive feedback from the management team.”
“Working with different kids and watching them grow and develop and start to use some of the skills we’re teaching them is super heartwarming,” she says. “From managers to coworkers, everyone seems to have their heart in the right place and really wants these kids to be successful.”
So what does success look like?
“For me,” Caroline says, “success is when you feel happy and content. When you have hope. When you have plans and goals and you’re excited to be working on them and moving forward, making progress in your life.”
“Even with the challenges, I’m really glad that I got into this and started doing this kind of work.”
Learn more about how you can support the youth in Closer to Home’s Teaching Homes here.