Casa Staff Interview: Meet Lili

Q: How long have you been working with Casa and what was your starting position?

I first heard about Casa when I was an undergrad at CSUSM. I tutored for about 6 months in the cottages and worked directly with the girls. When I started looking for a job in Fall of 2017 I remembered the impact I was able to make in my short time as a tutor and decided to go for it. I have now been working with Casa for a little bit over a year and first started as a Residential Counselor. Since then, I have moved to a different position and am now the Program Manager for Family Visitation.

Q: What is your role at Casa?

As a Program Manager my role is to help reunify children and their families. Children are removed for different reasons such as child abuse and neglect. I have a great team that provides a trusting and safe environment in which the parents and children can visit. Our documentation is a piece that plays in the decision that the court makes to move forward with reunification or adoption. My role specifically, is more behind the scenes paperwork that helps get the visits going, and running smoothly. I work alongside the county social workers and am in consistent communication with them in order to ensure that we are meeting our client’s needs.

Q:  What drew you to Casa originally? And how has Casa changed since?

I have a second job working alongside a psychologist who runs a domestic violence and anger management program. As you can imagine, the population can be different but similar to the clients I work with now. Originally the population is what drew me to Casa because I was interested in seeing how I could make an impact with adolescents. 

Q: What has been your favorite project?

I would say that my favorite project is an on going project. I really enjoy visiting with Diana aka “the art lady” and seeing the different projects she brings to the table for the residents and staff. Her method of teaching expressive arts is beautiful and you can really see her passion for helping the girls. She makes the staff feel welcomed and allows us to dig into our feelings and thoughts in a safe place. 

Q: What have you gained from working at Casa?

I have gained more confidence in my work and within myself. Working with people is difficult but with support from my director, team, and people around me I have been able to more confidently approach different situations.

Q: What is on your wish list for the next 5 years with Casa?

I would like to see myself move into a different position. Although I have only been in this position for a little under a year I’m excited to see what else Casa has to offer me in the future!

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Casa?

My Casa family!! I love the relationships that I have built with my peers and the team that I previously worked with. We call each other Casa family because we truly are family and the love that we have for each other and our work is incredible.

Q: What is your proudest moment at Casa?

My first day shadowing in the cottages, I had one very difficult resident who immediately hated me. I assumed that by saying “hey girl” it would be a gesture of friendliness but instead I triggered her. For the first 6 weeks I was consistently being called a “shitty staff”, got ignored, and was treated poorly by this resident. I did not allow it to get to me and I told myself I would wait until she trusted me and came to me. One day I walked into this resident’s cottage and instead of saying her usual complaint, “ugh why is she here?!” she didn’t say anything. Later that day she asked me to help her cook and she must have seen the confusion on my face because she said “So are you gonna help or not?” I was trying not to get too excited as I thought maybe she just happened to be in a good mood that day. After that day she slowly started to build her trust. I would say my proudest moment wasn’t one actual moment, but a lot of moments put together. With time, patience, and strength I was able to build the rapport with this client and she was able to see that she could trust me. Fast forward to today.. when we see each other we have our inside jokes that we say to each other while we greet each other.

Q: How would you describe your day job to a child?

I have super cool rooms where awesome children like you get to go and hang out with their parents. They spend time together playing games, doing homework, and enjoying each other’s company. We also have one friend who sits with the family to help the kiddos feel safe and to answer any questions that they may have.

Q:  What is your biggest achievement to date-personal and professional?

One of my biggest achievements in my personal life was being able to finish my undergrad. Through various challenges that life threw at me, I was able to balance working 3 jobs and going to school. I am a first generation child so I believe that having the opportunity to go to school was not only a blessing but a privilege as well.  Professionally, I am able to say that my biggest achievement is having a job that I actually like and enjoy going to. I’m a strong believer in not living your life for the weekends, and although I get excited for Fridays and the weekend, I also wake up excited and grateful to be in a field that I have a passion for.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

From scheduling clients, to helping social workers with documentation needed for court, to training new hires on car seat safety, every day looks different for me. I think that’s one of the things I like the most; my days are never the same.

Q: What three words would you use to describe your role?

Challenging. Rewarding. Awesome.

Q: If you could switch jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?

If I could switch jobs with anyone, I would switch jobs with Oprah because she has such a great platform. I would use this platform to vocalize positive change and growth within ourselves and society as a whole. 

Q: If you could change on thing about working here, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about working here, I would help improve the culture of the agency. I think it would be great to see the agency implement mandatory team building meetings between different programs in the organization in order to build relationships between people who don’t typically work together on a daily basis.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

I love that I can directly see the impact and changes that my team and I make. Whether it is a child getting adopted or a child reunifying with their parents, I know that it’s the safest choice for them and that makes it rewarding.

Q: What advice would you give to a new casa team member?

To a new Casa team member: Take care of yourself, because no one is going to do it for you. Working with children who have a strong history of abuse, neglect, and trauma is not easy, so implement self-care routines into your lifestyle and make sure you always remind yourself of WHY you are here and what brought you here.

Q: What is your favorite movie or TV show?

The Office

Q: What do you do for fun?

I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, hiking, meditating on the beach, reading, and watching Netflix.

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