Consistency: A Hallmark of Practice at SaintA

Consistency is defined by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as: always acting or behaving in the same way; of the same quality; continuing to happen or develop in the same way. Consistency for children, according to the University of Alabama’s Parenting Assistance Line website, means “that rules and expectations are the same from one time to another. Consistency makes the child’s world predictable and less confusing. It frees their minds of worry about what might happen and teaches them accountability for their actions.”

Coreen Lautenbach Hicks
Coreen Lautenbach Hicks

Consistency is important because it provides the families we serve with a sense of security, and builds trust during a very difficult, stressful, and often life-changing time in their lives. This, in turn, aids in the development of the helping relationship that we, as workers in various roles, are building with the families we serve. When people feel secure, they are less anxious, and are better able to take the risks needed to make the behavioral changes and progress needed to be reunified with their children. Consistency also helps people develop a sense of responsibility, and accountability, as they clearly know what is expected of them.

There is no guesswork on the part of the families we work with when there is consistency. They know what they need to accomplish, and they feel supported as they work to meet the conditions necessary for their children to be returned to them. For many of our SaintA families, consistency is something they may never have had, or have had little of in their lives or family histories.

SaintA recognizes the importance of consistency for the children and families we serve and strives to provide and maybe even introduce that concept to them. I have found that consistency runs as a theme throughout my work at SaintA and represents SaintA as an agency.

I began my work at SaintA in April of 2013 as a Family Engagement Specialist, within our Family Services department. Through that work, I was able to see incredible progress and growth in families. I saw them progress through fully supervised visits, then on to partially supervised interactions, and finally to unsupervised time with their children. Through skill acquisition and demonstration over a period of time, they were able to display stability, confidence and security in their parenting.

I also was able to be reassigned to families who, for an array of reasons, needed to be re-enrolled in the Family Engagement Program at SaintA. Knowing the families and having a history with them was extremely important, and my schedule was changed and adjusted to be able to accommodate those situations to provide that crucial consistency and “sameness” for the families I previously had served.

In October of 2014, I took on the role of Caregiver Support Specialist, which provides direct services to foster parents or kinship caregivers. Consistency and continuity played a huge role in that transition. I began a slow shift to my new role and worked with several of the families I served for many weeks after my job change until a new, and appropriate, Family Engagement Specialist could be identified and begin to work with them. The new specialists met the families, shadowed me during interactions, and sat in on agency staff meetings so that they were adequately prepared to serve the families.

As my work as a Caregiver Support Specialist progressed, two of the caregivers who were caring for the children I had supervised family interactions with were referred to the Caregiver Support Program. I was specifically requested by the Ongoing Case Manager to serve one of the caregivers, as the case manager recognized the importance of consistency, and the need for rapport, knowledge, and history with this family due to the complexity and nuances of the family’s dynamics and its inter-generational history of trauma.

My Caregiver Support supervisor also recognizes this as being best practice for families, and consulted with me, as well as Family Services Supervisors, before adding these caregivers to my case load. Through serving the same families in different roles, I have been able to provide them and the teams working with them vital information, needs assessments, and communication assistance. This has proved to be invaluable in helping the families get the services and information they need, as well as in developing communication and relationships (both formal and informal) to best support and assist the children, caregivers and birth families that are served by SaintA.

It has been a privilege and honor to be able to serve families in both of the roles I have held at SaintA, and I know that many of the amazing staff at SaintA also have found this same continuity and consistency guiding their work.

A quote from John C. Maxwell (leadership-focused, American author and speaker) states, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” To me, this quote speaks volumes. It articulates how skills repeated, and reinforced, can lead to incredible progress – those behavioral changes that we all strive to have occur in our clients.

Each member of the Caregiver Support Team has made a commitment to consistency, and has made it a part of what we consider best practice. I encourage all of SaintA to look for areas where we can creatively promote and maintain consistency for the families we serve.

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