Case workers on Maria Andrade’s team work hard and look forward to getting out of the office for an occasional team retreat. Such was the case recently, on a nice, sunny Friday.
Everyone was ready to go, and some staff already were on their way. Then Maria got word that an 8-year-old child had wandered away from a client’s family. Without missing a beat, everything changed. The girl is autistic and non-verbal, one of 10 children, most of whom have special needs. The family is served by Case Manager Laura Halonen.
Laura was alerted about 10:30 a.m. By 11 a.m., gears were switched, and Maria’s entire team decided to help look for the child or help the mother watch the other kids instead of going on their much-needed retreat.
“There were no questions asked,” Maria said. “It was just, ‘So, we’ll go do this instead.’”
Police were sent to the home, and as Laura was telling them about the child’s patterns and habits, her team pulled up.
“The police were like, ‘Who are all these ladies? You brought your whole crew?’ I told them, that’s my team and they all just decided to help search.”
Laura said it felt really good to know the team had her back.
“I was really stressed with this situation, and then a co-worker talked me down. She kept telling me, she’ll be fine, she will be found, and everything will work out…. And the client saw that we were all helpers, that we wanted the girl to be found as much as the family did. The mom was just panicked and really grateful for our help.”
The story has a happy ending. The little girl was found. It turns out she had somehow gotten through a screen and crawled into a neighbor’s house.
After everything was returned to normal, Maria had time to reflect on the situation.
“It was just like an instinct. I knew if I asked the team for help, they wouldn’t question it. The sheer fact that I didn’t have to ask speaks volumes.”
And in the end, the team got to go on their retreat. But for only two hours. No one complained.