Mallory Smith, new Regional Supervisor, reflects on her journey so far at Youth Villages

The ocean near Youth Villages’ Plymouth, MA office.

Mallory Smith is a new Regional Supervisor at Youth Villages in Plymouth, Massachusetts. She holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University.

What made you interested in pursuing a career at Youth Villages?

Youth Villages’ strength-focused approach attracted me first. I had worked in residential for a while and once got to work with a Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist who was helping a child on the residential campus transition home. What Youth Villages did to bring the child home was different – it was intensive work with the family to make sure not only the child but also the environment at home were changing. Youth Villages doesn’t just focus on a child’s negative behaviors and changing those but looks at what is causing the behaviors and changing the whole situation so the child can live successfully at home. Residential treatment can successfully change a child’s behaviors, but when you put the child back into the same environment he or she came from, the child typically cannot sustain the behavior changes because nothing changed at home. At Youth Villages, we always look at the why for every behavior and address underlying causes, which helps children and families find success not only for the moment but the long-term. I feel I can make a bigger difference here because I get to work with the entire family. That’s why I love what I do. What is it like working at Youth Villages? This is very, very intense work. I think a lot of people hear about us and think to themselves that we say we are more intensive but that we are in fact like other in-home programs. But we aren’t. Youth Villages is far more intensive. For example, as a Family Intervention Specialist, you are available 24/7 to the families you help, and you are their crisis support. Unlike other programs, our support does not end at 5 p.m., and we don’t rely on outside groups to provide crisis support. We do that ourselves. We teach our staff that, but until they experience it, it doesn’t really register with them what it means. What it does mean is that by helping a family work through a crisis, you help the family make progress. It’s all about teaching families to learn to handle tough situations on their own, and they can. They just don’t have the skills yet. Over time, they learn, and that is when you begin to see success. There will be more bumps down the road, but step by step, they are being empowered and making progress until they no longer think about needing to place a child in a hospital or in respite. You get to do more at Youth Villages, and you work hard. But you also see greater success and that means greater rewards.

You started out as a Family Intervention Specialist but have been promoted since. What does that mean to you?

I started in July 2010 as a family intervention program working for Youth Villages’ Intercept intensive in-home program. A year later, I was promoted to clinical supervisor. I was just recently promoted again to serve as Regional Supervisor for our Plymouth office. I didn’t think when I started here that I would get promoted so quickly, but it was a great chance for me. Youth Villages only promotes from within. That’s because Youth Villages’ program is different from other in-home programs, and you cannot hire for leadership positions from outside. Youth Villages’ program is more intensive and strength-focused, and the staff are accountable to the families we help 24/7. That’s a lot of responsibility, but I have always felt very supported at Youth Villages, and my goal now is to lend that same support to my staff.

What has been your greatest success or most rewarding moment working at Youth Villages?

I got to work with a family once who nobody thought would be successful. We were given the case anyway to give it a last try before the child would be placed into foster care and the mom’s rights terminated for good. This family was a tough case. The mom didn’t think she could do it. But after working with them for a number of months, the daughter was able to come home to a different mom – a mom who was ready and able to handle challenges and who was committed to her daughter and handling tough situations on her own. I was able to discharge this family successfully. Two months or so later, I ran into the family’s DCF worker, and she told me that they had closed their case on the family and had returned parental rights to the mom. That was my most moving experience working at Youth Villages. It illustrates what our program is all about – to make a difference in the lives of children and their families, and at Youth Villages, we take on some of the toughest cases and are able to change lives. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work, but the rewards are equally great.

To learn more about opportunities in Massachusetts, visit www.youthvillages.org/jobs.

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