by Karen Karpinski, Director of Education
Picking up from where we left off in our last article with our T.A.P. acronym…
Aftercare, the “A” in T.A.P., is one of the most vital elements of our work. Our team consists of our Director, Derri Smith, who directs, supervises and provides support to the staff that works directly with the survivors. She keeps us on track! Sheila, the Intervention Specialist and a recovered survivor herself, reaches out to new survivors and connects with them to build trust. She can do this because they realize that she understands and knows where they are coming from. Sheila has a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Our two Survivor Services Coordinators, Christine and Lizedny have social work backgrounds; Christine has a Masters in therapy and Lizedny will complete her MSW this year. They work with the survivors to help them decide what changes they want to make in their lives and to provide them with choices, options and resources to make those changes happen.
All three members of the direct services team provide a loving, respectful, accepting approach. They take these survivors to doctor, dentist and attorney appointments, go to court with them, to job interviews and to obtain identification documents. They take the survivors to lunch, shopping for clothes and groceries and to equestrian therapy. They advocate for survivor’s needs and engage in any number of other supportive activities. Aftercare is very time intensive, but we provide that care for as long as it is needed. Cookie-cutter approaches have no place in our care plans and we find a very relational approach to be essential to healing. Survivors often stay in contact with the staff for many years. They determine when they are ready to be on their own.
Survivors sometimes come to us pregnant, with a child (children) and/or families, and we work with the entire family unit. We help spouses obtain employment and find affordable housing for their family. We provide tutoring for a GED or English as a second language. We help survivors with parenting issues, day care or school. We help new mothers with baby showers to provide for the necessities for a new baby. We address the specific challenges of career development for people with records, spotty education and /or never having held a legal job.
Because we are a small staff and are responsible for the counties of Middle TN, it is impossible to provide all the services that our survivors need. Nor do we wish to, when there are many excellent service providers in place. Consequently, we have developed a large network of partnerships with other organizations that can help with those needs. We work with local, state and federal law enforcement, The Department of Children’s Services, Child Advocacy Centers, various shelters and substance abuse treatment centers, social service agencies, mental health treatment centers, faith communities and many more. The survivors come from all walks of life, from various social and economic backgrounds and ethnicities. They may be local girls, women, boys or men; they may be immigrants or they may have been moved across the country and trafficked in Tennessee. Trafficker generally move the victims away from any kind of support soon after they enter “the life” in order to keep them isolated.
Stay tuned next issue for the final segment of this piece…