AIA Change Agents

Home | Blog | AIA Change Agents | 2013 | AIA Change Agents – TIES Program

AIA Change Agents – TIES Program

ojt head shotThis post is part of an on-going series called AIA Change Agents where we get to know each of the direct service programs funded by the Children’s Bureau under the AIA Act.  In this segment, we sat down to chat with Oneta Templeton, Project Director of the TIES program in Kansas City, MO.

Tell us a little about the TIES program.

The TIES program is a comprehensive, individualized, intensive home-based partnership with pregnant and postpartum women and their families affected by substance abuse or HIV.  Pregnant women and women with infants less than 6 months of age are invited to participate in this voluntary program to work with TIES family support and parenting specialists in setting goals and problem solving issues in their family.  The program provides supportive counseling and crisis intervention, alcohol and other drug treatment support, transportation, parenting education, a women’s support group and connection to other community resources.

TIES seems to pride itself on the strengths-based client-driven mentality staff bring to the table. Can you give an example of how this mentality plays out in service provision?

All families have significant strengths to employ and build on, but they often cannot easily identify them.  The family may well have had unproductive relationships with human service agencies in the past where the focus was narrow or the approach was one of identifying deficits alone.  TIES specialists are adept at accepting testing behavior, communicating positive regard, and recognizing the system of the family with both challenges and assets.  This approach assists families to identify their many resources and use them to meet their family’s needs, and creates a more balanced partnership for the work ahead.  Then, if negative events arise (relapse for instance), the specialist is available to the family in a nonjudgmental way, helping to create next steps.

Tell us about your clientele.  Is there a particular family that sticks out in your mind?

Like all families, those in the TIES program are unique in their composition and characteristics, and while their strengths are varied, challenges are similar.  Most families with whom we work are living in poverty, have multiple years of parental substance abuse, often multi-generational, and a history of trauma.  A family comes to mind who reflects a common experience:  Ms. J’s first year of participation was very sporadic and there were many times she and her family support specialist did not have contact.  She was very honest in reporting that she was not ready to address her addiction, but the specialist continued to reach out to her, meet with her whenever she was available, and offer support and access to resources.  Eventually, Ms. J contacted the specialist saying she was ready to try treatment.   Through Ms. J’s substantial efforts and the partnership with the specialist, Ms. J accomplished a great deal.  At enrollment the family was homeless, mom was using regularly, and 5 of her 6 children were in out-of-home care.  At graduation, she was in transitional housing with all of her children, had over 12 months of sobriety, and was working on obtaining her GED.  Our goals of offering families a different view of themselves and avenues to begin change were met.

Your women’s support group, Waiting to Exhale, is unique in that members develop group rules and plan meeting times. What challenges does this bring with it? What advantages?

The challenges include assisting the group to come to consensus in planning, helping participants focus decision-making while supporting one another, and the high amount of energy and effort it takes for women dealing with survival issues to participate in optional activities. The advantages are the ownership for the group that some women take on, more effectively addressing the issues they see as important, and supporting their efforts to be a leader and to give back.  We are hoping to support positive, mutual relationships between women and offer no/low cost outings for families whenever and at whatever level of participation is possible.

If TIES were to have a mascot, what would it be?

We struggled with this one!  We finally decided on a dream catcher.  We encourage families to consider a new self-image and a new vision for their futures.  With a more hopeful view, our partnership can help access both internal and external resources to begin work on families’ goals in manageable increments.

Question 6 was intentionally left blank. What question were you hoping we’d ask? What would you like to tell us that wasn’t covered?

We’d want you to ask, What do you mean when you say “It’s all about the relationship?”

And we’d respond that we believe women change in the context of relationships and recognition of all the roles and connections they have in their lives.  The relationship we offer is one of respect, empathy, and access to resources in a partnership driven by families’ strengths and desires.  Under an infinite variety of circumstances, we will offer positive personal regard, unparalleled accessibility, honest communication and constructive confrontation without judgment, and assistance in connecting to other community services.   We see ourselves as accompanying families, whether that’s physically as to a medical appointment, or more broadly on the journey we’re on together.   The commitment to be present promotes engagement and trust and a partnership that helps us all discover solutions together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *