What's in Your Emergency Kit?

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By Rose Ann M. Rentería, Ph.D.

As one of the directors at PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families, I always make an effort to meet new staff by participating in brief staff orientation/welcome events. My goal is twofold: to discuss key organizational and cultural values, such as effectiveness, which drive how we conduct our work, and to inform staff about program evaluation, family satisfaction surveys, response rates, etc.

At a recent presentation, I decided to assemble an emergency kit for new staff. What should go in the kit? I thought about what added-value the kit could have for introductions and sharing core ideas of positive child, youth, and caregiver/family development. In the end, I assembled a few items and placed them inside a small plastic baggie—these were the items that mattered most to me.

The kit contained the following items: several Lifesavers, a handful of mints, a bag of SNAP pretzels, a Rice Krispies treat, and a few chocolate Kisses! All items were individually wrapped and the meaning behind each was made clear.

Lifesavers. In the work we do with children, youth and their caregivers, we have to use high-quality and honest interactions and active listening to establish meaningful partnerships and social relationships. As I tell new staff, “In some cases, we may be the one caring adult that others are looking for and need.”

In some cases, we may be the one caring adult that others are looking for and need.

With the mints, the meaning is that we have to remain calm, cool and collected, even when the work we do on behalf of children, youth and families can be tough. I follow the lead of my mentor, Dr. Andy Muñoz, on this issue. Dr. Muñoz  once told me, “With child and youth care work, we are in it for the long haul.” I never forget this framing of the care we provide because it remains accurate in so much of the work that we do to support people’s thriving in their homes, schools, and communities.

What about the SNAP pretzels? In the kit, the “SNAP” stands for key goals when engaged in positive youth development activities. SNAP refers to being “Safe, Nurturing, Accessible Professionals” in all the work we do within systems of care and support, and with people we serve.

The Rice Krispies treat is really about self-care and taking the breaks we need in order to do outstanding work and engagement with those we serve on a daily basis. “We have to treat ourselves with self-kindness and true breaks, as needed,” was my primary recommendation.

Finally, the chocolate Kisses are in the baggie because, in my humble opinion, chocolate helps with everything. In this instance, my bias is the sweetness of the chocolate kiss along with the silver wrapping paper.

Putting the emergency kit together reminded me to remain creative and strength-based in the work each of us participate in on a daily basis in response to the varied needs in our communities. The kit is a symbol that each of us can support positive development. The kit also serves as a visual and hands-on representation of core values to support children, youth, caregivers, and families. In the end, as I explained the kit to the staff, I could see how a kit was really a sharing and learning device about the important work we do, and how important it is that we do our best work in our respective fields.

So, what’s in your emergency kit?

Rose Ann M. Rentería, Ph.D., has served as the Director of Research and Evaluation at PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families in Annandale, VA, for six years. As a training and research partner with Youth in Focus, Dr. Rentería has revised Families Thrive ™ training materials, and provided training in Youth Thrive™ and Families Thrive™ conceptual frameworks.

Jen Smith