Our Work is About Relationships

Our Work is About Relationships

I was providing a lecture to a class of aspiring social work students last week and was recalling for them how joining the profession after working close to it for many years changed my perspective on my work entirely.  In my early work before being trained in social work it seemed as though the primary focus of my initial encounters with individuals for the first time was centered on the central theme of building rapport.  With the right rapport we could move individuals where we needed or wanted them to be I thought.  If we could garner a good rapport with individuals we could gain compliance from them.  Things would go well and the job would be easier with a good rapport.  Fast forward to my awakening.  My ah-ha moment was a pivot toward deeper relationship with individuals served and not just rapport.  Individuals, we are in service to, are like all human beings with a capacity for building relationship.  We can be in relationship with one another and through relationship we can achieve success in our interventions and help individuals move the dial toward recovery from illness, advancement in skills, and fulfillment in life.

The legacy of Homeward Bound that I have come to learn of in my first months as CEO is a legacy of relationship in community.  It’s more than a rapport between one another, HBI is a big community partnering to bring joy and fulfillment to the lives of 91 individuals we serve in relationship with one another.  Being in service to individuals also brings those in service fulfillment as well.  That’s the power of relationship.  Countless current and former staff, parents, guardians, family members, and friends all collaborate in many ways to brighten the lives of our 91 residents but the impact goes far beyond 91.

HBI staff also honor the parents and families of those we serve by the way we engage in relationship with residents.  Parents and families are honored by the work that HBI staff do day in day out.  Guardians and friends provide incredible contributions to individuals served through the relationships they cultivate with residents and in doing so honor HBI staff and parents in the process.  This community effort draws in supporters and volunteers who are drawn to be in relationship with a community like HBI.  It’s magnetic.

As I worked to further illustrate what building relationship looked like for my classroom of aspiring social workers I couldn’t help but mention HBI and the way that being in relationship is manifested in our organization day to day.  At HBI staff take a person-centered approach when building relationship with the individuals we serve.  With a person-centered approach the paradigm shifts away from a focus on gaining compliance and our own needs toward placing a genuine value on having a strong relationship with our residents activated through the promotion of every individual’s autonomy in decision making and the important development and maintenance of their self-agency.  This approach is humanizing, level setting, and authentic for our residents; and when done right the response in return could not be more profound.  Individuals served are destined to do better, be healthier, and be more engaged in their own life when they are in control of their own lives.

Our person-centered approach means we meet each individual where they are at and acknowledge both the capacity they have in the present moment as well as the great possibilities they have yet within themselves, including both that potential seen in the past as well as the potential yet to be realized for the first time.  At HBI, we operationalize our person-centered philosophy in a number of ways not the least of which includes our focus on continuous active treatment defined by the code of federal regulation as:

  • Actively maintaining functioning to the maximum extent possible in the
    presence of degenerative or other limiting conditions.
  • Active work developing increased skills and independence in functional life
    areas, for example: communication, socialization, toileting, bathing, household tasks.
  • Actively supporting needs for continuous, competent training, supervision and support in order to function on a daily basis.
  • Actively supporting needs for receiving continuous, competent training,
    supervision and support that promotes skills and independence.

We are in relationship with one another.  I recently met with a group of parents of the residents we serve.  In a truly relational way I gained from them an insight into the possibilities when we have relationship at the forefront of our work.  Among the most natural aspects of what it means to be human is our relationship to one another and the relationship we build with one another.  I can’t help but notice the power of relationship in action at Homeward Bound.  We are lucky to be a witness to the power of relationship at work.

-Rob Edwards, CEO

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