Public health emergencies, like COVID-19 (Coronavirus), can be stressful and challenging for families and communities. At Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, we believe it is important to promote positivity and a sense of calm as we navigate these unprecedented times together. One way we are doing this is by finding inspiration amid the uncertainty.
We invite you to look below for videos, and excerpts from letters and emails, offering messages of hope, kindness and resilience from Devereux’s families, caregivers, employees and supporters as we strive to emerge safer, stronger and healthier than ever before. Please note we are withholding last names for privacy purposes.
Look below to see what we are hearing from Devereux family members, caregivers and employees.
The murals - titled “To imagine,” “Friendship,” “Kite” and “Accompanying us” - were painted by Colorado artist Julio Mendoza and feature images of a child wearing a mask using his imagination, birds in flight, a child flying a kite, and a mother and baby elephant.
On his Facebook page, Mendoza wrote, “I really hope these murals can bring good vibes and smiles.”
Devereux Colorado Special Education Director Carrie Foster noted, “The murals are absolutely beautiful and really enhance our comfort rooms. Before the start of the school year, we turned our four ‘quiet rooms’ into ‘comfort rooms.’ We commissioned the murals, added beanbag chairs and fidget toys. The comfort rooms provide a therapeutic and supportive environment for our students to relax and calm down if they are feeling anxious, upset or dysregulated. Our students love the murals and the rooms.”
Look below to view photos of the murals.
Recently, a Pennsylvania teenager created a sensory path at the Devereux Center for Autism Research and Education Services (CARES) for his Eagle Scout service project.
The path provides a safe place for CARES students to walk and ride their bikes, and develop motor skills, such as balance, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. “We want to thank this young man for donating his time and talents, and turning an empty space into something much more functional - a therapeutic and educational area for our students,” said CARES Education Director Megan Cox. “The path, which looks like a road, provides direction for our students to walk or ride their bikes or scooters, and it enhances the overall area where they play.”
Recently, parents whose son receives services through Devereux Pocono wrote notes to Executive Director Tina Skoda, recognizing staff at the Oak Lane house, a residential group home where their son resides, for going above and beyond.
Look below to read excerpts from their heartfelt letters of gratitude.
“Every situation … has seen the staff’s level of engagement and cooperation to be superb. Andrea consistently goes above and beyond to accommodate us, and she beautifully navigates the balance between professionalism and personal warmth that always results in outcome-based solutions. Phyllis somehow manages to keep everyone in line and on track, and the lines of communication open. She directs the residents with a degree of integrity that is unmatched and so appreciated by us. We often acknowledge those we communicate with by thanking them for their heart of service, but the kind of direction, input and insight garnered by this staff on behalf of those they serve is a heart combined with wisdom, knowledge and experience that has to, by necessity, speak to each individuals’ needs. This cannot possibly be an easy task, and their work does not go unnoticed by our family.”
“I'm just taking another quick moment to commend Andrea, Phyllis, Cherie and the rest of the staff at Gordie's house. … I have to applaud (them) for recognizing that Gordie wasn't himself even before a weakness manifested. We are so thankful that Andrea and Phyllis … know their people so well that, I'm sure in Gordie's case, they were able to avert a major catastrophe. … Devereux and all of Gordie's support services, both in-house and out, have been such a blessing to Gordie and the Peet family. We just want to take the time to say thank you!”
– Evon and Rick Peet, Devereux Pocono parents
At Devereux, we want to help our talented and hard-working team members achieve their career goals. Recently, Devereux New Jersey Operations Director Ebony Poe, MSW, who oversees about 70 residential programs across the state, shared her professional development journey. Look below to read her testimonial.
“I joined Devereux New Jersey in 2004 as a part-time direct support professional. Since that time, I have served in multiple field and administrative level positions, currently occupying the role of operations director. Over the years, I have developed great knowledge in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities through trainings and formal professional development. My job responsibilities motivated me to obtain my undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work. Devereux has helped me advance my career by providing me with professional insight for how people’s lives can be changed for the better with the right supports in place. Each of the individuals we serve has a unique set of needs. Navigating those needs through best practices aligns our team, putting us in position to make the impossible, possible, creating growth and learning opportunities along the way. I get to do what I love at Devereux, helping our individuals meet their personal goals, live quality lives and exercise their independence. There is no better reward in this field!”
- Ebony Poe, MSW, Devereux New Jersey Operations Director
At Devereux, we are focused on cultivating a culture of belonging where team members feel welcomed, supported by, and connected to, each other, as well as to the individuals and families we serve every day.
During a recent virtual employee recognition event, national team members shared what makes them feel they belong at Devereux. Their responses, which included words and phrases, such as “supportive co-workers,” “diversity” and “compassionate collaboration,” were illustrated in a word cloud.
Look below to view the word cloud.
Want to work in a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment where your colleagues help you feel you belong? Visit jobs.devereux.org to explore our career opportunities today.
At Devereux, we support the growth and development of our remarkable and dedicated employees. Devereux New Jersey Behavior Specialist Reyna Dabney, M.A., RBT, recently shared how the organization has helped her further her career. Look below to read her professional development journey.
“I was hired in 2015 for a residential consular position. At the time, I was in my junior year of undergraduate school at Rowan University and wanted to gain some experience for graduate school. After I was hired, my position changed from residential consular to direct support professional Over time, I was able to hold positions at two group homes. I started part-time at a group home in Glassboro, before transferring to a full-time position at another group home in Egg Harbor Township. With the encouragement of my supervisors, I applied for a behavior specialist position. Devereux has provided me with opportunities to learn and grow. The organization even offers a great tuition reimbursement program that I was able to utilize. I am grateful for the skills I have gained in areas such as applied behavior analysis, and the lifelong friendships I have made.”
- Reyna Dabney, M.A., RBT, Devereux New Jersey behavior specialist
Recently, a parent whose son receives services through Devereux Florida’s Viera campus wrote a note to Child/Adolescent Therapist Petra Elliott, thanking her for the support she has provided. Look below to read the parent’s message of gratitude.
“She taught us how to cope, deal and understand our son’s needs. She is quite a blessing to our entire family.”
- Devereux Florida parent
Devereux provides employees opportunities to learn and grow. Recently, Devereux Pocono Assistant Manager Andrea Lindsay shared how trainings, as well as support from colleagues, have helped her thrive. Look below to read her testimonial.
“I was hired in 2012 as a direct support professional (DSP), working hands-on for about three years with our individuals and staff. This was a rewarding experience that led me to becoming assistant manager, now going on seven years. The help of my very supportive manager, trainings, and, most importantly, simply loving what I do, made the transition very easy for me. Devereux Pocono supports staff and encourages growth - you just have to want it!”
- Andrea Lindsay, Devereux Pocono assistant manager
CARES team members commended the five graduates and shared some of their many accomplishments.
Look below to view photos of the 2022 CARES graduates.
At Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) Learning Center, 16 students will be graduating this month. Education Director Susan Nice, MSW, praised the students and discussed their achievements. Here is what she had to say about just a few of them.
Look below to view photos of some of the Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS Learning Center’s 2022 graduates.
Devereux centers across the country recently held graduation ceremonies to celebrate the achievements of their students.
At Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Behavioral Health Services (CBHS) center, five students graduated from Brandywine and Mapleton schools, and shared their hopes and dreams for the future.
“We want to congratulate these students, and wish them well as they embark on the next chapter,” said Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS Executive Director Patricia Hillis-Clark, Psy.D. “Throughout their time at Devereux, they challenged themselves to do and be their very best. We are incredibly proud of their hard work and accomplishments, and cannot wait to see what the future holds.”
Look below to view photos of Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS’ 2022 graduates.
Each month, the school sets a theme - based on Zach’s “12 Rules for Life” - and recognizes a student who embodies that theme. Here are Zach’s rules.
Rule #12: When you get angry, put it behind you and get back to life. It should take about 20 minutes. Apologize if needed.
“Zach was kind, brave and resilient - an inspiration to many of our students and staff,” said Glenholme School Executive Director Noah Noyes. “We wanted to find a way to honor him. In addition to ‘The Kindness Project,’ we are naming our horse barn after Zach. The barn was his favorite place on campus - he loved riding and taking care of our hoses. We have even invited our students to help design a sign for the barn. Zach was a truly special student, and we want his memory to live on at Glenholme.”
Look below to view a photo of Glenholme students and staff wearing a T-shirt that says, “Be Like Zach.”
The eighth annual “Face-Off for Autism” hockey tournament, recently held at Ice Line in West Chester, Pa., scored big, raising $14,000 for Devereux Pennsylvania’s Bridge Fund.
A child welfare agency representative who works with Devereux Florida recently wrote a note to Therapist Merlaine Sivels, thanking her for helping to improve the lives of those she serves. Look below to read the agency representative’s inspirational message.
“I want you to know how amazing you are! All of our youth that have had the pleasure of working with you have come out for the better. You have an amazing relationship with each of the girls you work with - you are kind and compassionate, but more importantly, you are honest with them. You challenge them to be better and to see that they can improve in spite of their circumstances. You truly are one of my favorite therapists, and I do not say that lightly. Thank you for everything that you do. The world will be a better place because of you!”
- Florida child welfare lead agency representative
Devereux is committed to helping team members enhance their knowledge and abilities. Devereux Pocono Residential Manager Cassandra Jones recently shared how she has grown within the organization. Look below to read her professional development journey.
"I joined Devereux Pocono in 2007, starting out as a direct support professional in one of the personal care homes. At that time, I held another full-time job, and used all of my vacation time from that job to pick up extra shifts at Devereux Pocono. The managers of those homes gave me the opportunity to take on different responsibilities in their homes, from grocery shopping to completing the schedules to going to the Special Olympics. In 2008, I became team leader, and in 2009, I was promoted to residential manager. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to oversee and manage many homes. I enjoy what I do and the individuals in my care. At times, it can challenging. However, it also is rewarding and meaningful. Taking care of our individuals gives you a sense of worth. I have received the Supervisor Excellence Award twice. Working with a good team and leadership ensure that I want to continue my employment here at Devereux.”
- Cassandra Jones, Devereux Pocono residential manager
Recently, team members at Devereux New Jersey asked the individuals they serve what they want others to know about them and their disability. Look below to read just a few of their powerful responses.
“Our disabilities don’t keep us from getting or doing anything we want in life. I can communicate, work and get what I need.”
“It’s a struggle, but we learn to live with it. We are still people trying to have a good life.”
“We can have jobs, make our own money, have our own apartment.”
“It is hard to live with a disability, but you can do it.”
“I am very caring, polite and very friendly.”
“We can do things like everybody else.”
Recently, one of Devereux Florida’s community partners shared feedback about working with the organization. Look below to read the motivational message.
“The impact that Devereux has on the life of others is wonderful. The energy of everyone I have spoken to from the organization is always so positive and empowering. A real inspiration!”
Recently, Devereux Texas’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee gathered testimonials from team members, as well as the individuals they serve, about what Black History Month means to them. Throughout the month, the DEI committee shared the testimonials with staff at the center’s Victoria campus.
Look below to read just a few of the messages.
“For me, Black history is to remember the way that it was, and to never forget. Also, to remember and respect those who came before - it’s better now because of them.”
“It means our freedom - free speech, the ability to move freely and receive a better education. It exists to set standards for our children.”
“It’s a celebration of what came before. It’s an opportunity for people of color to not dwell on their problems, but focus on what we have and how far we’ve come.”
“Black history means that when a strong people were given the worst, we overcame. We have achieved a lot of things. Our history has shown us that we can be anything we want to be.”
Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s Servant Leadership Champions and members of the center’s leadership team recently distributed more than 400 goodie bags containing snacks, candy, lip balm with a message that says, “You’re the balm,” a personalized thank you note created by art students, and other items to family and friends of employees.
At Devereux, we place significant importance on professional development. Recently, Devereux Pocono People Operations Generalist Jessica Henkels shared how learning new skills has helped her further her career. Look below to read her testimonial.
“I was hired in 2015 as a part-time direct support professional for the day program. I consistently met with my supervisor to work on an individualized development plan, which included weekly check-ins to report on progress. I accepted additional duties; shadowed my supervisor periodically to learn new skills; and attended various meetings and trainings. I was promoted to People Operations assistant in 2016 and continued working on my development. I was again promoted in July 2020 to People Operations specialist and, most recently, to People Operations generalist in 2021.”
- Jessica Henkels, Devereux Pocono People Operations generalist
Recently, Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) Philadelphia Foster Care Program Director Elizabeth Smith and Program Supervisor Devan Isabell shared a story of a resource parent support worker who plays a critical role in the success of foster youth and families every day. Look below to read their inspiring story.
“Resource Parent Support Worker Darnell Day has worked for Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS for more than 20 years and is always quick to respond to any foster care program need. Darnell develops strong relationships with his colleagues, the individuals he serves and his foster parents. He is always available for his foster parents. He even conducts extra safety checks and visits for those not on his caseload. And on at least two occasions, Darnell helped transport youth who were not on his caseload, to and from school.
In his previous role, Darnell was a foster parent trainer and managed several pre-service orientation classes. He continues to inspire foster parents every day to never give up and offers reminders that the youth are in care for a reason. Foster parents frequently say, ‘Mr. Day taught me that,’ referencing a specific skill for how to work with foster children/youth. Darnell has many, many stories to tell about our youth and families, and he plays a critical role in their success.”
- Elizabeth Smith, Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS program director,
Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island Coordinator of Diagnostic Services and Clinical Training Rachel Schein recently shared a story of team members who went above and beyond to meet the needs of a transgender youth. Look below to read her story of hope.
“A 16-year-old transgender youth came to us from an out-of-state program, where ze struggled significantly. This individual was diagnosed with several challenges at zir previous placement, and zir parents were highly invested in treatment.
The youth was with us for just over a year and, during that time, participated in gender therapy, intensive family work and elements of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Ze also participated in comprehensive testing, yielding an appropriate diagnosis. During zir time at Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island, our team worked with the family to identify new providers in the Boston area to best meet the needs of the youth and family. Several transition sessions were conducted to ensure a smooth return to the community. Our clinical director was even able to identify a community provider who specializes in providing gender-affirming care and DBT!”
Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) Philadelphia Foster Care Program Supervisor Ursula Yau recently shared a story of a case coordinator who provided ongoing support and guidance to a foster parent who later adopted three teenage girls. Look below to read her story of resilience.
“Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS Case Coordinator Destinee Howell was assigned to work with a young foster parent, T., who wanted to foster teenage girls. However, teenage girls come with challenges, especially when many of them live in the same home.
Destinee did a wonderful job building a good rapport with T., who trusted Destinee and turned to her whenever she needed assistance. No matter the time of day or day of the week, Destinee answered calls from T., helping her through a crisis. T. said that without Destinee’s support and guidance, she would have given up, but Destinee helped her see she could overcome any challenge.
When T. decided to adopt three teenage girls, Destinee supported her throughout the adoption process. While the girls had occasional challenging behaviors, Destinee reminded T. not only of her own strengths, but of the girls’ strengths, and how to work together to solve issues. The adoption process was a success, and T. attributed a large part of that success to the support provided by Destinee to this new forever family.”
Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island Executive Director Kerry Ann Goldsmith, M.A., recently shared a story of team members who helped successfully place a 15-year-old boy in a foster home that was welcoming and affirming of his identity. Look below to read her story of resilience.
“A 15-year-old boy was admitted to Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s residential program for a diagnostic assessment following disruptions in more than one foster home. The reason: The youth had been placed with various foster parents, some of whom were religious and not affirming of his identity. He struggled to articulate his feelings and, as a result, engaged in challenging behaviors.
When the youth came to Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island, he had few permanent connections. But through work with his clinician and case manager, he reconnected with his biological sister and visits her regularly.
During his assessment and clinical sessions, he was able to pinpoint characteristics that were most important to him in a foster home; and he learned how to talk with potential families about what he needed. The youth was successfully discharged to an affirming foster home, and is currently doing very well, attending public school and maintaining ongoing contact with his sister.”
The mural - titled “I was, I am, I will be” - was painted by Colorado artist Julio Mendoza and emphasizes the values of adventure, community, empowerment, health and hope. The mural features the images of a girl heading out on an adventure, a nurse, a grandmother and a girl graduating from school.
“We are thrilled with the mural - it is absolutely beautiful,” said Devereux Colorado Executive Administrator Bonnie Wright, MBA. “The artist began painting it in September, and it was completed two months later. The mural ties the whole building together. All of the colors used also are featured prominently in the bedrooms. We hope the mural is something the youth in our care will be able to relate to and embrace.”
Devereux Colorado Program Director Carolina Cambra also noted, “When our team members saw the mural for the first time, they were completely blown away. Art is a universal language that everyone can appreciate. The mural represents all of us. For the girls who live here, we are just a stop on their journey through life, and the artist captured that movement and change.”
Look below to view a photo of the mural.
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