Self-care. It’s a term that has been tossed around a lot in the 13 years I’ve been working in the DV movement, and I’m sure for the decades previous as well. We’ve talked about it with the survivors we worked with, and we’ve encouraged each other to practice it. But what does it mean? When we talk about self-care today, we have moved beyond the idea that chocolate and bubble baths will rejuvenate us. In this line of work strong and brave advocates take in traumatic story after story. Those leading our organizations make one tough decision after another about funding (or lack thereof) and program structure—decisions that can be hard news to deliver to those strong and brave advocates and staff. We must continue the dialogue about self-care. Incorporating real and helpful support for staff (and those of you in leadership too!) sustains good jobs and strong organizations.
Recently, Sarah Foley from the YWCA in Spokane wrote a guest post here about a supervision survey she conducted with advocates and supervisors from DV organizations around Washington State. She asked a few questions about self-care. When advocates were asked if they engaged in self-care or had a self-care plan, most (87%) said yes. All participating supervisors reported that it was important to support advocates’ self-care. Most (89%) reported that it is ‘very important’ and the other 11% reported it was ‘somewhat important’ to support advocates’ self-care and sustainability in the work.
Advocate and Supervisor Perception of Supervisor’s Support of Self-Care
Advocate and Supervisor Responses on the Frequency of Asking about Self-Care during Supervision
As you can see from the second graph above, there are some discrepancies in how advocates and supervisors perceive how self-care is being addressed. What kinds of things are you doing to address vicarious trauma and promote self-care at your organization? Our sisters at the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs have some suggestions. Are you talking about this in new employee orientation? Have a system for addressing it during regular supervision sessions? Let us know what you’re doing and what you think is working well!
And one last thing…I spoke with a leader at a DV organization recently who, like in the example above, has had to make some tough decisions in the past year. At every level of our organizations, we have great people doing hard work that can sometimes feel thankless. So I want to say Thank You. Here’s a little late Valentine from another nonprofit blogger. I think he puts it beautifully. You are a unicorn!
So, this post has been making it’s way around my Facebook circle, so I read it. It’s an open letter by an executive director of a small non profit to his friends in the business community. I think he makes some very interesting points. Take a moment to read it.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
OK, so, what did you think? What about it resonated for you? What didn’t? Maybe there are some points here that you could incorporate into your next conversation with donors or your Board. Tell us what you think!
This week’s post brought to you by guest blogger Sarah Foley, Associate Director of Counseling and Outreach at the YWCA Alternatives to Domestic Violence Program in Spokane, WA.
There is never enough time in the day to complete all the work that needs to be done, including providing supervision to advocates and staff. Many times crisis and conflicting meetings result in supervision getting rescheduled or canceled. Recently, I in partnership with WSCADV administered a survey on supervision to a representative group of WSCADV’s Member Programs. Many supervisors and advocates said that supervision was scheduled weekly, but 56% of respondents on the advocate survey and 47% on the supervisor survey claimed that it did not happen with consistency and predictability. So, how can priority be given to supervision?
Some organizations and supervisors may be able to provide weekly supervision (awesome!), but for most organizations that may not be a reality. A scheduled weekly meeting for supervision is setting unrealistic expectations for many staff and supervisors. But I’ve got great news! Many advocates and staff are not looking for weekly supervision. Here is a comparison of supervisors’ and advocates’ ideal supervision:
Creating scheduled supervision biweekly or monthly can benefit both staff and supervisors. Having meetings scheduled less frequently can help prioritize supervision; it can lend more importance to the meetings when they are scheduled. While having fewer scheduled meetings with advocates and staff can be concerning if the ideal is weekly supervision, 60% of advocates report being very satisfied with the availability of their supervisor outside of scheduled supervision.
Results from this survey suggest that it is important for supervisors to be flexible and realistic about supervision. Scheduling fewer meetings but holding those times consistent could free up time on the calendar and provide the supervision that advocates need. What do you think? How are you making supervision work at your agency?
We are having a fun debate in Just Futures about our goal.
Is the goal of the Just Futures project ….
To be and build beloved communities that deeply value all women and girls to the last girl.
? or ….
To be and build beloved communities wherein all women and girls can exercise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to the last girl.
? or ….
Option C, D, E and so on until we have something that has a resounding ring to it.
What do you think? What is our goal?
How do we fashion simply complex words. Words we can practice and memorize so they come from our collective voice and into the ears of listeners who smile and nod.
Ahhhh, retirement. Visions of schedule-free days, travel with loved ones, working through your bucket list that you’ve carefully crafted over the years.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Unfortunately, it’s a word that can strike fear into the hearts of many working in this field.
And for good reason. Many of us are terrified that we won’t have enough to retire when we want to, or even enough to live comfortably when we can’t work anymore. So what about those days of carefree gardening and travel? How can we help make that (or whatever’s on your list) a reality for the folks who work at our programs? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some information that can help us think about it.
In the 2011 Wages and Benefits survey we asked employees of DV programs “Are you saving for retirement?” Here’s what folks who took the survey had to say to that.
Among those who said they are saving for retirement, 64% said that they utilize the plan offered by their employer. Here’s a breakdown in a little more detail:
So some are saving (a little over half) and some are not. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t save—like they don’t have enough left over at after making ends meet, they don’t think they need to (I’m so young and carefree!), they don’t know how or even where to start. As an employer, you cannot necessarily address all the reasons why people aren’t saving, but what can you do? Figuring out how to offer a retirement plan is a great start, but even then, some employees won’t take advantage of it. What then? What have you done about this at your agency, if you offer retirement plans? (Here’s a suggestion that you might have seen before, hint, hint).
There’s not easy answer to these questions, nor The Big One—How on earth am I supposed to manage and make a retirement plan option worthwhile for my employees? Where’s that time and money going to come from? Good question. Who’s doing it? How’s that going? We’d love to hear from you!
Photo by Lanier67
At the WSCADV Annual Conference last month, a bunch of forward thinking directors, managers and advocates came together for a Good Jobs Forum. There was a lot of great discussion, but one topic in particular came up and we didn’t have time to fully explore it—On-call staff!
Structuring and managing on-call work is a big challenge. Our discussion brought up a lot of different (and not always harmonious) things to consider. What’s best for your particular community? What fits into the structure of your agency? What do your funders require? What does the law have to say? What’s the ideal- what fits best with our social and economic justice principles?
Just writing that made my head hurt.
I’m sure there are a lot of you out there with some really great ideas about this, so let us know what is working for your staff, agency and community.
Also, here’s a little PSA (public service announcement) about what the law says and why this is such a murky topic. This is a very short article about what happened when an agency unknowingly improperly compensated their on-call workers. Here’s the crux of the issue: “…on-call time becomes compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ‘when the on-call conditions are so restrictive or the calls to duty so frequent that the employee cannot effectively use on-call time for personal purposes.’” For example, Anna Advocate is on-call twice a month with the crisis line cell phone. She is free to be wherever she wishes as long as she is able to answer the cell phone if it rings and take the crisis call. She’s paid for the time spent on any actual calls, but not for the time she has the cell phone and is on-call. Seems pretty clear.
But, Anna also must be available go to the shelter to welcome any survivors who call needing shelter. There are rules about being on-call at Anna’s agency that say she must be able to respond to the shelter within 30 minutes of a call, and the number of calls for shelter during a weekend of being on-call can vary. Does this mean that Anna Advocate is so restricted that she cannot use on-call time for personal purposes? See what I mean by murky? This is tricky, but good to be aware of.
What do you have to say about this? What else is challenging about on-call work? Let us know!
Last month we presented a MoneyTalks webinar (for those of you who do not know, WSCADV holds quarterly MoneyTalks for advocates to come together and talk about economic justice topics). *end shameless self promotion* This webinar was all about getting excited about money and how advocates can integrate talking about money into their work with survivors.
Money is hard to talk about. People are more willing to talk about sex than about money. Money is personal. Our first lessons about money (for better or for worse) were from our families, and oh, how those lessons can vary. When we ask people what they were taught about money growing up, answers range from “save, save ,save” to “spend it when you’ve got it.” Money is gendered. We’ve already talked about the wage gap. But this also goes back to what we were taught growing up. Many women tell me that they received very different messages about money than their brothers and other boys in their lives. They may have been told “you don’t have to worry about those things” or they were simply left out of the lessons about working, banking and budgeting.
Given all this, many of the smart, skilled advocates who work at our agencies may struggle with talking about money with survivors because of their feelings about their own financial situation. Some agencies offer financial education support groups for survivors, and survivors often report that when they get a handle on their finances, the power they feel in their own lives is liberating and propels them forward. Money can be stressful when it feels out of control, but it can be exciting and empowering when you feel confident.
We talk a lot here about big ideas and important goals like raising wages and offering better benefits. But sometimes even the little things can have a big impact. As leaders at your agencies, you could offer resources to help staff get their own financial houses in order. You could partner with a local financial planner or simply take some time to talk about it at a staff meeting. There are many resources on www.getmoneygetsafe.org that can help folks track their spending, understand credit, master their debt and more! Ask me more about this. What are you already doing at your agency?