Welfare Peer TA Network Promising Pathways Podcast – CLIMB Wyoming Podcast #1

Welfare Peer TA Network Promising Pathways Podcast – CLIMB Wyoming Podcast #1


Hello, I’m Ray Fleming Dinneen. I’m Founder and Executive
Director of CLIMB Wyoming, a State-wide nonprofit. And this is my colleague,
Colleen Cherrett. She directs all the program
training for staff Statewide. And we’ve been in
Wyoming for 25 years, and CLIMB Wyoming trains
and places low-income, single mothers in careers
that successfully support their families. And it’s real exciting to be
here with Colleen to talk about what we do and that
we love to do together. And I was thinking just
talking about the mission and how true
we are to our mission. When you think
about our mission, what do you think about? I think it’s interesting
how our programming has developed over time,
that our goal absolutely is to provide work opportunities
for the mothers that we serve, and that’s always our focus. And what’s been unique over
the years as it’s developed is our ability to respond
to and adapt our trainings to the economic demands
of each of the communities that we’re in, so our
ability to develop trainings really quickly that respond
to where we know the workforce is gonna need. So we’re, as well,
a workforce solution. And so we know at the end of
the program we will place women in jobs that will provide
salaries that will help them support their families,
and then, through that, the wrap-around services
and the support that we provide through the programming,
allow the women to address all the barriers in their lives
that have gotten in their way up until this point, so that
we know they’ve gotten through the training,
and they’re in a job placement, and these other barriers
that have been in their lives and gotten in their way
won’t reappear. And so I think that’s
what we can really attribute a lot of the
long-term success to, the combination
of this great training, in addition to jobs
that we know are there, and that we make sure
that these women are successful in those jobs
by providing this support. And I think about our mission
’cause we’ve talked a lot about being really true to our mission
when we say train and place. The job placement piece ties
so closely to how we develop our training and how we decide
which training we’re gonna do in which area of the State. And Wyoming, being as
rural as it is, it’s tricky. From community to community,
we really have to change how we work, and I
feel like we’ve worked hard on figuring out that piece. Yeah, and I think one of the
things that has allowed us to do that is the caliber
of staff that we hire and train and support and their ability to really
know their communities and really be able to anticipate
what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of employment
demands in the community. So we make a commitment
to those women that they will
be placed in jobs, and we do whatever we have to do
to make sure that that happens, and we fulfill that
commitment to them. You know, I was thinking about
what we learned about our model during that recessionary
period when we were able to really place women in those
nontraditional careers because of the demand in the
energy industry in Wyoming, and then for that to drop out
and know that we had to be flexible and responsive and
knew, from looking at the State and looking at the demands,
we could only use healthcare. So for 2 years we had to switch
all our programs to healthcare because the women
were not able to enter jobs in the energy industry. And I just thought that was such
a testament to our flexibility, and I know you worked hard with
the staff to try to help them understand how you have to work
with those healthcare employers. You have to really
get them in those jobs and change that focus. I was impressed with how
you worked with the staff during that time. Thank you. I think the philosophy of
the organization is built on insuring we have really
effective relationships across the board with our employers,
with our trainers, with our staff,
with the women that we serve, and those relationships
and the ability and expertise with which our staff understand
and value those relationships allow us to do that. And so the staff–very quickly
we saw the economy kind of taking a nose-dive,
and knew that truck driving and welding weren’t-those
jobs were not gonna be there, so they went out immediately
and began developing relationships with those medical
and healthcare employers and trainers and to say,
“What do you see happening? How can we put
a training together? What works? How can we quickly
get these women in that?” And just really
switch the focus. And our 87% graduation rate
did not diminish during that time, so I felt like that
was really a test to our model and the strength
of how we operate. I agree.
Something to be proud of. – Yeah.
– Thanks. – It was fun.
– Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit more
about just the model itself and how the women
move through the program. I feel like you do so much
of the hiring with the staff and the piece that you
and I work really hard on is trying to figure out
how to match staff skills with the needs of the women. And we know that it’s often
very difficult to hire someone that is not judgmental, especially with that
mental health arena. We hire only licensed
mental health providers, but they also have to
be able to work in a group, as we do all our
training in group, and that’s not an easy
skill for even a licensed mental health therapist. So I’ve just really
watched you become more rigorous in your
interviewing the staff, and talk about why that’s
so important for our model. Well, I think it’s helpful
to stop and back up and think a little bit about
the fact that it’s very unique that we work with
women in groups, that they come into the
program in a group of 10 or 12, they begin the
training together, they begin their training
with CLIMB together, and there’s something
magical about that part, in that they all have
common experiences, they’ve made a commitment
to make a change in their lives, and they have one another
to rely on for that. So the group
component is magical, and we don’t really
talk about it very much, and it’s something that the
staff doesn’t have to do much about but just sort of
hold and make space for. So I think we don’t talk about
that much ’cause we take it for granted, but the whole
experience is based on this concept of having
this experience in a group. And then, under
the umbrella of that, each woman
is treated as an individual. She’s respected and
regarded as an individual adult who’s making decisions
in her own life for herself, and the wrap-around
services and the support come specifically for her. They’re designed to match
whatever her barriers are, whatever her needs are. And she and the
mental health provider, as well as the job
placement person, have a conversation
about that. And her thoughts and her
feelings and her experience– We meet her where she
is and help her navigate whatever barriers
have gotten in the way, her dreams,
what she wants to have happen. And so it takes very special
staff to understand how to walk through that
experience with a woman, through the group experience, as well as through
her individual support and her individual
work experience. We’re really not about telling
folks what they should do and what they
shouldn’t do. We’re really about listening to
them, providing some guidance, some options,
helping her think for herself. And what I love most
about the success of our women– we have a tremendous
success rate– and when they leave
they understand it wasn’t the CLIMB staff
that made them successful. They understand
it was themselves. And so the staff are
really specially trained, and it takes a very special
person to constantly help that woman know, “No, this
isn’t us doing this for you. You’re finding
your own resources.” And so then she
can fly afterwards. We’re really about helping
them become self-sufficient, and that’s not just
about self-sufficiency in terms of finances. Of course, we want them to
be self-sufficient financially, but they’re personally
self-sufficient when they leave. They understand
that there they have a deep well of
resources themselves, and we just know through
the years that that takes a very special staff,
and it takes a lot of support and ongoing training. And it also is what we
know makes the difference when we’re
looking at 2 years out. We have close to 80%
of those women employed, and they have doubled
their monthly wage income. And for those
nontraditional careers, welding, the truck drivers, they’ve tripled their
monthly wage income, and that’s 2 years out. So I feel especially excited
to know that, even though it’s costly to hire that kind of
staff and keep them on board, I really do know
that makes a difference. Yeah. And I think it’s
exciting to think as you talk about 2 years out,
what we’re looking at in terms of enhancing
our graduate services. So when a woman
comes to the program, the program is very intensive
and reasonably short. But once she leaves and she’s
in work, she never leaves us. She continually is welcomed
and encouraged to come back and have a touch-tone
experience with the staff who kind of were
on the journey with her. And we’re finding now that, because they stay
connected with us, we have the capacity
to help them even more and provide other
kinds of support for them. And so I’m really excited
about what we’re thinking about enhancing those services
and that phase of the program and really helping them continue
to gain self-sufficiency, both financially
and personally. I was thinking the only
reason we’re able to do this is because of our both public
and private funding partners and especially thinking about the Department
of Family Services and the Department of
Workforce Services and how closely they
work together to make sure that they continue to fund
programs such as ours and that they appreciate
the wrap-around services and how expensive that
ends up making our program. But I think we’re fortunate
in Wyoming that they know that makes a difference. Yeah, I agree, and I
think the great part of that is that they understand
and appreciate and are willing to fund us because the
outcomes speak for themselves. So we were, you know–
I hear from them often, in terms of partners,
is that you really can’t argue with what’s working. And at the end of the day they
understand it saves the State a tremendous amount of money. And that’s just data
that’s working in our favor, so I think they appreciate
how we keep track of that, how we report that, how we have
the evidence for that, as well. Yeah, we’re at
that 2-year mark. We’re looking at a
significant decrease in the SNAP food stamp program,
the public assistance piece. That we see
a significant decrease, and what I know and you know
with knowing the women is that they’re contributing
members of the community. And I know they love to be
off government assistance, that they’re paying taxes, that
they’re part of the community and part of the system. So I get real excited for them. Some of my favorite stories
are women who are placed in jobs through the CLIMB program,
stay in that same position for 5 years, and then are in the
position to hire a CLIMB mom. They’re in a
supervisory position, and then they take
on this mentorship. And I love to hear the
women who are in truck driving talk about that,
and they really love to bring other women in and teach
them how to sort of navigate that whole environment and are
really opening up that career. They’re kind of trailblazers,
opening up that career for other women, and to have them
in that position to give back and mentor is really–
It’s special to watch. And our favorite part is
talking about our graduates and the successes they’ve had and
the women that we’ve been able to talk with through the years,
and I always think of Michelle and where she’s come. So could you tell the
audience more about Michelle? Sure. And Michelle just represents
one of hundreds and hundreds of women, but it makes it more
personal to think about them sort of one at a time
and their personal stories. And Michelle came to CLIMB
many, many years ago when I was a program director
specifically, and she was
in a lot of trouble. She was struggling
with drug abuse. Her children were in care, so
they were in the foster system. She had court and probation
officers, and she was in a lot of trouble and was really
probably about to head to prison and lose her kids permanently. And she came to the
CLIMB program and said, “I don’t want this to happen. I want something
different for my life.” And we’re–CLIMB was able to
say, “Okay, and whatever that means for you, we’re gonna
help you figure that out.” And she was able to,
over years, slowly but surely– It wasn’t over years. Certainly the training and
the placement happened in the timeframe that
CLIMB always utilizes, which was about 6 months,
but she–the success of her is that she got her confidence. We helped her walk one step
at a time through navigating her legal situation,
navigating her situation with her children,
advocating for her, helping the court system
understand that she had made a decision to do the right thing
and to really change her life, and we were able to
help her through that. She had very intensive
training with CLIMB. She was placed in an office
career job that she never expected in a million years
that she would be able to do. She was working
at a fast-food– not a fast-food,
like a mini mart– prior to that,
below minimum wage, and usually evening hours, so that’s where she was
working originally, trying to make ends meet. And so she was placed
in a real estate office. She’s still in that same
job, and that was probably 7 years ago. She has people
working for her. Her children have
transformed their lives. She was able to be the
kind of mom that she knew she wanted to be. And this was, you know–
I think CLIMB is the gift that keeps on giving. The intensive intervention
and where the money is spent is very intensive
in it’s upfront, but we continue
to support her. She continues to give
back to the organization, and her kids are thriving. And I think the pattern of
poverty and abuse and drug abuse in this particular case,
probably would’ve continued, and that whole
family turned around. So it’s really not just
about changing one life. It’s about impacting
a family for generations. Yeah, that’s Michelle. Yeah. Hi, I’m Lisa Washington-Thomas, the Branch Chief for the
Technical Assistance Branch in the Office of
Family Assistance. I want to thank you for watching
our video brought to you by the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Administration for
Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance.

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