Submitted by: Michael McLeod, Administrative Assistant, Sanctuary Institute
I first came to Andrus as a direct-care worker in October of 2010. Andrus had already fully implemented the model, and I was introduced to it very quickly at my new employee orientation. I was thrust right into the toolkit, with constant community meetings, team meetings, and safety plan updates. I had worked with children before, for several years all around the globe. But this was a different job, a fresh environment, so everything was new to me. Looking back, I see just how quickly things were moving. I took a lot of time to get to know each child, and I was able to learn about them at an incredibly rapid pace because of the distinct communication lines created during team meetings and daily evening talks with my team. I also took a lot of time to meet my co-workers, and ask the older veterans constant questions to become a better hand and to learn different techniques to use with the children. I spent so much time focusing on the moment that I don’t think ever fully realized just how different this organization was from the places I had previously been.
A year later, I began working at the Sanctuary Institute where our team spreads information about the model to other agencies. I quickly noticed just how many people were interested in bringing this model to their agency. I witnessed people coming over to our campus for our 5-day trainings. They were all so excited and clamoring for information. They would leave on the final day with an incredibly high outlook on the future; thanking the trainers for all that they had shown them. I would receive regular phone calls from all across the country from people that wanted to learn all that they could. Groups were coming over to the Andrus campus to conduct a Sanctuary Field Visit to see just how Andrus uses the model on a daily basis. I never saw a single group leave unsatisfied. I remember wondering to myself what the big deal was. Sanctuary is so simple, and conducting its practices is very fluid. I remember adapting to the model very easily when I first started working in direct care. It was not until I had the opportunity to visit another site during their “Sanctuary Introduction Party” that it all started to make sense.
I came to Andrus when it was already a fully developed trauma-informed culture. The core themes of teamwork and open communication were put into place well before I had ever arrived. I realized that I had taken all of this for granted. Not every childcare agency has these nearly faultless outlets. Sanctuary may be simple at its core, but being fully trauma-informed is not. Everybody experiences trauma in their life at different degrees of intensity, and it certainly happens to entire organizations as well. The Sanctuary Model and its seven commitments give an organization and its workers the straightforward guidelines and methods to ensure that all problems are dealt with in the best way possible, and there is always a daily goal for improvement. Dr. Sandy Bloom and the founders put so much educated thought and research into human nature, the brain, and organizational culture that every possible passage is covered. Sometimes organizations experience vicarious trauma, and its workers deal with extreme stress. The Sanctuary Model gives them both the tools to positively cope and grow, bringing about a renewed outlook towards success. Not every agency comes fully equipped with these tools like Andrus did when I first arrived here. I am very thankful that I was able to make this trip to this agency so that I was able to see first-hand just how the model affects other people. All of the phone calls and field visit requests started to make much more sense. Now when I see people leaving our trainings with massive smiles on their faces, things will be very clear to me. I will have nothing but confidence in the renewed energy that they will bring back home.