This post is the first in what will be a semi-regular series featuring rad ladies who have chosen awesome and challenging careers. I'm happy to introduce Alli, who is an Early Intervention Case Manager. Take it away, Alli!
My name is Alli Yinger and I'm a native of York, Pennsylvania. I'm 38 years old and I have an 8 year old daughter. I am active in my community as a Board Member of the York Academy Regional Charter School, where my daughter attends 2nd grade and a contributor and supporter of Planned Parenthood. I presently work for the County of York in the Mental Health/Mental Retardation division of Early Intervention.
Tell us about your job!
Early Intervention is a free program that serves children ages 0-3 from York and Adams Counties who are at risk for developmental delay or who have a diagnosis which qualifies them for therapy services. Our therapy services range from Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Nursing Services, Behavior Therapy, and Special Instruction.
My specific job title is Service Coordinator so I serve as a case manager for children and their families. I ensure that they get services and community supports they need, whether it be our services through in-home therapy or private therapy (which is not free but available) if they choose or WIC, Food Stamps, Medical Assistance, or Social Security. Our services are held in a child’s home so I spend a lot of time in my car. Sometimes I can drive up to 900 miles a month.
I have a special group that I service within Early Intervention which is very close to my heart. I work specifically with our families who have babies in the NICU (the York Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). My daughter, Sophia was born when I was 24 weeks pregnant weighing only 1lb 8oz and was 12 ½ inches long. We spent almost 5 months in the NICU. She received Early Intervention Services for 3 years until she graduated and then moved to LIU services because she is legally blind in one eye and has some other vision issues. I go to the NICU and talk with the families there about Early Intervention and what we can offer. This gets the family ready for bringing their baby home and what will happen next.
How did you come to this profession?
When Sophia was 2 years old I decided to go back to college. I had attended college right out of High School, but it wasn’t for me. I spent most of my 20’s working as a retail store manager. I went back and majored in Philosophy and Literature, which are two of my loves.
During that time in college I had a job where I worked in homes with people who had physical and or mental challenges and some behavioral challenges too. As a Philosophy and Lit major I received a terrific liberal arts education, with a strong ability to think critically and to write well. But, I loved working with people and social work as a whole was very attractive to me.
After graduation I got a job working as a parent educator for Catholic Charities. We worked with families who were trying to reunite with their children who were in foster care or with families who were at risk of losing their children. I loved this job and it was the hardest thing I have ever done and I did it well. After I was laid off due to downsizing, I spent the next year getting Sophia through Kindergarten and I took my Civil Service test so I could get a job as a caseworker with the county. I was called for an interview for an Early Intervention position that became available and I got the job. I have been here since 2010 and I love what I do each day.
What does your average workday look like?
I spend a few hours each week in the NICU speaking with families and I also do NICU rounds every third week to get an update on the babies and their families who are in the NICU. Aside from that, an average day could be me checking emails, scheduling appointments to do reviews (we monitor progress of our children every 3 months with our therapists), doing intake appointments, doing evaluation appointments to see if a child qualifies for services, and a lot of paperwork.
What are your clients like?
We see a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities and races. Having a baby in the NICU does not discriminate and so we have young families, moms and dads as young as 15 sometimes and no, not all of the young parents are from the city. We serve very poor families and very rich families and we serve those in between.
What are some common misconceptions that people have about your job?
I think that sometimes people think that the families we serve are not good parents and that is why their children are delayed in their development. Sometimes people think that the mom must have been using illegal drugs or drinking during her pregnancy and that is why their child is delayed developmentally. These are simply not true. Yes, we do have some babies who were exposed to drugs during their time in utero, but that is by no means who we see as a whole. Anyone can have a child or baby who is developmentally delayed.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to work in Early Intervention?
It's a demanding career and it can be exhausting and sometimes we bring our work home, both literally and figuratively. You have to take your civil service test first and you must have some previous caseworker/social work background. Talk with families who have been involved with Early Intervention and talk with some caseworkers themselves.
What's the worst aspect of your job?
Families who just don’t care for or nurture their children. Families who let their babies sit in a swing all day or in their bouncy seat. Families who don’t love their children.
What's the most amazing part of your job?
It's so rewarding to watch a child who is developmentally delayed “catch up” and do what they should be doing in their development. It's amazing to do an intake with a family and see a child who is very much delayed and then to see them in 3 months and watch what they can do… it's really moving and emotional. Babies in their first year of life have to do so much and they have to work really hard developmentally.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I feel lucky each day to get to come to work and to see my families and to meet new ones. I get to share part of my life with them and they share their lives with me. I believe in what I do with all that I am and I give all of myself to my families.
If you're local to the York/Adams area, you can reach Early Intervention at (717) 771-9893. If you'd like to learn more about the program, you can visit the York/Adams Mental Health - Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities page on the Early Intervention program.
Another great resource is Zero To Three, which is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the health and development of infants and toddlers.
Thank you so much for sharing, Alli! If you have any questions for Alli, please feel free to ask in the comments.
Have you ever considered social work?