Staff Spotlight: Michele Baldwin
For 26 years, Michele Baldwin has worked at Wesley Spectrum in some way, shape, or form and she remains steadfast in her commitment to the children and families our organization serves.
As the current Assistant Director of In-Home Child and Family Services Division, Michele often says that her professional work has made her deeply appreciative of her own family for their constant support throughout her life. She views Wesley’s In-Home Child and Family Services Division as the vehicle for which local families can seek therapeutic services that aim to unite the family and develop healthier mechanisms for relating to one another.
In-Home Child and Family Services provides intensive, family systems-focused interventions for children and families that are referred to our organization by the Westmoreland Children’s Bureau, the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families (CYF) and/or the Counties’ Juvenile Probation Departments. Both Westmoreland and Allegheny County refer families to our In-Home Division, with the following goals in mind:
- Family preservation for youth at risk of out-of-home placements due to delinquency, truancy, abuse, or neglect
- Family reunification following out-of-home placement
- Transition services for youth in residential care whose goal is to ultimately return to their family
- A need for assistance in the development of an aftercare resource who can provide a stable and safe environment such as a placement with a relative, foster family, or adoption when return to the home is not feasible.
In her role as Assistant Director, Michele is a part of a division that has twenty-six full-time therapists, six part-time therapists, and four supervisors. On average, the In-Home program manages about 160-180 cases referred to them by Allegheny County, and 30 cases referred to them by Westmoreland County.
Michele directly oversees eight In-Home staff members and ensures that billing, compliance, and day-to-day operations continue smoothly. Within Wesley, she also works as a liaison between the In-Home division and the Quality department, ensuring that policies and procedures are regularly updated and requirements are fulfilled.
Additionally, Michele serves on the Professional Development Committee and helped usher in the EMR (electronic medical records) system at Wesley. Her responsibility is to not only oversee Wesley’s therapeutic staff and clinicians but also to create, build, and maintain relationships with referral sources and clients.
Prior to her current position which she has held for ten years, Michele worked as an In-Home therapist and knows first-hand the challenges her staff go through. Because many of the cases that come to In-Home therapists are court-ordered, not every family they work with are happy to have to deal with them. Because therapists literally go to the family’s home to provide therapy and treatment, not only does their physical safety always remain a concern, but trying to get the family to open-up about what they are struggling with remains a constant challenge.
One of the first cases Michele had in the early 1990s when she first started out as an In-Home therapist was with a young mother who was court-ordered to receive therapy, refused to open up to her. For several months, Michele would go to her home, try talking to the young mother, and ask her questions. Week after week, the young mother refused to talk to her and would just lie on the couch under a blanket. Michele said that this case influenced her a great deal and taught her that it’s important for therapists to realize that “you have to be comfortable in the silence”. Eventually, the young mother did begin to open up to Michele and they developed a rapport with one another.
Many of the children and families who receive therapeutic services and support from Wesley’s In-Home Division, have dealt with very serious trauma and abuse. “I’ve worked in this field a long time and it never ceases to amaze me the resiliency that so many of the families we work with have,” said Michele.
While there are misconceptions in society about what receiving therapy really entails, Michele has seen many families improve their relationships with one another, thanks to Wesley’s therapists and clinicians.
“I believe it is helpful for everyone to have someone that they can turn to. Someone to talk to that will be non-judgmental and can keep your confidence. I have always found it is helpful to have someone to talk to about what you’re going through, what options might be available, and present you with ideas that you may not have thought of yourself,” said Michele.
After more than two decades as a practicing therapist, what advice does Michele have for younger, less experienced therapists?
“I always tell our staff that when you are dealing with clients, you have to meet them where they are and work from there. You truly have to learn and assess where the client is—emotionally, mentally, and intellectually. You can’t out pace them. First and foremost, the client has to want to do the work and make improvements in their own life. And then secondly, you’re there to support them, to guide them, and very often, teach them how to take the first steps,” said Michele.