Meet our staff member - Jessica

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24 February 2020

JessicaJessica Petrie is a therapist in our Functional Family Therapy team in Auckland and joined Youth Horizons | Kia Puāwai in 2019.

What brought you to Kia Puāwai?

I first came to Youth Horizons for a 6-month secondment from Oranga Tamariki (OT). I started my career as a Youth Justice Social Worker and then transitioned to a Youth Justice Coordinator at OT. I left OT after 10 years before I joined YH. Initially, I never thought of joining YH. I thought it could be good for my career and my CV, but I never thought it would be a good fit for me. However, on my first day, what struck me right from the beginning was how organised everyone was at YH.

Another thing that really impacted me was my experience at our induction noho (staying at a marae in a relationship-building and educational capacity). YH values were unpacked in such a way that it made sense to everyone. The experience of having fortnightly cultural supervision has been invaluable. The Māori Leadership Group is always open to answer your questions without judgement. The team culture has been amazing because everything is done in such a respectful manner so that everyone’s mana is upheld.

My Practice Leaders have created a very supportive environment and there was no time when I felt I was on my own. There is so much guidance and willingness to grow and support you when you ask for it. It’s been a great journey for me. My exposure to YH has completely changed my perception of working for a not-for-profit organisation. 

What makes you proud of what you do?

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) model practised at Youth Horizons is different. It’s based on a belief that whānau have the ability to help themselves. It’s just they lost the support system within them. What I learnt is a non-judgemental way of working with the family. It’s simple to say “Let’s go on this journey together without yelling, without putting each other down”. It’s not focusing on the ‘problem child’, but rather focusing on how as a whānau, everyone will be supported and heard. It’s not rocket science. Sometimes simple things have the most impact.

For example, there was a case when we worked with a young woman and her whānau. Initially, her whānau didn’t want to be involved because they sometimes thought of her as a grown-up person and that it was her own problem. This is where we as trained professionals can encourage everyone to participate. During one of these sessions, Mum realised that she talked negatively to her kids. This recognition piece was important as it allowed her to open up. Otherwise, things can sit on the surface and the deeper things don’t get explored. The kids knew this about Mum, but they didn’t want to rock the boat. All it took was a simple strategy to communicate differently. This young woman is now in a very good space. She spent a lot of time engaging in the justice system before and now she is telling everyone that things are better for her, as her communication with her Mum has improved greatly.  

But we also know that there could be lapses and we need to plan and prepare for the journey. It’s our job to set the young person and whānau up so they can navigate difficult times. The most important thing in this is that it would be possible for the younger siblings to go down the same path. However, seeing the changes with their older sister and that things are different and better now can help to mitigate the risk to the siblings going in the same direction.

Realising that you are helping young people change their future pathway is my ‘why’. I love the FFT model because your job is more like a facilitator, and whānau do the work themselves. That is one of the most empowering things that whānau can do for themselves. The impact you make for the next generation is what I believe is the most important part of my role. 

What do you find most challenging about your role?

In the beginning, I struggled with adapting to the idea that I was not there to find solutions for the problems. You can have times after hearing some horrific stories and trauma that people go through when you say to yourself “How do I sit with this information and not jump right in to try and find a solution for them”. However, what I learnt is that this model encourages me to sit in the moment with families and take time to get to understand them. 

My Team Leader also put together a workshop on self-care. The workshop was helpful because it wasn’t some sort of wishy-washy advice but instead real practical tips. Learning and realising that it is ok that you can’t fix it now, and it is ok to leave it for a couple of weeks, has helped me. It’s a skill that you need to develop to make sure that it does not impact your own life. What really helped me was my team and my Team Leader who supported and helped me to navigate it. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to join Kia Puāwai?

When you are in this role, you have to accept that every person is unique. You never hear anyone saying here “They just need to get a job”. Due to the model we use which is a very non-judgemental way of working with people, it becomes part of your DNA. I am aware though that it’s easy to just say not to judge. It is actually hard to genuinely do it because you hear some horrific things that people have done to each other and it’s sometimes hard to find the noble intent in their actions to allow you not to judge their action. Each person is only human after all. But if a person has some harshness, no longer you can go to the family with an open mind, and I don’t think you can help them.

Click here to find out more information about joining our Kia Puāwai team.