Family Science Impact: Supporting Domestic Violence Clients to Prevent a Return to Homelessness
Family Science Impact highlights how NCFR members are making a difference through their Family Science career and showcases their career journeys. See more about the many careers and professions of Family Science.
Name: Kimberly Leach, B.S., CFLE-P
Current Job Title: Housing Case Manager, YCC Family Crisis Center (Ogden, Utah)
Tell us a bit about your current work and why it’s important.
I am a housing case manager at a domestic violence shelter. I facilitate a Rapid Rehousing (RRH) program for families in the Ogden area. When a family enters our shelter, there can be many outcomes. Some return to their home and their abuser, some are able to get their abuser removed and return home, some move in with family or friends, and some choose to participate in our RRH program. We provide rental assistance and intensive case management for one year for those clients in our RRH program. Some of the things we work on with clients are self-sufficiency, healthy relationships and communication styles, financial stability, credit repair, and budgeting.
My primary goal is to match a client with resources and support to prevent a return to homelessness when their time with our program ends. Generational dysfunction and generational poverty can be broken, and I am so encouraged to see clients make the most of our time together to finish or enhance their education, work toward better employment, and pursue stability in their lives and the lives of their children.
What was your professional path to your current role? What shaped or influenced that path?
This is a second career for me. I spent 25 years in early childhood education and special education. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was a single mother, with no degree, making minimum wage and raising a child on my own after leaving a domestic violence situation myself over 20 years ago. It is serendipitous that I now find myself working with women whose stories are sometimes very similar to mine and encouraging them by sharing my story. As humans, we want, more than anything, to be understood. It is powerful to look into another person’s eyes and say, “I understand.” No two stories are the same, but fleeing domestic violence, raising a child or children alone, and learning how to rebuild our lives are shared experiences that are unique to those journeying that path.
I am a recent college graduate, class of 2020, go Wildcats! I graduated from Weber State University with a bachelor’s degree in family studies and am currently pursuing my full Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential.
How do you use Family Science / Family Life Education knowledge or skills in your current work?
I have many opportunities to use my Family Life Education knowledge as I go about my day. We talk about resource management, interpersonal and communication skills, positive parenting strategies, sexual health, and ethics. Some clients are looking for support and friendship, and as a case manager I have to be very clear about protecting my privacy and theirs, maintaining a professional relationship, and setting firm boundaries.
What is most rewarding or makes you proudest about the impact of your work?
There are a few of my clients that are really using their time with me to finish their education, set long-term goals, and rebuild their lives. That is amazing to watch and be a small part of their journeys.
What do you wish you would have known along your education or career path?
There is so much stigma around domestic violence, and many times people blame the victim for not leaving sooner. We look from the outside and make a judgement about how someone is living their life, what kind of parent they are, or their complicity in an unhealthy and dangerous situation, but we have no idea how it feels to be in those situations.
I think about the story of the elephant and the chain. When training a small elephant to stay put, circus trainers would put an enormous chain around the elephant's lower leg to prevent it from moving. As the elephant grew, the chain stayed the same size. But as a grown and very strong elephant, it never tries to break the chain because it learned from an early age that it cannot. Learned helplessness, emotional battery, and the chipping away of someone’s self-confidence can make it nearly impossible to make a change. Can I? How will I? What could happen to me or my children?
Just before I left my violent situation, I could not even decide what to cook for dinner. The self-doubt, lack of confidence, and constant berating from my partner had left me incapable of making even small decisions. I felt stupid and incapable of much of anything. Now, how was I going to leave my husband; raise a child; and provide housing, food, and medical care to that child if I couldn’t even figure out what to make for dinner? I did not have access to the resources the YCC Family Crisis Center provides, but there is so much family education available to clients here. We have parenting classes, healthy relationship classes, junior high and high school preventative education classes, and case management that allows us to tailor curriculum to individual client needs.
What do you want the world to know about your work or about Family Science / Family Life Education?
Preventive education early on can be a great way to avoid domestic violence situations, family dysfunction, and deadly outcomes. Teaching healthy communication, how to spot unhealthy patterns in ourselves and others, and how to access resources to turn those situations around before they become deadly are large components of what Family Life Education is all about. Learning to manage stress in a healthy way and make different decisions that can lower our stress can also make a difference in how a family functions. Learning to budget our time and money, plan leisure time as a family, and manage credit and debt well can make a huge difference in quality of life for families. Family Life Education encompasses this as well.
There is so much Family Life Educators can do to strengthen families and communities with strategies, tools, and preventive education. There are no limits to the benefits of Family Life Education to improve our world one person at a time.