Caritas Family Solutions
As children, we all aspire to make a difference in the world around us. Some want to be astronauts and make cosmic-sized discoveries. Some want to be doctors or nurses that touch lives in physical ways, while others were born to attend to the non-physical side, such as pastors or teachers.
We all grow up though and find that our life path doesn’t always take us in the direction we thought we would be going when we were younger. Some of us give up on our dreams and take a job that simply supplies our needs and feeds our families, though not quite as grandiose as we once had imagined it would actually be.
From an early age Jerrica knew she was more in-tune with others than most. She was empathetic, easy to talk to, and found herself being pursued by her friends as someone who would listen well, and give great advice. She wanted to make a difference in the world, and seemed destined to work with people needing a patient ear and a gentle answer. Little did she know that she would be blessed to take that natural ability and turn it into a meaningful career in helping people.
She entered Southeast Missouri State University in 2015, choosing to major in psychology, focusing on the “why do people do what they do” question. She quickly found that this was not exactly the right question she wanted to spend her life answering. She switched her major to Social Work and there found her true life calling.
“Social work focuses on more practical things like how people live, and how to help the community in a hands-on way.” says Jerrica. “I absolutely loved my professors and teachers at SMSU. They were excellent, and I will always be thankful for the great education I received there.”
Upon graduating in 2019, she immediately started to get involved with her community, working first at a daycare as an infant room teacher.
Jerrica recalls, “Many of our kids were in the foster care system, and that’s where I decided to use my talents and education as a career.”
She joined Caritas in 2021, choosing to invest her life in others as she was always meant to do.
Caritas is a service organization whose mission is: “To strengthen the social and emotional well-being of individuals and families in order to create healthy relationships, loving homes, and strong communities” according to their website. They care for all stages of life, from adoption services and pregnancy care to senior living services. They offer counseling services, anger management classes, and parenting classes. One of the largest tasks they work on is the foster care service, placing at risk children with families during crises.
From the Caritas website: “The primary goal of foster care is ensuring the safety and well-being of the children served by the program. When children cannot live with their parents due to abuse, neglect, extreme poverty, mental health issues, or substance dependency – Caritas helps provide a loving foster home. If there is a difficult home situation that does not present a danger to the child, our Intact Family Services team intervenes while keeping the family together.
Our goal is always to first ensure the safety and well-being of the children, while we help the parents correct their situation. Our case managers work to heal the whole family so they can be reunited whenever possible. When returning children home is not an option, we provide alternative permanency placement through adoption or guardianship.”
Jerrica became a Foster Care Case Manager, which meant she acted as the child’s liaison during the sometimes difficult process of finding a placement home, helping to meet their emotional needs, and coordinating with foster parents to do what is best for the child.
“Most of the time I felt like a partner with my parents. We worked together for the betterment of the children. I was able to give advice, educate, and train them for situations they had never been in either. In college, they would have us watch video interviews with families and then we would do mock interviews. It taught us empathy and compassion, which I was able to use every day of my job.”
Jerrica explained, “many times these families and kids are going through a very traumatic experience or crises. It’s not the kids fault. They are almost always victims of circumstance, and it’s not my place to judge. I try to see the world through their eyes and make decisions that will get them on a better path for a successful life.”
When asked about the emotional toll this must take on her, Jerrica responded “working in social work can be very draining. You take on all the emotional burdens of your kids and families, and want so badly to be able to fix the situation. Caritas does a great job with in-house counseling, educating on healthy boundaries, and promoting self-care. I think we are like other professions where if you are not doing this everyday, you can’t fully understand what our life is like. Our families are sympathetic, and we try not to bring work home with us, but laying in bed at night you can’t help but think about the trauma we see on a regular basis.”
The Caritas family is a tight-knit group of individuals who have devoted their lives to serving others. This draws them together as well, many saying their closest friends are co-workers. Perhaps drawn together by their difficult job, or simply the fact they have the same goal in bettering their communities, the Caritas family protects each other and supports their team well.
“I’m so thankful for my team here at Caritas. I was born to do this work, but it makes it so much better to do it with friends that share my passion for people” says Jerrica.
She is now a Family Finding and Recruitment Specialist with the company. She focuses on finding families for foster care, researching family histories, and making sure the children’s needs come first. “We are always looking for families who are committed and able to be a nurturing support system for children placed in foster care.”
The month of May was Foster Parent Appreciation Month. Caritas celebrated the 100’s of foster parents they have throughout their system. Having 8 locations spread out throughout the state, they are able to service 48 counties in Illinois. “Being a foster parent is so important to these kids. All you have to do is provide a loving, safe home. Our team checks in occasionally to visit with the parent and child and make sure their needs are being met.”
There is much mis-information out there about being a foster parent. Jerrica wants to set the record straight.
“For those interested in becoming a foster parent, you can reach out to our team through our website or calling your local office. They will send you an informational packet. There are videos to watch, and lots of information regarding rules, safety concerns, etc. You then receive specialized training from our team to be prepared for many different scenarios you might encounter. We perform rigorous background checks of course, and make sure the potential foster family has adequate space in their house as well as the financial viability to support the child. We provide a small stipend financially to go toward the care of the child as well.”
Potential parents can make special requests, such as age range or how many children they would like to foster. Caritas works hard to match children with the right home, always with the end goal in mind. This can mean adoption, reunification with their birth family, or independent living depending on the age of the child in care.
Jerrica is living her dream. She gets to work with people every day, often going through difficult times. She is able to help in a tactile and meaningful way and this gives her purpose and a sense of belonging with her coworkers. If you ever come across Jerrica or any of the Caritas team make sure you thank them for the incredibly valuable service they provide and all they do for our communities.
Thank you Caritas for standing in the gap and seeing those that might otherwise go overlooked!
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or need any of the other services Caritas provides, feel free to contact them locally at 618-244-0344, and visit their website: caritasfamilysolutions.org for more information.
Story brought to you by: the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council