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ConnectVA Spotlight: Cory Richardson-Lauve, Virginia Home for Boys and Girls

Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m Cory Richardson-Lauve, and I’ve worked at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls for fifteen years. Currently, I serve as the Vice President of Programs. Over the years I’ve been responsible for training, program evaluation, and human resources. Prior to that I worked as a case manager, staff supervisor, and in a direct care role with our youth in VHBG’s group homes.

I also have experience as a classroom teacher. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 with an undergraduate degree in English and master’s in Teaching.

 

What is the focus of your work?

As a nonprofit that’s been helping children in crisis since 1846, we’ve evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of our community.

When a child’s welfare or academic success is at risk, we partner with localities, parents/guardians, and funding sources to do what’s best or what’s next for each child who’s experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges.  We help kids with emotional and behavioral needs experience the fun and learning of childhood and take steps toward adulthood as they grow. Through relationships, play, support, and teaching we aim to restore hope and ensure children and their families thrive.

We work with DSS, DOE, and DBHDS to make sure that we’re providing care, prevention, and reunification services through our group homes, independent living apartments, John G. Wood specialized k-12 school, and therapeutic resource center.

How do volunteers make a difference to your organization?

Skill-based volunteering and in-kind donations play a critical role at VHBG. Recently, through the Lowe’s Heroes project, 14 stores within the Richmond area teamed up to renovate not only our group home kitchens – but the greater campus – in an effort to improve the lives of the youth we serve.  This took place over the course of three days in July and included approximately 60 Lowe’s Heroes who worked tirelessly each day. The following video celebrates their work and our beautiful campus.

How is your organization different?

All of our services are scaled at a size that allows for relationships and community. Our program directors know each of the clients served by their programs by name. Our campus setting, and therapeutic class size allow for youth to get the one-on-one attention they need—from lots of diverse, caring adults.

We’re also one of the very few campus group home environments in Virginia to remain licensed as a social services provider (licensed by DSS) not a mental health facility (licensed by DBHDS). We have retained this DSS license, so we can provide a place for children who need a home and not a treatment facility…a place where they can play, interact with the community, learn about life, and heal from their trauma in the least-structured, most natural environment possible for their needs.

Many young people benefit from our unique niche, including: children stepping down from long-term clinical treatment facilities, youth who have been in conventional foster care homes and have not yet been successful, youth who need to be placed out of their home while parents are getting the support they need, children who can’t be successful in public school, and children aging out of foster care.

From the moment a child comes to us we’re working to give them hope for a safe, permanent home or a return to their public school.

But in the meantime, we create a home-like environment where our evidence-based, trauma-informed care starts youth on their path to healing and gives them the courage to thrive.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Witnessing growth…growth of individual children and their families, our staff members, our teams, our systems, and our organization.

Our core value of excellence keeps us striving to be the best at what we do in small and big ways. It is a delight to be a part of a mission-driven team united in their desire to have a positive impact on young people and their families.

 

 

What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

I am excited about legislation regarding the Families First Prevention Services Act efforts and how that will help shape the landscape of services for youth and families in Virginia.

VHBG is collaborating with state and local entities to ensure Virginia complies with the legislation and expands its systems to serve kids in new ways. It is a unique time to be the leader of any organization touching the lives of vulnerable children and their families. We are serving on every work group and focusing on advising decision makers from all three branches of State government on topics such as foster care placements, prevention services, evidence-based practices, and finance.

 

 

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

ConnectVA keeps us connected. From the job finder, to the event calendar, to blogs and news, we really appreciate the centralized point of contact within the nonprofit community.

 

Anything else you would like to share?

I want to say a few words about VHBG’s chosen model of care—the Teaching Family Model. The Teaching Family Model is an evidence-based, trauma-informed, cognitive-behavioral approach to caring for complex individuals in complex environments.

I was introduced to the practices of the Teaching Family Model more than 20 years ago, when I was a classroom teacher in Baltimore. The techniques and concepts transformed my ability to relate to kids in ways that aligned with my values, and they also helped me manage all the complex dynamics inherent in a classroom setting. Later, the Teaching Family Model provided a framework for my husband and me as we pursued a mission to serve young people in a group home environment, which we did for seven years (first at Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, and then here at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls).

The Teaching Family Model brings to life the two elements most crucial to our kids (and all people, really): relationships and structure. Relationships: we believe that all healing starts with relationships, and our model gives us concrete strategies for building relationships with our kids—and avoiding damage to relationships when addressing behavioral concerns. Structure: we also believe that people can grow through learning—and learning takes structure and expectations. So, the Teaching Family Model helps us build a structure of support around our kids that guides their learning, allows them to give input, and ensures they are treated as individuals even during a “program.”

Further, a similar structure of relationships and expectations is provided to our direct care staff through our framework. The Model’s strategic staff development and support helps our direct care staff stay engaged and effective in a potentially high-burnout environment.

A decade after leaving a direct care role, implementing this model in our group homes gives me peace of mind as a Vice President and administrator. I know that, through the Teaching Family Model, we have three key elements: shared, trauma-informed practices for interacting with our youth, ways to monitor those interactions to ensure individual staff haven’t drifted from fidelity to them, and a system to monitor our agency’s processes in an objective way through the accreditation process.

The Teaching Family Model is an evidence-based practice which has been shown through research—and my professional experience—to be highly effective and sustainable. Please contact me if you’d like to learn more!

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