Follow Alongs-The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. In order for us Community Brokers at The Arcadia Institute to “make it possible for people to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community” our participants must also learn how to welcome, support and respect themselves as well. “Follow Alongs” are another important tool that is part of the Future Planning process. At these sessions we help participants wade through some of the good, the bad and the ugly of finding your voice and learning to exercise it. What is discovered, explored and adjusted at these sessions often becomes the difference between attempts versus sustainable success.

Jennifer reminded us last week “we invite their community circle to come alongside them”. Since the premise of the Futures Planning process is strength-based, so are the “Follow Alongs”. We together, as a circle take a closer look at the “Action Steps” and ask the questions: 1. What’s working? 2. What’s not working? 3. What needs adjusting? Adjustments are not considered failures. Oftentimes, new truths surface or we run into an unknown dead end or the participant discovers that they need to go deeper in order to reach that particular goal.

The Futures Planning Process unearths a baseline garden to begin to plant new seeds. Whereas, the “Follow Alongs” pay closer attention to how can the soil be maintained as healthy for sustainable growth. It’s not unusual to navigate through a serious of emotions during these sessions. We laugh, we cry, we press and sometimes push our way to new and next best steps.

I’ll close with an example of one of the most difficult “Follow Alongs”. One of my participants made several strides towards interdependence including moving into his own apartment and landing a job with our assistance. However, over time, due to the culture that he was born in, when the road began to get rocky regarding the push towards him developing deeper daily independent living skills, the parent began to make it easier for him to revert back to her for support. In her culture a mother reopens her arms and embraces the son and “Follows Along” back inside the familiarity of her own home.

The win-win was that the Future Planning process grew both the son the mother and me, regardless of the end result. It was my duty to welcome, support and respect their choice to return back to a space that felt safest.