Author: Brandi Jothimani, Director of Client Programs
Nearly eight years ago, I participated in a parent-teacher conference that completely changed my career trajectory. As a bilingual native Spanish speaker, my role was to translate for the parent, teacher, and principal who participated that day. This was part of my job duties as a behavior therapist, a field I entered because of a strong desire to help children. As a first generation Mexican-American, I was and still am passionate about helping immigrant families like mine.
The mother sat down with her oldest son, the subject of the conference, and two younger kids. She was also visibly pregnant.
“Your son has missed a significant amount of the school year so far already,” the principal said without even a friendly greeting. “If he misses any more days, he is at risk of being expelled.”
I turned to the mother and translated, softening the language as much as I could. Even so, she looked upset. “He can’t always attend school. I need him at home to help with the little ones sometimes,” she said.
The principal was not swayed by her argument and the teacher didn’t say anything. I perceived a lack of trust in the mom, that she was really doing the best she could.
Then the mom added, “their father passed away.” Tears pooled in her eyes, but she blinked them back. She didn’t trust the school either. Why would she with the tone she heard from the principal?
“Regardless, your son needs to come to school,” the principal said. Shocked at his callousness, I had no choice but to translate what he had said. But at that moment, I knew I was in the wrong environment. That school was not the place to support families with critical needs.
Soon thereafter, I found CSA and a career in social services. I started seven years ago as a Case Manager in Homeless Prevention Services, building relationships with families and helping them meet their basic needs and stay housed. The topics we discussed were of a very sensitive nature: sources of income, family problems, addiction, immigration. These working relationships required trust and time. And over time, I have been able to help many families, now in a different way as Director of Client Programs, a role I moved into two years ago.
What I want to say to the community is that when you support CSA, you are supporting staff in the trenches, taking the time to build relationships with those in need and treating them with dignity and respect. You are supporting that widowed mom so her kids have enough nutritious food to eat and she can get the services she needs for her son to go to school and her family to keep their housing.
And I want to thank our supporters who trust us to do this critically important work in our community. We deeply value our relationship with you and the trust you place in us. Thank you.