Updated: Jul 28, 2020
In 2016, I moved back to South Charleston from Boone, North Carolina.
April 28, 2020 ~
While I was there, I had created the business plan for Pollen8 from research in my thesis. I immediately started networking to meet the people that would help me succeed.
As you can tell from the title of that thesis, “Reintegration Strategies to Mitigate Child Abuse and Neglect by Substance Abusers in West Virginia Communities”, my initial goal was to help women who had Substance Use Disorder not lose custody of their children. I had heard stories of women who were having their rights terminated by the State, some of them were relinquishing their rights at the promise that one day, if they ever got better, they could have another child and “possibly” keep that baby. It kept me up at night. I wanted to do something about this BEFORE they lost their children on any level. So, I created, Pollen8 Family Services. I did not want to do direct care, I have never wanted to do that- it is not my expertise. However, I wanted to build a team that would be my passion on the front lines. When I met Nada Gray, I knew I had met an angel. She had experience with direct care and had wanted the opportunity to work for an organization that would allow her to do the “love” part of the work without merely pushing her to “bill hours”.
Nada worked for me for free for months. We worked tirelessly together creating all of the documents necessary to become an official Administrative Service Organization (ASO) approved to do Socially Necessary Services (SNS) for families with open Child Protective Services (CPS) cases. Nada created the service manuals based on her prior experience and I created all of the necessary documents, policies and procedures, and licensure to become certified. We built our team of highly qualified individuals (Terri Gogus, LaKeisha Barron-Brown, Tuesday Taylor, Mark Cadle, Lisa Brewer, and Kim Hughes) to provide services to families that were referred to us by CPS. Building the relationship with CPS was difficult because there was one provider that received the majority of the referrals because of a personal relationship and this made it difficult.
However, we carried a caseload in that first year of 13 families and I am proud to say that out of the 9 who committed to working our program, all of them were reunited and/or kept custody of their children.
Child Protective Services has an organization that conducts audits for their billing purposes to ensure that the appropriate services they have deemed “effective” are being administered. When Pollen8 Family Services got our first review, we were given a 27% on accuracy of policy because they said we “did too many therapeutic services” and that if we wanted to do that kind of work, we would need to obtain a Behavioral Health License that would allow us to deliver Medically Necessary Services.
For the life of me, I could not understand what was meant by “too much”? How do you heal a family, with the mother addicted to drugs, without providing therapeutic services? We were told that our jobs as ASO providers were to merely “mitigate impending dangers to the welfare of the child”, which to them, was supervision a few times a week. I felt defeated, I felt beyond frustrated and angry on a daily basis while operating that division because I watched my team provide support and services that were making a difference and receiving bad “grades” for it. At the end of our first year, we all made a collective decision that we would not be able to help in the way it was needed by the guidelines set out by the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Therefore, we closed down that division. Our dream for Pollen8 wasn’t over- it merely transformed into something else.