How to get a Horse to Drink the Water – A Foster Child Takes on the Industry

What we do matters. If you are reading this. YOU MATTER. Being in the workers’ compensation system is one of the most amazing gifts one can have because of the opportunity to impact human lives, families, communities, an industry, and make a difference. Each day, we have the ability to impact lives and change the trajectory of someone’s life. This is not limited to injured workers, we can also do this for one another. This space was created to help people, and that is the gift we have. We HELP people. We are blessed with an opportunity to help someone at their worst, most vulnerable point and be a helper to get them on the road to recovery. Then we get to see them through it.

This is what I loved and still about my WRU family at Continental Western Group, a Berkley Company. (I miss you all!) The WRU does this for injured workers every day. It is encouraged, it is celebrated, and lives are impacted because we treat everyone with the respect as if they are part of our family. While considered a game-changer in the workers’ compensation industry, this concept for our group started from a crazy childhood as many of our scripts do. The Workers’ Recovery Unit is my chosen family. This is a group of amazing people who showcase the elements of family that matter most. There is love, care, respect, team work, safety, security, and BONDS. There is a feeling of I belong here. These people are my people. Family shows up for one another and I get to see this happen every day at work. To say I love my job is an understatement. These people make it easy as our “work” is fueled by passion, purpose, and meaning to make good things happen. The best part, we believe this industry can be better and we know we have the power to make it so. We are here to make great things happen!

As I shared during the People’s Choice segment of the Comp Laude Awards in December of 2020, I am adopted. Family is not something that has come easy for me and to this day, is something I continue to struggle with from my biological family to my adopted family. I spent time in the foster care system, bounced around four families, and missed out on formative time building family bonds or human connection. I have a biological family with whom I recently discovered and an adopted family one could consider toxic. The one constant in my life? A teddy bear named Perkins. To this day, I still have him and he has a special shelf so I remember where I came from because this is my story and I would not change it for anything.

After the foster care system, I was adopted into a family with alcoholism, a struggle many families know all too well. Support was few and far between as well as so many comments which should never be shared with a child. The psychosocial issues we all carry with us begins during these formative years and is one of the reasons to this date, I love learning about human behavior focused on the WHY. It also helps me with empathy understanding what these type of struggles look like, especially in the workers’ compensation space. Addiction is ugly and hard on everyone involved.

Some of the most painful moments from my childhood have turned into the most beautiful blessings as an adult. Understanding the feelings of not being ‘wanted’ as a child, to being teased as a kiddo by peers, and hearing my parents tell me they would send me back… all helped me understand the scope an injured worker feels throughout the workers’ compensation process. The feelings of wanting to belong, for me to a family; for an injured worker, to their organization… feeling they were a valued employee and they are wanted back!

When people come to us after sustaining an injury, there is a stigma associated with the scenario all because their injury happened at work. This is similar to being adopted. There is a stigma associated about not being wanted by your biological parents. With either situation, they are not necessarily true, yet the scripts exist and the stories are told. The very best employee can sustain an injury on the job and suddenly feels like a leper. A child is adopted by two parents who were trying to have children for years, and yet the stigma stays with the child at school of being unwanted. Objective fact does not necessarily align with the emotional components one feels during these processes. Emotional hijacking takes over and scripts are built over time, especially when there is an absence of fact.

These are the beautiful opportunities within our space to change the game and make good things happen for others. Taking time to understand the scope of what an injured worker is feeling, understanding the depth of their lives, what scares them… and then help! Communicate effectively, help them understand by checking for understanding, establishing accountability, and being a human. Find commonalities, engage, find a way to help the injured worker feel valued. Show them YOUR value and how you are here to help them through this unfortunate time period during their lives.  While human beings are multi-faceted, multi-emotional, multi-complex… we all want the same thing. To be seen, heard, and acknowledged.

Care. Take the time to care about what you do and how you impact. You leave an imprint after each interaction. A moot experience may as well be negative. Leave people feeling positive, and enhanced as a result of crossing paths with you. I joke that I love leaving glitter everywhere I go. I MEAN IT. I want anyone I have the opportunity to interact with to be better after we have interacted. We can make every day better for one another. So let’s do it! Join me! Make the effort.

Be compassionate and express concern authentically. Seek to understand what people are experiencing with their workers’ compensation injury. Imagine it is you, a close friend, your parent, your child. What dynamics are outside of the injury? Are you working with someone who is now not able to embrace their family members as the result of their shoulder injury? Can you imagine how hard that could be for the injured worker, and for the family members? Have they now been removed from their social circles as well? This is going to be tough for someone who is being removed from all aspects of their lives. While ‘work’ injuries, they are 100% of the injured workers’ lives. It does not only impact them at work. Take time to think about the scope this as on a person! What about if you are working with an injured worker who is fearful of surgery? How do you empathize and help someone resolve those fears? Do you take the time to listen? People want to be heard. Create opportunities for people to be heard. IT MATTERS!! And you have the power to create this space.

Think about how your life has changed as the result of the pandemic. We are all more isolated, less interaction, less face to face, less hugs, less coffees, less travel… add an injury to this. Add the stigma, the stories, the scripts. Take a moment to pause and think about what would make things better for you. Apply that to how you work with injured workers. Take a vested interest in the success of their recovery. Your legacy depends upon it. Let us come together to help people THRIVE!!

I understand the power of chosen family. I believe the industry chose me. There are so many members of this community are amazing people who showcase the elements of family that matter most. In our “home” love, care, respect, team work, safety, security, and BONDS exist in the most unique and truest fashion. There is a feeling of I belong here. These people are my people. Family shows up for one another and I get to see this happen every day. To say I love my job is an understatement. Our “work” is fueled by passion, purpose, and meaning to make good things happen. This industry can be better. It starts right now. The best part, I KNOW we have the power to make this industry COLORFUL, glittery, and fabulous by doing the right thing and helping people recover back to their lives. What can you do to make a difference? From your seat, right now? GO MAKE IT HAPPEN. How do you get a horse to drink the water? Show up as your authentic self every single day and go make good things happen. You can do it! I believe in you.