Emily Kent always wanted to do something in the helping field. She knew she wanted to be a social worker after volunteering at shelters throughout her childhood and visiting a domestic violence shelter in high school. She continued this type of work into her undergraduate years, and eventually decided to focus her work on children and families.
After graduating from UCLA with a Masters in Social Welfare, Emily had her first encounter with the foster care system when she began working at the Bill Wilson Center in San Jose with 16- to 24-year-old people who were homeless, often suffering from substance abuse. She found that most young people in that age group who became homeless had either aged out of the foster care system or run away from home. “Working with foster youth, I realized that was really where I needed to be,” Emily says, “because kids who are in foster care need so much more support than a lot of people I have worked with.”
Her focus on children in foster care led her to work as a clinician and supervisor at A Better Way in Oakland while maintaining a private practice to hone her skills in different therapeutic modalities. Even during Covid, Emily managed to safely see her small circle of clients in person to maintain a stable therapeutic environment.
When she left her job to fully commit to her private practice, she found time for volunteer work. “I really wanted to find a better way to connect clients to lifelong therapists,” Emily says. This mindset ultimately led her to become Clinical Director of the San Francisco Chapter of A Home Within, a natural fit for her with her prior supervisory experience.
As a Clinical Director during the pandemic, Emily has contended with many obstacles including long waitlists, overbooked therapists, and challenges getting in touch with new volunteer recruits. She has made it her goal to get in touch with all of the San Francisco therapists to ask if they are interested in taking on an additional AHW client and to encourage them to reach out to their colleagues as well to let them know about A Home Within and the increasing need for volunteer therapists.
She has made it a point to make sure that all of the volunteers in her chapter feel supported and appreciated throughout their experiences. “The therapists like having a client,” she says. “Most have been seeing their clients for a while. They feel connected. They love the program. They know they can reach out for help.” For Emily, her experience with A Home Within has been humbling and she feels it is a privilege to do this type of work.
Emily has found a silver lining to the pandemic: the use and acceptance of telehealth. “Now when clients wake up and don’t feel super awesome,” she says, “they don’t have to cancel their session.” Additionally, she notes that it can be very hard for the therapist and the client and their parents each time a child moves to a new home in a new city, making it more difficult to have access to the same office. “So I think telehealth has really opened the door for making those lasting connections much more accessible.”