Caring For Those Who Care Most

How various Vista Divisions supported our staff members

When I share an accomplishment of our agency, what I am sharing is the ceaseless efforts and passion of our Vista Staff. Each day our employees show up for the children and families we serve to make a meaningful difference in their lives. As the CEO of Vista, I aim to show each staff member the immeasurable amount of meaning they hold within our agency.

I want to do something a little different this month and highlight the unique ways each division supported the most integral component of our agency, our staff. Especially noting the exceptional level of care each division provided during the pandemic. Starting with our HR Department this is how we have delivered on our promise to provide comprehensive support to our staff throughout every challenge imaginable.

Human Resources Division
Marcus Carter, Human Resources Director
Work-Life-Matters and Vista Del Mar was here to assist our staff in need! Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers services to help promote well-being and enhance the quality of life for employees and their families. When an employee is going through a challenging period, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is there to hep them successively navigate through those difficulties. This free benefit and easy to access program assists staff in supporting healthy living, stress management, mental health, parenting support, child/elder care, will-preparation, taxes, debt, and many more services.

The Vista School
Danielle-Aranda-Harris, Assistant Principal- High School Vista School
The school has always been relationship focused, with our students, but especially with our staff. These relationships allow us to provide a safe outlet for staff to voice concerns, share emotions, and celebrate daily successes, both in and out of the classroom. We continued to foster these relationships throughout the difficult time of the pandemic in order to ensure staff had an outlet and space for expression through weekly staff meetings and check-ins. In addition, supervisors helped to enter valuable data when staff was unable to come to campus. And while we were not on campus, teachers and staff were given tokens and notes of appreciation during Teacher Appreciation Week to let them know, how truly appreciative we are of their hard work and dedication to the students.

Adoption and Foster Care
Jennifer Bliss, Director of Adoptions & Foster Care
The department was extremely fortunate to have Chantilly Wijayasinha (Coordinator of Domestic Adoptions) step up as Interim Director in my temporary absence. Chantilly effectively transitioned all of our services to a virtual platform and created internal procedures to do the same. She continually checked in with staff to help them readjust to this new landscape and found ways to maintain strong morale, like planning socially distanced staff gatherings at a park and in one of our counselor’s backyard. The whole team also came together to host our annual Family Celebration where current clients and alumni signed up in small cohorts to have their picture taken in Vista’s Sculpture Courtyard and participate in a book exchange.

Outpatient Services and Family Service of Santa Monica (FSSM)
Traci Levi, Vice President Outpatient Services
Our two outpatient programs consciously kept the morale and wellbeing of all of our staff in mind throughout the pandemic and social unrest taking place over the last 18 months. Our weekly individual and group meetings always balanced the needs of the children and families we serve with the needs and care of our staff. We provided flexibility around schedules and allowed for as much remote work as possible.

I am very proud to supervise our two Program Directors and Training Director: Angel Towler, LCSW, Sherry Nourian, PsyD, and Natasha Wheeler, PsyD. Our directors did an outstanding job holding the feelings and needs of our staff while providing the support and encouragement needed to continue to serve our community to the best of everyone’s ability!

Home Based Services: Connections/Wraparound
Mary Martone, Director-Intensive Home Based Services
During COVID and particularly at the start of the Pandemic staff were immediately reassured when the program was able to pivot so quickly to telehealth. This included getting all staff laptops with the TEAMs software on the laptop. While many staff had laptops about a third of the staff were still using desk tops. With the quick assignment of laptops and instructions on how to use TEAMs staff were able to continue supporting families with little to no interruption.

This pivot in the provision of care was a strong message that work life and support of families could continue no matter what. One of the Wrap staff developed a short video to assist staff and families in using TEAMs. Supervisors and managers stepped up to make sure line staff had the knowledge and tools to provide virtual care. There were several trainings offered on engaging with clients using telehealth. There were also inspirational talks from national and local trainers on how effectively one could work from a virtual platform. Self-care of the staff was also addressed through supportive talk groups and the exchange of self-care ideas such as meditation, exercise and time to reflect.


In closing, I would like to personally thank each Division Head for the leadership they displayed throughout the past eighteen months. Through implementing thoughtful new strategies ensured that Vista staff felt as supported and seen as the children and families they care for. Thank you.