Empathy, Insight, Transformation:
A Trainer's Journey with

By Ruth Mikulski, M.Ed. (she/her)

Senior Trainer at the Sidney Albert Training and Research Institute (SATRI)

There are so many things that I love about being a CANS NY Trainer & Coach. When I start prepping for day one of the two-day Introductory Training I know that my heart will be full. The first bullet on the Agenda is TCOM & the Journey Through Care. I start by talking about the TCOM model that supports how we think about, and how we use, the CANS-NY. TCOM stands for “Transformational, Collaborative, Outcomes, Management” and the focus of the TCOM model is supporting personal change for the young people we work with. Sometimes, this can be a shift in how our work is organized, usually if we are working within a system that focuses on service delivery. A TCOM approach suggests that our focus should always be on what is happening with youth and their families.

But before I jump into going through each part of the TCOM Model, I ask a few questions related to the T in TCOM, to get folks thinking. Why do you do what you do?  What makes you want to work with youth/families?  What do you hope to accomplish in your work? I get to sit back and, usually, watch the chat start flooding in with responses! There are many trainings where I get to actually hear folks as they unmute to tell me. You can hear the passion in their voices as they share stories, beliefs, and ideas about the work that they do and why. In the chat, I am reading through 30+ responses: “Helping parents’ and individuals’ voices be heard and included in the assessment”, “I do what I do to support those in my community to thrive through resources”, “I have a passion for working with youth and I want to help them gain access to the services that they need in their community”, “Assist children and families with services and to facilitate aspects of their lives in any way possible”, “To be the little bit of sunshine in a world full of storms”, “I want to help people gain confidence in themselves”, “I would like to help youth and families gain tools to help themselves grow in the world”, “I want to ensure that we have an accurate understanding of the client’s needs and how to help them”, “I know it sounds cheesy, but I really do believe children are the future. I want to help them obtain all the help and services they need to become adults with all the coping skills and ability to be independent as adults”, “Helping children and families to break destructive patterns and build stronger communities”, “Making a difference in someone else’s life, is worth it”.

Picture of a A Child at Play
A Child at Play

It is worth it. I joke that no one ever responds with, “to maintain the status quo” or “for the money”. That just makes sense. This work is equally rewarding, as it can be challenging. Our work is focused on personal change, transformation. If that is the focus of our work, is that also the focus of the youth and families with whom we work? It is! As the training progresses, included are the ideas supporting TCOM and Person-Centered Care Values. We take a deep dive into what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to be culturally responsive and respectful; ensuring that each and every youth/family that we support HAS a voice and choice in the entire process.

When you think about Transformational Change, what comes to mind? What does it look like for the youth and families that we serve? Responses consistently show up like this: “Clarity”, “The reduction of barriers that were standing in the way of them reaching their goals and they are now making progress towards those goals”, “For some families, learning about what resources/supports are out there and accessing these. For some youth/families, being able to transition into managing their own needs/supports/interventions. On a more macro level, greater accessibility and inclusion.”, “Established and utilized coping strategies”, “Seeing some of the stress be lifted off of the children/family’s shoulders. Being able to see that there are resources available to them”, “Collaborating with community, family, friends, providers, etc. to support the child as much as possible”, and “Thinking outside the box”.

Whether I am training or in a coaching session, I always find myself coming back to the T in TCOM. Through the information that we gather and HOW we gather it. The work that we do with youth and families is transformational. Each and every day we have to keep reminding ourselves why we do the work we do and what drives us. For me, it is watching that transformation of the staff that takes the CANS trainings; hearing their stories of success and how they were able to actually SEE that success because of the information they learned (or were reminded of), in trainings or coaching sessions.

If you just started working with youth and families or you have been doing it for 20+ years, like me, it will only benefit you and the transformational work that you do with youth/families to come back to the T in TCOM. Together we can highlight the strengths that every single human being has and give them the gift of seeing and hearing them for exactly who they are. Keep using those strengths to support those needs and remember, we are all trying our best with what we have. The youth and families that we support will transform and grow in front of your eyes, as most people do when they are seen for the flawed, beautiful, unique folks that they are.

profile picture of Ruth Mikulski, M.Ed.
Ruth Mikulski, M.Ed.

Ruth Mikulski. As a Senior Trainer at the Sidney Albert Training and Research Institute (SATRI), Ruth’s passion for this work is felt on every level. Ruth has worn many hats in the 15+ years that she has been supporting youth and families. She started out as a paraprofessional in public schools and quickly became a teacher at a residential school. Ruth worked residential for many years and when an opportunity came up to help youth move away from group home settings, she signed up for foster care classes! Fostering youth of all ages, abilities and identities, led Ruth to adopt her sons, both with Autism/Fragile X, and led to her supporting/training foster parents to be set up for success. Ruth was the director of a residential school for adults with disabilities overseeing their employment and education departments. All of these experiences, over all of these areas, give Ruth a unique perspective when supporting staff. Ruth received a double Masters in Education with a focus on Learning Disabilities and Emotional/Behavior Disorders. Ruth is a certified trainer in American Red Cross Community First Aid and CPR, Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, and safeTALK. She even completed her 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training, through the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Since 2019, Ruth has been with Northern Rivers Family of Services. She is part of an extraordinary team training folks all over New York state. Ruth provides trainings covering topics such as Trauma Informed Care, Working with LGBTQ+ Youth, Critical Thinking & Decision Making, Person-Centered Care, Suicide Awareness and so much more! Ruth is a CANS coach through the CANS-NY Technical Assistance Institute. You may have her as a coach one day or see her in the Introductory, Engagement, and Supervisor trainings that the CANS-NY Technical Assistance Institute offers! 


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