Staff in Action: Heather Priebe
Heather Priebe is one of the amazing staff members here at AFS. Get to know more about her and her role here at AFS.
What are your main responsibilities at AFS?
I am the PPC Program Director, and I run a project that is contracted through the City and County of San Francisco, for our Resource Parents, where we help get Resource Parents in San Francisco County the right training to be licensed. My primary role is to run the program and make sure we provide the right amount of training to meet our contract deliverables. I also coordinate events for San Francisco County for our Resource Parents.
What led you to work in this field?
Ever since I’ve been a child, like really, since the age of two, I’ve always known that my job on Earth is to serve others. And so, I’ve always wanted to work in a capacity where I’m able to support others and be a resource to others. Working with foster families and families in need has always been my passion because I feel like I can contribute and help them make the process a little bit easier.
Why did you choose to work at AFS?
Previously, our project was with another agency, and I worked with that agency as well, but they let go of the contract. And so, I transitioned to working at other places. But once I found out that PPC was picked up AFS, I was excited to hear that because I really loved and enjoyed the actual project. I talked with Amabel, who was the previous director at the time, and she explained how the contract was picked up through AFS and just how AFS has been super helpful in making this project run successfully and efficiently.
After looking at some of the values of AFS and really seeing that they focus on the family and the well-being of their families, and really value and appreciate their staff, I wanted to give it a try.
I’m really grateful I did because AFS has been super helpful and accommodating. Seeing the project run in this efficiency is completely different than how it was before, and it definitely makes a huge difference in how we support our families.
What are the three best things about your job?
The three best things about my job are, I get to work with Resource Parents. I really love the opportunity to connect with them and support them when they need someone.
The flexibility of my job. It allows me the mind frame to be able to be a single mom and know that my job supports me and has my back.
And the third best thing about my job is the understanding of all the AFS staff and the county staff. When it comes to the type of work we do, having an understanding as a whole of what it’s like to work with families and some of the barriers that we face makes the job a lot easier.
On the flip side, what are the three toughest things about your job?
The three toughest things about my job are, I think, because we do collaborate with the county and city, there’s a lot of work to be done with both the County and AFS. I think sometimes it can be difficult to prioritize needs in the exact moment, just because we’re so project-heavy when it comes to the county. So, there’s a lot of meetings and it’s almost like we’re working for two different agencies. But because my supervisor with AFS is flexible and because I have great rapport with the county, it makes things a lot smoother.
The second, is over this last year, there has been a lot of transition of staff within San Francisco County. It’s been a little challenging because right when we get into a flow, and the workers that we work with understand our process, they get new workers.
And the third thing honestly, I don’t think I necessarily have a third, I think those are the two that kind of stick out right now.
What would you say are the three biggest misconceptions that you think people have when it comes to foster care?
I think a misconception that people have about foster care is that foster parents only foster for the money when it’s reality, that is so far from the truth. Foster Parents are extraordinary people who really take on the lives of other people’s children to help and support as needed.
I think that another misconception of foster care is that once you’re in the system, you’re always in the system. Meaning once you enter into someone’s home, there’s no going back to your parents. The primary goal is reunification.
I know maybe it’s perhaps early, but can you talk about a particularly impactful moment you’ve had since working at AFS?
Yeah, for sure. There was actually a really impactful moment in June. We were asked by the county to create a focus group with some of our more seasoned resource parents and some of our newer resource parents. The point of the meeting was to allow resource families a space to be heard and to express their needs.
One of the items that was brought up was they feel a huge difference in support when it comes to the PPC project under AFS. This was a big deal to me because I have always w to support families in a better capacity and for them to feel heard and valued. I haven’t worked on this project for about seven years, but I love the fact that they recognize the support of our AFS agency. Just in that moment, I was happy to hear that we made our foster families feel so much support. Some of them mentioned they can call anyone in our agency if they need anything. Not just myself, but from our top directors from Craig to Barbel to Manisha. Our families felt like a part of our team. I knew that AFS alone has impacted the foster families and that was big for me.
Outside of AFS or maybe inclusive of, is there a particularly memorable experience or a kind of success story of sorts that kind of comes to mind that that you can share?
We had an event for our foster families this May, as May is Foster Parent Appreciation Month. It’s a big event that we’ve had for years, but obviously due to COVID, we were not able to have in-person events. Our families were so excited just to be in person to see each other, to be able to have the community come together. We had a great time. We danced. We had a Casino Night theme, we gave prizes away, and it was a really good time to see the families come together.
But more importantly, to give them a break and actually celebrate them for all they do for our children. And I’ve been to a lot of the events before but this one was special because it was the first event that they’ve been able to enjoy each other since COVID.
On an unrelated note, what is an interesting fact about you that others might not know?
My grandmother was 12 times Pocahontas- maybe 15 times. It’s a long line of family but that’s where we come from, and it was her.
Wow, amazing. So, our last question, what’s one piece of advice would you offer to someone who may be just starting off in a similar role?
I think the biggest thing I would advise people who are starting off in a similar role in an organization is that time management is key. There’s a lot of moving parts. When you work in an agency that’s contracted through another agency, there’s a lot of questions and because you always must make sure that your contract is sustained, you want to make sure you pace yourself. You want to make sure that you’re doing your job as an agency employee and your contracted agency also. And so, I think it’s very important to stay organized.
I think the biggest piece of all of for anyone that works in a social work aspect, or anyone that works with communities or young people, is to definitely take care of yourself. Make sure that you take time for you. Make sure that you focus on your family. Make sure that you do what you need to do to take care of your mental health, whether it’s maybe taking a daily walk or journal at night. Take deep breaths, meditate, whatever, pray, whatever it is that suits you.
It’s super important because in our roles as serving people, it can get heavy, and you hear stories, or you see stories. And if we’re not right for ourselves, we definitely can’t be right for others. I think that right, there is probably the best piece of advice that I can give anyone coming into any role that serves children and families.