Shelly McSweeney, a Home Visitor and Family Educator at Lund, was celebrated with the “Outstanding Professional Award” at the 30th Annual KidSafe Collaborative luncheon on April 4th. Shelly has been an unrelenting advocate for children and their parents for over 20 years. She is an engaging and skilled communicator, a self-directed learner with a broad depth of knowledge in her professional field, and someone who utilizes her deep knowledge of community resources to the benefit of her clients. Shelly uses her ‘do whatever it takes’ approach to advance the well- being of children and caregivers. She is always willing to step outside of her defined role. Her efforts have included supporting families in ways large and small, in some cases being relentless with providers to secure housing, or to cajole a parent suffering from depression to bring their child to a park or playgroup to ensure, even if only for that one precious hour, they both see the light of day. Shelly has inspired clients and colleagues alike to expand their expectations of what is possible in their own lives and work.
Shelly’s work as a community organizer to meet unmet needs in her community predates her work at Lund. Initially she focused her work on rural areas. Shelly identified that families were struggling in ways that had a significant impact on their ability to parent their young children. Her compassion and skills were, and still are, deployed to serve parents who often live with generational poverty, social isolation, mental health and substance use challenges. Working within this domain, Shelly has long embodied the qualities of leadership most needed and valued by clients. These qualities begin with her personal character, composed of deep intellect, genuine kindness and compassion, unwavering integrity, positive regard for others and a dogged determination to take on any task necessary to assist others.
Shelly has often spoken about the inherent risk children face when their families are marginalized, isolated and living in turmoil. She has frequently stated that the most impactful way those circumstances are improved is by building a network of community support and security for every child and family in need. In order to build these networks, Shelly regularly works with other family educators at Lund and affiliated agencies, child care providers, DCF social workers, lawyers, guardians ad litem, medical, psychological and substance use professionals, case managers, housing authorities, and other social service agencies. In working with these community partners, Shelly actively brings parents into the collaborative process, coaching and encouraging skill development in advocacy on behalf of their children and themselves.
In countless ways, Shelly has worked tirelessly to strengthen parent-child relationships, increase security and well-being for children at home and in their community, and improve the overall quality of life for families in Vermont. Without judgment or hesitation, Shelly meets each family where they are and builds from there. Not infrequently, she has worked under daunting conditions including risks to her own security, initial rejection from clients, community bias and negativity toward her clients’ families, and occasional resistance or lack of response from community providers. These obstacles and many others have seemingly stood to only toughen Shelly’s resolve and further expand her amazing heart.
Congratulations Shelly for your outstanding work to strengthen, empower, and return hope to families. You have changed the lives of children, families and communities and the legacy of your work will endure. We are so grateful for you and proud of your work