The Jeff Small Pioneer Award for 2017 is Simone Cote, Private Adoption Counselor. During the award ceremony on November 10th, Simone was celebrated for her critical thinking, collaboration and commitment to the best interests of her clients and Lund’s overall mission.
Being a pioneer is more than just being a hard worker, however, it means being prepared to do things differently, to have difficult conversations and to make progress towards better practices. Simone has fully embraced this during her two years at Lund, spearheading an effort to create a formal written statement on transracial adoption and changing the format of informational meetings with those interested in adoption.
“Simone does not shy away from saying what needs to be said or asking what needs to be asked, even when this causes discomfort to her,” says Kate VanWagner who presented Simone with the award. “She works hard to widen her perspective, to consider what factors are at play behind difficult client situations, and to think creatively about moving forward together, always holding the best interest of the child at the center of her practice.” These are the exact ideals celebrated by the Jeff Small Pioneer Award.
“Simone is a strong advocate and ambassador for Lund in our community, state, and nationally,” says Kate. “Her clients and colleagues describe her as gracious, exemplary, diligent, a joy to work with, full of kindness and enthusiasm, warm and welcoming, committed to the work, eager to collaborate, understanding, compassionate, and reliable.”
Simone took some time this week to face her next challenge – the Jeff Small Pioneer Award Winner annual interview questions. Read on to learn more about Simone, her work at Lund and the 2017 take on that 747 full of jellybeans.
What do you do at Lund?:
I help families both who are interested in adopting privately through our infant adoption program and through Project Family. I prepare them throughout the homestudy process to adopting a child. I do informational meetings with families, and I’m with them when they meet their child. I work with families from the beginning of their adoption journey all the way through finalization
Interviewer: What did you have for breakfast?
I had coffee and cinnamon toast.
Interviewer: What pie are you near?
What pie? I’m not sure. At Klinger’s bakery, maybe, an apple pie?
Interviewer: Describe the color yellow without using visual references,
It’s warm and is bright considered a visual reference? It might be. It’s bright, it makes people happy. It can be kind of an overwhelming color. When I think of yellow, I think of it as a warm color.
Interviewer: Who is your favorite pioneer?
It is hard to name just one pioneer as I think in many ways each individual is a pioneer in their own life as they create their own vision for the life they want to live. Of course some people I admire in the field of Social Work have been Jane Adams and Frances Perkins. Frances Perkins was an alumnae of Mount Holyoke, as I am, so I feel there is that extra connection. I think the most important pioneer and inspiration for me in my career path to social work and my love for working with children and families is my mother, Kathryn. She has taught me the true value of compassion, advocacy and listening which I feel are the most important values a pioneer can hold.
Interviewer: If you had to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, how would you do it?
That is a good question. I would just open all the doors and maybe break all of the windows. And have the jellybeans go out of the windows. I think the most efficient way would be to open all the emergency exits. Would there be a time frame when I needed to get them out? If you wanted to be able to use the plane again, which I am assuming you would, I’d probably open the emergency exits and hope, well jelly beans do roll out don’t they? Yes, that’s how I’d do it.
Interviewer: How many cows in Canada?
How many cows are in Canada? Gosh, I have no idea. I’ll guess, maybe 50,000 cows.
Tell me an inspirational story from your work at Lund
Witnessing a placement happen and seeing a family meet their child for the first time is both powerful and inspirational in my work. Placements are filled with so many different emotions including pure happiness, joy and also sadness and loss. I still remember my first placement that I was at and getting to witness the family meet their baby for the first time. It was filled with so many different emotions and was powerful to be present amidst all of the chaos going on around in a hospital environment, seeing that interaction and the human connection is remarkable.
Another story I remember is when I received a referral regarding a Project Family child. I had recently completed a Project Family homestudy and when I thought about the different families for this potential child, I knew it was this one particular family I had just homestudied. Being able to help families and children connect, and especially helping to prepare families for the lifelong journey that adoption entails is something I am so passionate about and is what I love about the work I do here at Lund.
Congratulations Simone on being a pioneer working bravely and compassionately every day for children in Vermont. Thank you for your dedication to your work, Lund and the wider adoption community in Vermont are so very lucky to have you.