Employee Spotlight: Eleese Dorrance

Eleese Dorrance is Grafton’s Community Facilitator in the Adult Services Program.

What does your role entail?

Within the Adult Services area, there is a day program called Adult Day Activities Program Team (ADAPT). This was created to help our adult clients integrate more effectively into the community. I am one of the designated staff who take the clients out into the community each day to help them learn some basic life skills that others take for granted. A few examples would include using a revolving door, making purchases in a store and using crosswalks. Our overall goal is to make our clients feel at home in our community and help them engage with citizens.

Why did you want to work in behavioral healthcare?

My career and background prior to working at Grafton consisted of corporate positions ranging from marketing and advertising to strategic planning. In each of my past corporate roles, I leaned toward the philanthropic aspect and making things better for people. But I always felt like I could be doing more somehow and making a bigger impact in someone’s life. I knew about Grafton and decided I wanted to learn about behavioral health care from the ground up while also using skills from my past roles.

What is your background? What type of training have you received?

Since I was coming from the corporate/business world, I didn’t have the behavioral health care qualifications, and my application was initially denied. However, I knew Grafton was where I wanted to work, so I appealed the application denial and stated my case. I said I would do whatever I needed to do as far as extra trainings, etc. to prove this is where I wanted to be.

As far as training at Grafton, we have a very intensive onboarding and orientation program. And Grafton is very unique with the trauma-informed care approach of using no restraints and also using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). You really learn things here that other behavioral health care facilities don’t have. It takes a very specific type of training to work in this field, and our training staff does a good job

Why are Grafton’s clients unique?

Our clients are unique and able to remain who they are because Grafton doesn’t try and fit them into a particular mold or expect them to conform to a certain standard. We allow them to be who they are as long as it’s safe. This is incredibly important for them as individuals and for us as caregivers. 

What makes Grafton a special place to work?

It’s a special place because the focus is constantly on the clients and what’s in their best interest. We really dig into the background of every single client and their past and make ourselves understand their life experiences so we can see where their current behaviors are coming from. Once we understand this, we can help them cope and live the most independent life possible. That is incredibly different and special.

Another thing that makes Grafton a great place to work is our family atmosphere – with our group home, coming in to work on Monday is like coming home. It doesn’t feel like work because you’re with people you genuinely care about. This is so important to the client because they might not have ever had a family. Everyone needs to be loved and feel like part of something bigger.

What makes Grafton’s approach person-centered?

Specifically, with the Adult Services program, we try to cater to the clients’ wants and needs, likes and dislikes. From their clothing, activities, food they enjoy or don’t enjoy and religious preferences, we try to take into account everything that any normal person would want when they are receiving care. We like to focus on things that make them feel like they are part of a family rather than this is my job and you’re the client.

What does utilizing a trauma-informed approach mean to you? How does it affect your work?

It means putting yourself in the shoes of the client you’re serving. Sometimes that means taking an even deeper interest in addition to what you are told by your supervisor. Taking time to read their files, asking their parents or caseworkers questions and really gaining a full understanding of where they came from and what they dealt with. This could mean both positive and negative experiences. And then once you have a good understanding of their background, you can utilize that information on a daily basis to help them set goals so they can live the most normal life possible.

Do you have a favorite story from your time at Grafton?

I have so many wonderful stories regarding my clients it’s difficult to choose just one. However, I do have something incredibly memorable that just occurred. We were able to take all of the clients and staff from our group home to Lake Anna for vacation. It was amazing because we didn’t experience any behaviors of concern even though it was a new, unfamiliar location. We had no issues with problem behaviors whatsoever and were able to take them to experience things like riding on a pontoon boat for the first time or making smores around a fire. It was just as if we were on vacation with our own families. The trip brought all of us closer together, which is our main focus when caring for our clients. We want to make them feel like we are family, that we love them and want to make memories with them.

What would you say to someone who is considering working at Grafton?

At Grafton, we help our clients achieve the most independent and best lives possible. This means being on our game every day when we walk through the doors. When we’re not at our best, we can’t serve our clients best. Anyone who wants to work at Grafton needs to have a positive personality and be interested in instilling real change. Working here is very rewarding and my favorite part is being part of ending the stigma of disability.

What would you say to a family considering Grafton for their family member?

While this is where your family member will be residing, their home will always be with you. Even though they’re coming to be in our care, we still want you to be involved, to have power when making the decisions. We welcome you asking us questions and giving us advice about your loved one. We want to be seen as an extension of your family.