Meet the Therapist: Jessica Allen

We have had the pleasure to work in St. Louis for well over a year now. One of the services we offer in the area is trauma-informed outpatient counseling for children and families. We asked Jessica Allen, one of our therapists in St. Louis, about what led her to the field, the work that she does and what she wished the community understood about the children and families we work with every day.

Tell us a little about your background in child welfare services.
I have been in the field of social work for over 20 years and working as a licensed clinical social worker for 15 years. I have worked as a therapist off and on for about 10 years, and as a therapist for Cornerstones of Care for over a year.

What drew you to the profession?
Both my mother and father inspired me. My father was a social worker in the army for over 20 years. My parents have always been socially aware. After having four children (myself included) they decided to become foster parents, and eventually adopted my two sisters. My sisters’ adoption and my parents’ continued social justice work were a strong motivator for me to work with foster and adoptive children, adolescents and families. 

Can you describe the particular type of therapy you provide to the youth through our program? What differentiates it from other types of therapy?
What I do is specifically focused on addressing the traumas an individual and/or family has experienced. In some therapeutic modalities, a therapist may not specifically focus on trauma and may not “push” a client to engage in processing their trauma. With support and encouragement, I work to assist children and families in eliminating the shame they might associate with their trauma while encouraging them to integrate all of their experiences into who they are as a person. I want everyone to feel and understand that in spite of their traumatic experiences, they can be healthy and can function as a whole person.

What keeps you going when it gets difficult?
When my work seems to be more stressful than rewarding, I always remember how privileged I am to have the emotional, physical and financial resources I have always had and that I want to support the individuals and families I work for to feel the same. 

Can you talk about our partnership with the Foster and Adoption Care Coalition (FACC), and the process that happens to match youth and families with our services?
This process is pretty simple. If any of their programs have children or families who would benefit from therapy (individual or family), they refer them to us. We’re honored to work with an organization with such a wonderful reputation in St. Louis.

What are some things you wish the community knew about the work you do?
As a community in St. Louis, our schools, courts and partners can help us by being open to understanding the significant impact trauma — including just being placed in foster care or being separated from a birth family — has on our children and how, if we don’t address this trauma/loss as early as possible, it will impact a child’s ability to be present, engaged and successful as an adult. We absolutely can help our foster and adoptive youth early in life, and there is great hope for all of our children and families. 

Additionally, I want the community to understand that not all birth families mean for their children to be placed in foster care and that, while this does happen, forcefully blaming birth families can cause more damage. Even with me, there needs to be a better understanding of the struggles and challenges our foster/adoptive children and families deal with on a moment-to-moment basis.

To learn more about our programs in St. Louis or about becoming a treatment foster parent in the area, please contact Dr. Lanette Madison at lanette.madison@cornerstonesofcare.org

Interested in joining our team? Check out our current job openings!