Building A Culture Of Excellence



PNMJ11-2

Anatomy of an Agency that Works

By Bob Bertolino

We all have stories about the bureaucracies that stifle clinical creativity and seem to exist primarily to generate meaningless paperwork. Here’s a tale about a community agency that actually works, and how it got that way.

In 1989, after years of taking every course offered at a community college without deciding what I wanted to do when I grew up, I began a four-year program in social work at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Needing a job to make ends meet (other than playing gigs with my band at local clubs), I managed to get hired as a residential counselor at the Youth in Need (YIN) agency. Begun on a small scale in 1974 as an emergency shelter for displaced, runaway, and homeless youth, by the time I got there, YIN was seeing more than 400 kids a year at three sites, but still had a staff of fewer than 30 full- and part-time employees.

The job of a residential counselor or “RC” at the shelter was based on a 58-hour work week, which sounds terrible, but the agency allowed me to work a schedule that accommodated my schooling and even my music gigs. It was a tough grind, particularly the 24-hour shifts from Sunday at 7 a.m. to Monday at 7 a.m., but I was grateful for…

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