Play is Essential

By: Courtney Edge-Mattos

The sun hung in the sky longer.  School was out, energy was up.  Staff members donned on sneakers and athletic clothing to prepare to keep up.  A pack of little fellows raced and chased, playing tag, police officer, and superheroes.  The swings were kept in business and the slide shot giggling guests down to the woodchips below.  A pre-teen caught toads, slugs, worms, and a snail, showing everyone her finds.  An infant watched it all with wide eyes from the arms of a staff member.

Once a month, the paperwork gets put aside and the phones are silenced.  While parents complete trainings (last night was a review of the Foster Parent Policy Manual- important to make sure we are all on the same page!), kiddos dash around the yard, color, blow bubbles, show off their hula hoop skills, play basketball, and PLAY!!!  Therapy is important.  Structure is important.  Social skills are important.  School is important…But so is PLAY!  We see the smiles, the whoops of joy, friendships that blossom (“I’ll see you next month, buddy,” crowed one of our fellows as he left last night), and staff get to see kids being kids

Clinical stuff is hugely important, but our kids are kids.  They aren’t a psychology Master’s thesis.  They need to flex their imaginations, to be loud, to growl, to catch fireflies, to roll down a grassy hill.  Our staff need to see that, too.  We need to remember the root of what we do and who they are.  We choose this field to make childhood mean something.  Those giggles, smiles, even the squabbles and arguments that bubbled up here and there, are the reason why. 

If you’d like to be part of shaping a childhood, reach out today.

Laugh together.



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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.