By Meghann Dobey, Assistant Program Director for Pinellas Case Management Organization
I’d like to tell the world about one of our Case Manager Supervisors in Pinellas County, Olufunke Nicolaisen! All our supervisors are super stars however Olufunke stands out not only to management, but also to her peers who consistently report so many amazing things that she does to go above and beyond for them, the children we serve, and our staff. I’d like to highlight some of them, so she can get the recognition she deserves. Olufunke has worked as a supervisor for more than two years with the LSF’s Pinellas Case Management Organization. During this time, she has become a stand out for the way she jumps in to help, the way she deals with difficult people, and the way she is always willing to sacrifice so much of herself personally to serve our community.
Most recently, we have had a tremendous number of volatile teenagers in the office. This usually makes for very difficult days for the case managers because the youth often become bored, restless and frustrated being in the office. They are in our office because they have been suspended from school, have earned their GED and looking for a job or are changing schools.
Enter: Olufunke. Olufunke frequently has the kids (all of them!) in her office so case managers and her peers can work. She has a gentle, firm, genuine approach with teenagers and they gravitate towards her while in the office. She never tries to get them out of her office, she never says “this isn’t my kid,” she never says, “I don’t have time,” even though I’m sure she frequently doesn’t have time. Instead she tries to get to know each youth to find out who they are and what motivates them.
We recently had a teenage boy in the office who wanted to earn money so Olufunke helped him start a car washing “business” so he could save up money. Through this process, she found out that he wanted the money to take a peer (also a child in foster care) on a date. So not only did Olufunke help him figure out a way to earn the money, she offered to chaperone the date on a Friday night, so the kids could spend time together in a safe, supervised setting. She gave up her own personal time and her plans to be there for these two teenagers.
Olufunke also recently helped a peer in need while on call, which is a very stressful time for our supervisors. She stayed late into the night with a peer, so she would not be alone in the building with four teenagers; two of whom were refusing placement. Instead she talked to the kids and then offered to take them to dinner before dropping them off to their placement. Again, Olufunke made an incredible personal and financial sacrifice to help a co-worker and to help “our” kids feel valued and heard. On any given day, Olufunke can be seen staying late (and coming in early!) always one of the first to jump into a stressful situation to offer support, solutions and to diffuse a disruptive situation.
It goes without saying, although I will say it anyway, that the Pinellas CMO could not and would not run as smoothly without Olufunke and her dedication. We are grateful to her every day that she is here and a part of our team.