From our Herd: Casey Grady - Intake coordinator, office dog mom and caffeine enthusiast

On any given day, you'll find Casey Grady sipping on a venti soy Americano with two pumps of hazelnut syrup, making her coworkers laugh and taking facility dog Wren out for her regular potty breaks. A staple at our Centre, Casey has been involved with the Zebra Child Protection Centre since 2010 – first as a volunteer, then interim director of child support services and now in her current role as intake coordinator. When a file comes to the Zebra Child Protection Centre, it first comes through Casey’s desk – she’s the clearing house to determine whether a file should come to the Zebra Child Protection Centre or if its best directed to one of our partner agencies. At the daily intake meetings held each morning at 9 a.m., Casey presents the files to our multidisciplinary team and begins a discussion on how Zebra Centre and our partners can best support that child and their non-offending caregivers.

You lead the conversations of our multidisciplinary team as they discuss the files that are referred to the Zebra Centre. How does having the input each of our partners contribute to the best support plan for each child?
The discussions at intake are my favorite part of this job. It’s really amazing to see everyone come together with different perspectives, but the decisions made are always in the best interest of the child. The voices at the table are typically from EPS, RCMP, Child and Family Services, the medical professionals and of course Zebra’s child support services team. While each partner may have their own criteria of what they are looking for in a file, at the end of the meeting all the decisions are made to support that kiddo and their family in the best possible way. Being able to have every partner at the table is so important so we know no piece of information is missing!

What’s a typical workday like for you?
Coffee comes first since my day starts by 7 a.m. Then I start by reading through police reports or referrals from Child and Family Services that have been sent to the Zebra Centre to review. It’s my job to provide a brief summary of each file with all the key information so that the team can discuss and determine the next steps. After the intake meeting it’s all the follow ups – making sure the information is put together and given to the detectives so they can connect with those families right away. Then typically lots of phone consults throughout the day (and more reading of course)!

You’re the first point of contact for reporting agencies who refer files to the Zebra Centre. What agency makes the majority of referrals to Zebra Centre?
The majority of referrals do come from the Edmonton Police Service - they accounted for 431 out of the 673 of our files in 2016! These can be files that were assigned to our detectives to investigate (290 last year) or other divisions within EPS where there are investigations that involve children. 

On average, how many cases are discussed at intake each day? Are you noticing an increase in referrals coming to the Zebra Centre?
Unfortunately it’s very rare to have a day where we don’t discuss a new file, on average it’s usually two to three per day. There is a definite increase, as we saw 673 files come through intake in 2016 compared to the 642 in 2015. Hopefully this means Zebra Centre is raising awareness in the community on how people can report!

How do you maintain your personal wellness after being exposed to so many difficulty files each day?
I just make sure to take some time for myself when I need it, whether that’s stepping out for a coffee or dragging myself to a workout to relieve some stress! My co-workers also have a knack for making me laugh a lot which helps.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely the people I work with – they are truly amazing individuals. At times it may not be the easiest job, but we have a great team who rally together every day and work hard for our kids and families – they continue to inspire me! It’s pretty special to see.

What is your most memorable ‘Zebra’ moment’?
My heart was stolen by a little seven-year-old boy who I had the pleasure of supporting while he was at the Centre. He had the best manners and the cutest bottle cap glasses I had ever seen! After a few rounds of CandyLand I was hooked and had to be told by a few of my co-workers I probably wasn’t ready to be a foster parent. He even came prepared with a list of his own questions to ask the interviewer after they were finished! That kid will always stick out in my memory.

In one sentence, how would you sum up the support that the Zebra Child Protection Centre provides to children and families in the community?
It’s been said many times, but the Zebra Centre truly is a place where kids can feel safe to tell their story.