It’s Possible to Have it All
Brandie’s current position as a child and adolescent case manager at Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services is a perfect balance of everything she was looking for in a career. Her job brings together the best of both worlds—pursuing her passion of working with children with exceptionalities through fieldwork tempered with a bit of case work and coordinating services for the families she works with.
“Working in early intervention specifically combined everything that I was passionate about. It combined working with children with exceptionalities and working with infants and toddlers, and so it’s a mix of both going out into the field and actually interacting with children, and the piece where I’m not working directly with children for 40-plus hours a week, which if you’ve ever worked with children with exceptionalities—doing that for 40-plus hours a week is a strenuous job, especially over the years.”
But landing her dream job and the pathway to getting there wasn’t always clear to Brandie. Though she knew at a young age she wanted to work with children—in fact she got a job in childcare right out of high school which is what led to her pursuing her associate degree in early childhood education at Danville Community College—she wasn’t sure working in a daycare center or becoming an elementary school teacher was the right fit. It wasn’t until she began teaching through her internship experience at Danville and working with children with autism that things began to click for her.
“Truthfully, it was the classes at DCC and the comradery and getting to know other students and working with kids on campus that really pushed me to say, ‘okay, yeah this is definitely it.’” And beyond her associate degree, she credits the professors she worked with at DCC with encouraging her to pursue her bachelor’s degree. “The pathway seemed very rote when I entered. My friends went off to college and were going to be elementary school teachers, and I didn’t think that was quite the fit for me, but in speaking more with the instructors, they helped me see that there are other options. And that’s when I started my internship and my job working in a home with a child with autism that I realized, ‘okay so ECE isn’t just this kind of rote career. This is a lot broader than I expected.’”
In her role as a case manager at the Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services, Brandie manages a case load of about 50 children. She works with children from birth to about age 3 who have been diagnosed with disabling conditions and developmental delays. Her job is a mix of coordinating services for the families—working with physical and occupational therapists and coaching the families by providing the support and resources they need to help their child grow.
“One of my favorite parts of the job is that I get to work closely with families. So, it’s not just working specifically with the child—it’s going into the homes of these families that have a child with either a developmental delay or a child that has a diagnosed condition, and I get to support them and provide them with resources. So, I evaluate what is available in the community that can help promote your child’s development. I’m in someone’s home every week, and I get to sit and play on the living room floor with the babies, and I get to work with the families and provide support and resources to them. And then there’s also all the documentation which can be cumbersome when you have 50 active kids in your workload but it’s worth it.”
When asked what advice she’d give other potential students considering pursuing an education in early childhood development, she says “It’s important for them to understand it’s possible to do this with a family and while working. I think that can sometimes be a stumbling block for people who think ‘well, I have a family I have to take care of, or I work so many hours a week.’ It’s totally manageable and many of the people I work with and people I have built relationships with through my education—they’ve done it while having a family and so I think it’s important for people to know that it’s possible to have a life and a family and still continue to better yourself and get your education.”