At Service Alternatives, we value transparency and we work to create a team environment. Sometimes it can be challenging because we are spread across Washington (and even have employees in South Dakota and New Jersey!). Our CEO, Belinda Kindschi, makes an effort to visit sites and get to know our staff and clients. She’s been with SA for 26 years now, and she started in direct care. We wanted to share a little with you about her journey through SA and what her dreams are now for the company.
Q: Tell us a bit about your history at SA, what are all the roles you’ve played?
A: My roots are in Children and Family Services. I started in 1991; it was my first job out of undergrad school. I thought I could get hired as a case manager and I couldn’t. Instead, I found a posting for a direct support professional position in a 6-bed girl’s home in Kent, WA. I had an amazing Program Manager at the time who asked me and a co-worker, “What do you want to learn?” We both had the same goal of wanting to manage and told her that we wanted to learn how to do her job. She said, “Alright, I’ll teach you how to do my job.” She was so empowering. Within a year, I was managing that program and my Program Manager went on to do some other work with SA. That was my early history.
In 1995, all of the Children and Family Services contracts in the State of Washington were re-bid. The State decided all contracts would be ending on a certain date and everyone would have to reapply for the contracts they had been holding. It also gave providers like SA the opportunity to bid for new types of work. A group of 5 of us dreamt big and applied for many types of work. That’s when I became our first foster care licensor, for like 6 weeks, I never fully licensed a home but I got that started. We also started therapeutic foster care, opened up a few more residential programs, and began work with children and families in their own homes. As a result of that, I went up to Region 2 as the CFS Administrator.
So that takes us to 2000 where I went into a Consultant position. Personally, I had young kids and more than I could handle. I had my Master’s degree at that point and I started to do team building and vision work in other divisions. I later moved into Co-Director of Training, overseeing our external training and designing/teaching our leadership development program. So I started in clinically focused work and did my degree in clinically focused work but then got into teams, cultures and leadership. My emphasis shifted to supporting the professional development of people and teams, recognizing that they would improve clinical work by enhancing themselves as professionals. Later moves to Director of Training and now CEO have kept me on a consistent path.
Q: When you think back on all the work you’ve done with SA, what are some memories that stand out?
A: I have a lot of distinct memories of working with the girls, likely because that was my first job at SA. This work influenced me profoundly and I never forget that it is the work of our direct support professionals that represents our values and skills at the ground level. We have all of these opportunities, whether it’s working with a kid, or in employment, or with an adult, consistently, every day, where we can make a mark on somebody. We have such an ability to directly impact others and make positive and healthy memories.
Q: What made you commit to a career with Service Alternatives?
A: A few things- first would be that we consistently live out our values as an organization. When we miss the mark, we work hard to get ourselves back on track. That means a lot to me as I’m a very value based person. Another big thing for me is that this is the kind of a place where, if someone wants to work here, and it’s in our values and vision and they have the skills, we will find a way to do it. I’ve had my own experiences with that. During 1995, a core group of 5 really wanted to do more, so we searched for that opportunity. Being able to create our leadership development model. Being able to go after our technical assistance contract, being able to say ‘Hey, we have really good training services that we believe will make a difference in other people’s lives, we want to share that with others.’ The third thing is the ultimate connection to our work. I never forget in any moment of any day why I am here and that has never changed for me. It doesn’t matter if I am CEO, or Director of Training, or a Consultant, we’re here because of the work of supporting individuals, whatever their needs might be, to have a better life, right? I would have a hard time working somewhere else where the work didn’t have that level of contribution.
Q: What is a dream(s) you have for SA for the future?
A: There are so many dreams; it is more about defining what to prioritize. Our Administrators and Directors get together twice per year and, within the past six months, have identified three primary areas of focus. We are intentionally working on three strategies to drive SA into the future and further actualize our vision and values. They are: 1) · Adaptive Structure: We will have an adaptive and efficient structure to carry out our services which are guided by our vision and values. 2) Products and Services: We will have efficient means to evaluate, measure, and respond to existing, expanding and emerging markets, products and services and 3) Culture of Engagement: We will have established 3-5 Cultural Engagement Systems that are consistent and proactive across Service Alternatives.
Beyond our more formal plan, I personally believe that, when we find work that matches peoples’ skills and interests and connect that, that’s what makes a great organization. I want to continue making those connections. Happy employees do better work; happy employees stay. I think we have room to grow with this. I’d also like to get back to growing services. I would like to see us continue to expand our multi-service offices, which means we are serving communities more fully. We are big dreamers…our work is in making these dreams come alive!