Have you ever received a piece of clothing as a gift, but you didn’t like it? It’s possible that it came with a return receipt and you could exchange it for something else. Sometimes the gift giver will acknowledge that they weren’t sure you would like it and you should have something you feel good about. Many of us don’t think twice about having a choice of wearing what we like versus what we don’t like.
This is not often the case when folks are experiencing homelessness, poverty, or are involved in any type of social services. There is rhetoric in this country that “those people” should be happy with what they are given, even if it’s something that most people wouldn’t wear.
During one visit to REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, one of the advocates told a story about encountering a teenager in a family she was working with. It was the dead of winter and freezing outside and he had on a very flimsy jacket. She couldn’t let him face the harsh winter without proper apparel.
The advocate immediately notified her supervisor and told her she was taking the teen to the mall to purchase a winter coat for him. When they got there she told him to pick out whichever coat he wanted. She noticed him picking out the least expensive coat and she insisted that he shouldn’t worry about the money– if he has to wear it, he should be able to pick it out.
She recognized that this young man gets harassed for what he wears and was adamant that he gets something he feels good about.
For adolescents, wellbeing is deeply connected to having a social network of peers where they feel a sense of belonging and fit in. Part of fitting in is having clothes that friends and other classmates think would be “cool.”
Full Frame organizations like REACH pay attention to what might challenge somebody’s wellbeing and respond in a way that is customized to the individual. This includes using organizational resources to go above and beyond.
In a more traditional social service program, if program participants need clothes, they might be taken to the clothing closet to pick something out from a selection of donated and used clothing. However, not all clothing is created equal, and not having the “right” clothing may prevent adolescents from developing social connections or may result in them getting bullied.
This story from REACH illustrates how the Five Domains of Wellbeing are interconnected and build off of each other. In this case, having meaningful access to a relevant resource is supporting social connectedness, and directly influencing the teen’s wellbeing.
Leora Viega Rifkin was FFI’s Network Engagement Manager. She staffed the Greater Boston Full Frame Network and in her role spent time at the member programs to document how Full Frame practice looks in a variety of practice settings. REACH is a member of the Greater Boston Full Frame Network. This is a group of organizations that believe that everyone has a right to wellbeing and use the Five Domains of Wellbeing to support individuals and families make and sustain positive change in their lives. For a list of Greater Boston Full Frame Network members, click here.