by Heather Kaufmann, 2017 OCDEL Policy Fellowship Graduate
In 2010, I began my journey in the Early Intervention field as a Service Coordinator at a local county program. My previous work experience consisted of teaching at multiple child care centers, as well as a few years in retail management. With no prior knowledge of the Early Intervention field, I felt nervous but also excited as I had always enjoyed working with children. During my time as a Service Coordinator, I learned a lot about child development and the process that families go through to obtain services and supports for their children. I fell in love with the field and realized that there was so much more that I could be doing for these families. I was promoted to EI Coordinator in 2015 and quickly became involved in various state level meetings and committees. One of the most exciting things, however, was being accepted into the inaugural OCDEL Policy Fellowship. I thoroughly enjoyed working directly with families, but these committees and meetings helped me to recognize that I had a desire to be part of the bigger picture, not just on the local level but at the state level.
Just last month, I achieved my goal and was hired as an Early Intervention Advisor with the Bureau of Early Intervention Services at OCDEL. My background knowledge from the local EI program has really prepared me to jump right into this new role. Additionally, my Fellowship experience has assisted in easing the transition. The knowledge that I acquired during the fellowship regarding how state government works, as well as OCDEL’s relationship with the policymakers has been very beneficial, even in the first few weeks on the job. One of the best examples of how I am utilizing the knowledge that I gained during the Fellowship happened during my very first week, when I was asked to join a team that was working on a data request from an outside organization. I felt prepared for the meeting because OCDEL’s data manager had spoken to us regarding data requests; what they are, and how they are handled here at OCDEL.
My time in the OCDEL Policy Fellowship was extremely valuable in supporting my work at the local level. I am excited to apply that knowledge to my new position with OCDEL and where my new OCDEL journey takes me.