When asked about her new role as a volunteer advocate with the North Carolina foster care system, BAYADA Pediatrics Division Director Virginia Steelman begins by reflecting on the early years of her home care nursing career spent caring for a sweet baby girl named Neely. When the baby’s parents, Suzy and Bill, became unhappy with their home care agency, they decided to try “that new company in town”, BAYADA, located in Charlotte, NC. At the parent’s request, Virginia readily applied to BAYADA so that she could continue to care for the baby she had grown to love.
BAYADA Pediatrics provides nursing care at home and school for children from birth through adolescence with a wide range of medical diagnoses. These include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, respiratory disorders, brain injuries, seizures disorders, and failure to thrive. Nurses receive age and diagnosis-specific training, including tracheostomy and ventilator care training as appropriate.
Over the years, even as Virginia transitioned from nursing care in the home into a business management role, she continued to stay in close contact with baby Neely and her parents – a comforting reminder of the start of her 19-year BAYADA journey. The friendship has been filled with the joy of watching Neely grow into a young woman, now 20, and the heartbreaking sorrow of Bill’s untimely death from cancer at the age of 54 earlier this year.
“During the funeral, I listened to the pastor speak about Bill’s volunteer work with the prison ministry, and how his efforts to build hope made such a profound impact upon that population,” Virginia shares. “I was really, really moved. I know that I am a good wife, a good mom, and good at my job, but listening to how Bill made such a positive difference on so many lives inspired me to do more.”
Virginia wanted a volunteer opportunity that drew on her skills as a leader and advocate for 10 pediatric offices in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia and the children they serve. She was considering becoming a tutor or a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club, but advertisements for the North Carolina Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program kept popping up during her search.
Although she had never heard of GAL, she finally clicked on the link, only to discover that is was the perfect match!
The GAL program equips community volunteers to serve abused and neglected children by advocating for their best interests in court. The volunteer advocate’s responsibilities include writing court reports, visiting the child and family members, conducting interviews, monitoring court orders, collaborating with service providers, speaking with the judge, and testifying in court hearings. Volunteers are expected to donate about eight hours of their time each month.
Following completion of a 30 hour training held during six class sessions, Virginia was appointed by a judge to be an advocate for an infant who suffered abuse. The judge also appointed a social worker who will work in collaboration with Virginia to make the best recommendation for the child.
“I am really doing my part to get involved in his life,” she says. “They are counting on me to paint a picture for what is in the best interest of the child. I will get to know his parents and his grandparents and I’ll write a report to the judge making a recommendation for where the baby should live.”
Virginia feels her new role is a natural tie in to The BAYADA Way core belief of providing community service where we live and work. In addition, BAYADA provides care for a number of children in the foster care system, including clients who are a part of the GAL program. “In fact, some of our office directors work very closely with the GAL advocates to ensure that the clients have the best possible care,” she says.
As an advocate for children in the foster care system Virginia taps into her extensive pediatric management experience and her unwavering compassion as a nurse. What’s more, she says, it’s a meaningful way for Bill’s legacy to live on.