“Sometimes, a change in their living environment is exactly what a young person needs to leave negative behaviors behind and move forward in a more positive direction.”
When Charles “Chuck” Metellus, MSW, CWCM, Diversion Supervisor with One Hope United, first began working with Sam*, the teenage boy was struggling to cope in the aftermath of tragedy. Several of Sam’s nine siblings had been removed from his mother’s care due to a severe drug addiction, and Sam was experiencing suicidal ideations, which resulted in emergency medical attention. In fact, on several occasions, Sam admitted himself to emergency care. “Sam told me he could only think and be with himself when he was hospitalized,” Chuck said.
Chuck provided in-home services for Sam in conjunction with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). He also made efforts to mentor Sam and take him out to eat. Chuck quickly realized Sam’s environment was the biggest factor holding him back from improving his mental health. “Sam is a smart kid with a lot of potential, but it’s nearly impossible to change when so many of the people closest to you are making unhealthy choices,” Chuck shared.
Chuck located Sam’s older sister, who was willing and able to provide a healthier home environment for Sam. Chuck was assisted by Child Protective Investigator (CPI), Hipolito, who played a “crucial” role in Sam’s case. At the beginning of March, Sam boarded his first flight to start his new life in North Carolina.
Since then, Sam has enrolled in his new school, and is doing well academically. He joined the baseball team and hit a home run in his first game. He has remained drug-free since moving to North Carolina. Chuck spoke with Sam on March 29, 2022. Sam was in good spirits and told Chuck he was “doing great.”
“Family placements are often preferred in cases like Sam’s. His relationship with his sister was already trusting and mutually respectful,” Chuck said. “I am confident this was the best move Sam could have made. He is restructuring his thought patterns and habits in an environment where he has the tools and resources he needs to be happier.”
Chuck has a personal motto that guides the approach he takes in working with youth: “If you search for perfection, you might meet disappointment along the way. However, greatness can be achieved and displayed over time.” He went on to say, “Not every attempt will be a success, and not every shot will go swish. But each person has their entire lifetime to keep trying.”
He believes looking at a person holistically, rather than only focusing on their addiction, substance abuse or mental health condition, is key to understanding them. Chuck also feels the Trust-Based Relational Interventional Model, which places an emphasis on building rapport and trust, helps him connect with Gen Z youth, as “this generation values authenticity above all else.”
At the age of 11, Chuck emigrated from Haiti to the United States. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida, and he “stumbled upon” the Case Manager career path when he graduated from college. Already a father of two at the time, he saw Case Management as an avenue to make a difference and live as a servant leader. “The field of Social Work is so important, because many families just need one caring person or one push to get through a challenging time,” Chuck said. “Social workers help remove barriers, so families can continue on their journey.” Chuck earned his Master’s in Social Work in May of 2021.
Chuck was recently promoted to Assistant Director at OHU’s community home-based placement program, Hope House, where four youth live and receive treatment at a time. “Working with youth makes me feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose on this earth,” Chuck concluded. “I want to be the person I wish I had in my life growing up.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
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