"My passion for this work is ignited when I witness the amazing resilience of the young women we serve."
~Darcie DeShazo, LCSW, Executive Director of The Settlement Home for Children~
Who is a woman leader/mentor in your life and what impact has she had on your life and career?
In graduate school, one of my professors at the UT School of Social Work, Bonnie Bain, shaped my perspective on social work. When I grew impatient and hopeless about ever making a difference in the world, she gently reminded me that we plant seeds and must be patient as they grow---even if that means we don’t see this happen in front of our eyes—the seeds we plant are important and have a lasting impact.
My predecessor at The Settlement Home, Linda Addicks Kokemor, is my mentor in the truest sense of the word. She believed in me and gave me time to grow alongside her before handing me the reigns. She was an exceptional Executive Director and is my hero.
How did your leadership role at the Settlement Home develop? What is your story?
Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to help people, which led me to social work. I majored in Psychology at UT in undergrad and became interested in counseling. After a couple of years working in direct care at The Settlement Home, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. I really enjoyed being a therapist working with adolescent girls and I developed a small private practice outside of my work at The Settlement Home, which allowed me to work with a broader range of clients. However, after about five years of practicing as a clinician, I felt myself leaning toward the administrative side of things. I loved looking at the “the big picture.” As a Program Director, I realized what a good fit it was for me to be in a leadership role and to be more involved in planning, program development and fundraising. As Associate Director, I was able to work closely our Executive Director and other Executive Directors in the community and it just felt like the right fit for me.
I started as Executive Director on September 30, 2013. However, I have worked at The Settlement Home since 1999—it was my first job out of college. My studies and internships took me across the world to Australia and London, but I always returned to The Settlement Home. I have worn many hats at The Settlement Home, including Youth Care Counselor, Houseparent, Campus Coordinator, Therapist, Program Director and Associate Director.
A goal of this campaign is to shed light on the statement that "Women are making a difference in Texas child welfare." What are your thoughts on this? Can you speak into this statement on behalf of the Settlement Home?
My passion for this work is ignited when I witness the amazing resilience of the young women we serve. On a regular basis, I have the privilege of witnessing strong young people bounce back from unimaginable adversity. Seeing the smile of a student making the "A Honor Roll" for the first time, noticing the sense of accomplishment in the eyes of a girl crossing the finish line at her first 5K race, or getting to congratulate a young woman after she learns she landed her first job in the community - these are the experiences that drive me.
The Settlement Home was founded by 12 women in 1916 and this group has grown to almost 500 members from the Austin community. These women give their time, talent and resources to ensure the best possible care is given to the children, young adults and families we serve. The board of directors is made up of Settlement Club members, which means it is truly a female-led organization. All but one of our executive team members on staff are women and our client base is predominantly girls. Female role models are vital to empowering and restoring a sense of purpose for the girls we serve. This happens daily at The Settlement Home and it is inspiring!
Have you faced challenges in your leadership role as a woman? If so how did you or are you over coming them?
Unfortunately, there have been a few times when I have felt discredited for getting heated or worked up about an injustice. If I speak up in a community meeting or get fired up about something, there is a sense that because I am a woman, I am overly emotional or dramatic. If I see a man do the same thing, it is seen as courageous and passionate. It is just something I’ve noticed over the years. It doesn’t stop me though!
If there was one statement you could deliver to the youth and families in your community in light of this special month celebrating the accomplishments of women, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself.