Program DirectorVirginia“Before I even knew about Demeter House, I knew I wanted to work with women and mothers. I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
When Kelly Rankin decided to become a substance abuse counselor, she knew she wanted to work with before she had even heard of Demeter House, Phoenix House’s program for women and mothers struggling with addiction. Now that she’s working at Demeter House with Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic, Kelly says, “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
Kelly Rankin became committed to working in the treatment field after seeing family members struggle with addiction. After 25 years in the workforce, she made the decision to become a certified substance abuse counselor: “I went back to school so that I could learn how to help others by getting into this field and trying to pay it forward.”
Kelly started earning a Bachelor of Social Work and then a Master of Social Work from George Mason University. She worked as a bookkeeper while earning her degree and completed 2,000 supervised hours at a range of internships at substance abuse facilities. From the beginning she learned, “Everybody has some underlying issue as to why their addiction is there.” She works to help her clients find that reason and understand that it’s normal, not something to be ashamed of.
Kelly gained experience working with the homeless and providing case management for clients who also had co-occurring mental illness. After an internship with Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic’s Girls Recovery Lodge, Kelly became a counselor there and in 2011 became Program Director of Demeter House, a residential treatment provider for women and mothers.
“Parenting doesn’t come with a manual,” says Kelly. Demeter House is not just treating addiction but using evidence-based parenting curriculum to help moms build better relationships with their kids. The program has a new contract with a Washington D.C. agency that allows mothers to have have supervised time with their children while they’re still in treatment, instead of having to wait until they’re finished with treatment to see their children again.
Mothers are able to bring a child with them into treatment at Demeter House, and an onsite child care specialist cares for the children. “I love having the kids here,” said Kelly, whose office is next to the children’s play area. “I have a drawer full of toys in my office and they know to pull it open and get the toys out of here.”
“There’s no judgment here,” Kelly says. “There’s a lot of shame and guilt with these ladies about what their life has been like, but there’s no judgment in here when it comes to that. It doesn’t faze us. It’s part of what we do.”