Provincial Director, Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador
Finalist, Social Change Award, EAST
Heather Modlin established Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador (KANL) in 2009 to provide therapeutic family-based care (foster care). Their mandate has since expanded; in partnership with government, KANL offers residential care and support services to young people and families with complex needs, as well as working to influence policy and practice. Creating safe, nurturing, therapeutic environments designed to facilitate growth and development for children and youth with emotional, behavioural and mental health issues, KANL is helping those who are unable to successfully reside in a traditional foster home.
My first job ever was… at McDonald’s. I started there as a crew member when I was 16 (I loved working drive-thru) and stayed until I finished university at 22. I developed my work ethic at McDonald’s. During my time there I was promoted to Crew Chief, Training Coordinator, and Swing Manager. And I was Provincial French Fry Champion in 1982 ☺
I chose my career path because… I have been interested in working with “emotionally disturbed” children since I was 10 years old and read the book A Circle of Children by Mary McCracken. Originally I planned on becoming a child psychologist and did an undergraduate degree in psychology. My first job upon graduation was in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. This was my introduction to residential care and I was hooked.
My proudest accomplishment is… it’s not really my accomplishment, but I am most proud of my daughter Sam. She is 31 years old, well educated, a successful business owner, and a kind, thoughtful person with a social conscience.
My boldest move to date was… leaving my last job, after 18 years, to start Key Assets.
I surprise people when I tell them… I used to be extremely shy. And still am, in some situations.
My best advice to people starting their business is… be patient and persistent.
My best advice from a mentor was… have received so much valuable advice from so many mentors! One thing that sticks with me, from a former professor, is that having a healthy organizational culture does not mean that there will never be problems in the organization – that is not possible. Rather, the sign of a healthy organization is that it can withstand problems without having them rock the entire organization. In dysfunctional organizations, on the other hand, problems tend to shape the culture. I always remind myself of this whenever we are dealing with difficult situations.
“Stop worrying about what others think of you, and stop being so hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect to be okay.”
If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… any of my mentors and colleagues from around the world. I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many intelligent and interesting people.
I would tell my 20-year old self… stop worrying about what others think of you, and stop being so hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect to be okay.
My biggest setback was… when we first started Key Assets in Newfoundland and Labrador, it took a long time (over 4 years) before we were approved by government to provide family-based care. There were moments when it felt like it would never happen and it was difficult not to get discouraged by the lack of progress.
I overcame it by… responding to the needs that existed in the community at the time, and being flexible in our service delivery. And staying positive.
The last book I read was… Educated by Tara Westover – it was fantastic! I am a bit of a bookworm – I usually read at least 2-3 books a week.
I stay inspired by… going to work. I am inspired daily by our staff, carers and young people. The obstacles they have to overcome to sometimes just make it through the day, and the strength and resilience they display, is incredible. I am also connected to many amazing people in the child and youth care field and through Key Assets International, and they inspire me with their ongoing commitment to improving the lives of young people, families and communities.
The future excites me because… there is so much left to do.
My next step is… continue to grow, learn, and get better.