Genesis Estrada has worked at the VCAAA for nearly five years in a variety of roles. In her current position she is the program coordinator for the Elder Abuse XE program (DAXE), a partnership between the VCAAA, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the Ventura County Family Justice Center. This program helps provide services to older adults who have been the victim of crimes. She also coordinates Title III B services (short-term help for older adults). Here is her story:
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I was born and raised in Oxnard and went to Oxnard High School. I graduated early and attended Ventura College, where I received my associate’s degree. To attain my bachelor’s degree, I actually ended up moving to Miami and attended Florida International University. I was paying out-of-state tuition and that turned out to be way too expensive, so after about a year, I ended up moving back home. I continued at Cal State Channel Islands and I received my bachelor’s in psychology.
After that, I worked in behavioral therapy with kids. These were kids who had behavioral issues or who were on the autism spectrum. It was really tough, but I got to learn hands-on what it was like to work with children with disabilities. I learned a lot in school, but this is where I was able to start putting it into practice.
Q: How did you transition from working with kids to older adults here at the VCAAA?
A: The job in behavioral therapy was a great learning experience, but I started to realize that it was time for a change. My mom was helping me look for different jobs. She has worked for the City of Oxnard for 36 years. She pushed me to look for a city or county job, and she would send me listings. One was for a temporary Information & Assistance agent with VCAAA. She thought it would be a good starting point. I wasn’t sure, because it was so completely different than what I went to school for. Sonia Vaughn was the supervisor of the I&A department at the time, and I interviewed with her and Monique Nowlin. It went really well and I ended up getting the job. I trusted my prayers and figured it was meant to be. And after almost five years, here we are today.
Q: How did you go from I&A to your current role?
A: I started off as a temp I&A agent and really liked it. It is where I began to learn about aging and elderly issues. It was interesting and I realized this was a population that isn’t spoken about enough. I saw the difficult struggles that seniors and their caregivers go through. I liked the agency and saw there was room for growth.
Maybe six months later, a position for a permanent I&A agent opened up, so I applied and got the job, and that was one step forward. That was encouraging and I was learning a lot more. After a year, I knew I wanted to keep growing and advancing. An office assistant position opened up for VCAAA and I was promoted and became the office receptionist.
Within a year, I was ready to continue to grow my skills. I applied for an administrative assistant position and was offered the position as the Program Coordinator for the DAXE Program and the III B Program, which meant I would be overseeing two case management programs. I was very grateful for the opportunity to take on a new challenge. It was a full circle moment to think about where I started and taking that leap of faith to join the VCAAA, to now having this great opportunity.
Q: Explain your current job working with elder abuse victims.
A: I work with the District Attorney’s victim advocates and coordinate services and resources for victims involved in their cases. Some examples of the services I coordinate include counseling, home modification, emergency housing, emergency funds, transportation for court appearances, food assistance, plus others. Sometimes a victim needs to be removed from their home immediately and I will coordinate a hotel stay for them, as well as storage for their belongings. Crime cleanup isn’t used as often, but I have needed to coordinate that a handful of times. And those are my toughest cases.
One of the things I love about VCAAA is that VCAAA and the Family Justice Center do such an amazing job of bringing awareness to the struggles that seniors and their caregivers experience, as well as bringing knowledge of the resources and services that are offered for seniors and their caregivers.
Q: It must be rewarding, but it must also be difficult becoming involved in so many sad situations.
A: The first couple of months into my position were tough. You have to have empathy and compassion to do the job, but also must be emotionally strong to handle the job. When you get the referral, it’s detailed. Some cases require having to go over details in depth with the advocate so I can have the proper information for the vendor that is needed. But outside of work I have different things I enjoy doing that help bring balance. It also helps having the team of advocates I work with. They are great. And we support one another. Knowing at the end of the day that we’re doing a really good thing makes me love my job.
Q: How many clients do you work with?
A: My goal for XE was about 20 clients a year, and I’m at almost 70. This was the same as last year. It’s nice to be helping these people, but when you really think about it, that number getting higher is unfortunate because these people are going through terrible things.
Q: How long do you work with them?
A: Part of the job is case management. I have clients that we’ve been helping for a year. Some clients accept the help and others just want to get through the court process. For those that want the assistance, we can transition them over to III B and they will receive additional help and monthly contact. When comparing the III B clients that transition from DAXE, it’s rewarding to see the difference from when I first met them and how troubled they were, to months or a year later after they have received assistance. It’s really nice to be able to see them in a better place.
Q: What type of skills do you need to be successful in this job?
A: I believe gentleness is number one, number two is compassion, number three is organization, and number four is communication. Gentleness and compassion are huge because these people are going through the worst times in their lives. A lot of them don’t have a single person. And it’s sad because it’s very common that the one person they thought they could count on, sometimes the caregiver, ends up being the one that is the abuser who has hurt them verbally, emotionally, mentally, or physically. They end up with nothing. If the victim ends up transitioning into III B case management, the case manager might be the only support system they have.
I’m proud to say I am a very organized person. I have three calendars to keep track of things. While working on DAXE, I have many resources and services that I’m coordinating for multiple people at one time. There are meetings to attend and data entry to be done. I also have III B clients who need services and resources and I’m coordinating for them as well. On top of communication with the clients, I’m communicating with the victim advocates, our vendors, and VCAAA staff, because sometimes I support them with in-house programs.
Q: What does your future hold?
A: I love VCAAA and I’m very happy. I’m blessed to be able to say that I love my job and that I love what I do. I would love to continue to grow with VCAAA and see what other skills I can learn. In the future, I could see myself moving into a management position.
Q: You mentioned your mom earlier. It sounds like she has been your inspiration.
A: My mom is awesome. She’s my best friend. She’s so hard-working. She had a tough upbringing and was in the foster system at 13 years old. She really had to work her way to get to where she is today. She’s been a great example of working hard and believing in yourself. With faith and hard work, you’ve got it. During my tough times, she was so encouraging. I’m very grateful.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I go to the gym after work. I love to travel, trying new restaurants, photography, being outdoors. I love scenic views. I would love to learn more about videography. I also love Disney. I’ve had an annual pass for the last two years and my mom and I go together twice a month.
To report an instance of elder abuse, contact Adult Protective Services at (805) 654-3200 or the Family Justice Center at (805) 652-7655.