Michelle Kaye’s life adventure began in the Midwest, speciﬁcally, Evanston, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The ﬁrstborn daughter among four children, Michelle has two older brothers and a younger sister; she fondly remembers always having someone with whom to play during her childhood. “My parents are both psychologists. When I was a kid, my siblings and I were encouraged to ﬁght for what we believed was right. My family is Jewish, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a diverse community with people of all faiths and ethnicities.
“My parents taught me to think for myself. If I disagreed with a teacher or authority ﬁgure, they didn’t want me to be disrespectful, but they did want me to state my case and make a convincing argument. They encouraged my siblings and me to take on creative projects and we spent lots of time when we were kids making movies with an old school camcorder. We always felt like weirdos growing up, because my siblings and I were raised without television and we never knew what our classmates were talking about. My mom always liked to say, ‘who cares what they think?’ when I was scared of being seen as different as a kid.”
As a teenager, Michelle loved writing and believed that would become her career. She majored in English at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, and Michelle wrote a young adult novel during her senior year. After graduation, she began working at a publishing company.
“I have always loved books. After working for a year in publishing, I knew that ﬁeld wasn’t for me. I hated sitting in a cubicle all day. Making a proﬁt for a company wasn’t motivating or inspiring. Since I have always loved children, I decided to pursue a career in teaching. I spent one year teaching at a school in New Haven, Connecticut. I loved talking to children about their problems but didn’t like teaching. There was a social worker at the school I was working at. One day I asked her ‘what is your job?’ That’s how I realized I wanted to be a social worker working with children.”
Michelle attended graduate school at Smith College for Social Work in Massachusetts. She met her husband, a San Francisco Bay Area native, in graduate school, and love led them back to San Francisco 11 years ago. Michelle’s ﬁrst job was as a therapist in Visitacion Valley at Southeast Child and Family Therapy Center. She joined Felton last fall.
“I wanted to work at Felton because I knew about the Early Intervention program from my time working at Golden Gate Regional Center. I had visited Family Developmental Center a few times and loved the inclusive environment and the holistic, multi-faceted approach to serving children and families. Then I met Yohana Quiroz, COO (of Children, Youth and Family and Transitional Age Youth Services) and Alicia Torres, Education Director, at my interview, and I got super excited about working with them both.”
Michelle enjoys talking with teachers, therapists and supervisors about the needs of the children at the Family Developmental Center. “I love helping clinicians examine what thoughts and feelings they bring to the table and how that inﬂuences their work.,” she says.
Citing examples of the comprehensive services that the Family Developmental Center (FDC) provides, Michelle notes a recent example of a mother who needed childcare for her child with a developmental disability while she is working full-time in order to quality for subsidized housing. At FDC, the child will beneﬁt from high-quality childcare with a full-time nurse on-site, in addition to the early interventionists, speech pathologists and mental health specialists who are available to consult with the family to meet the child’s needs. The mother will also have access to a weekly free farmers market and a case management team. “I am hard-pressed to think of another program in San Francisco that would be able to provide such comprehensive services to a family. Felton is a 131- year old nonproﬁt that is innovative and creative. That’s an incredibly unique combination,” Michelle concludes.
To hear one mother’s story of how FDC’s inclusive services helped her daughter who had developmental challenges, watch the video below:
When she is not working, Michelle loves taking her children on adventures, especially in Paciﬁca, where both foggy coastal hikes and days at the beach are appealing. Her favorite television show is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and her lifelong love of books continues; fantasy and science ﬁction are favorite genres.
In fact, her personal motto that she has tattooed on her arm are words from the science ﬁction trilogy The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy –“Don’t Panic”. Those words of wisdom are very useful on the job and great advice for times like these.
About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.
Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties.
Felton is named for its social services pioneer and executive director Dr. Katharine “Kitty” Felton who was called the ”conscience of San Francisco” and was committed to ensuring that children and families in crisis have access to social services and resources in order to help them build upon their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency. www.felton.org