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Former Participant Comes Full Circle to Work at DSCC

February 10th, 2020

DSCC former participant and current employee Lisette Rios smiles while wearing her graduation cap and gown.

DSCC Program Coordinator Assistant Lisette Rios draws from her own family’s experiences in the program to connect with other families.

In 22 years, Lisette Rios’ life has truly come full circle.

Born with a cleft lip, Lisette grew up as a participant of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC).

“I remember my mom talking on the phone a lot to my Care Coordinator, who would always ask how I was doing,” Lisette said.

DSCC helped the Rios family find medical specialists, discuss treatment options, coordinate surgeries and ensure Lisette and the family’s overall needs were met.

Now as a DSCC employee herself, Lisette is that helping hand and voice of comfort for other families like hers.

“My mom likes to say it’s a full circle for me. It was meant to be,” she said.

True to her dream

Former DSCC participant and current employee Lisette Rios smiles as a toddler.
Former DSCC participant and current employee Lisette Rios during her early childhood.

For as far back as Lisette can remember, DSCC was a part of her life. Shortly after her birth, her pediatrician referred the Rios family to DSCC.

“I think my parents were probably very overwhelmed. I was the first-born and there were a lot of issues, and they didn’t know what was going to happen. The fact that my pediatrician told them about DSCC helped a lot,” she said.

Lisette required at least eight surgeries throughout her childhood until age 12. She particularly remembers DSCC helping her family navigate her orthodontics issues and finding a specialist who could address them.

The family’s Care Coordinator would also check in about Lisette and her goals for the future. Around age 12, she decided she wanted to become a social worker.

“My mom told my Care Coordinator that, and my coordinator said, ‘Maybe she can come work with us,’” Lisette recalled. “After I got my internship, I joked with my mom that I’m coming for this position I was promised.”

Lisette stayed true to her dream.

After high school graduation, she double majored in sociology and criminology at UIC. When it was time to look for internships, she reached out to DSCC.

“On the other side”

Lisette started an internship in the Chicago Core Regional Office during the fall 2018 semester.

“I think seeing how much DSCC helped my family made me want to do social work. I want to help people and I want to make things better or try to find solutions to things,” Lisette said.

“You’re already dealing with so much when you have a child born with a health condition. It’s already a lot of emotions for the family and then to try to figure everything out on your own – that’s a lot. I want to be on the other side trying to reassure families and help them.”

Lisette called her DSCC internship a wonderful experience. She learned how to read medical reports and the steps necessary for families to apply for DSCC’s assistance. She also learned how to communicate with families and help them identify their needs.

Care Coordinator Rita DeSoto was Lisette’s supervisor during the internship. Rita admired how quickly Lisette learned her job role and her willingness to do hands-on work.

After her internship ended, Lisette graduated in December 2018. Since DSCC had no job openings at the time, she looked elsewhere for employment.

A few months later, a job in our Chicago Core Office became available. Lisette applied and in August 2019, DSCC hired her as a full-time Program Coordinator Assistant (PCA).

In this role, she makes sure families complete the necessary paperwork for DSCC to communicate with their providers, provide financial assistance and so on. She also takes calls from families about any needs or problems that arise.

“It’s being there for someone to let them know you understand, you know what’s going on and that one way or another, we’ll figure it out if there is a problem,” she said.

Lisette Rios and a group of her DSCC Chicago Core Regional Office co-workers pose  together while wearing red for National Wear Red Day.
Lisette joins her co-workers from DSCC’s Chicago Core Regional Office to participate in National Wear Red Day.

“Here to help”

Lisette serves as a PCA for six Care Coordinators, including Rita, her former internship supervisor. Rita praises her communication skills and work ethic.

“I am so grateful to currently have her as my PCA teammate, she really does an outstanding job and goes above and beyond,” Rita said. “Lisette is a great asset to the Chicago Core team and we are very happy to have her with us. She is on her way to great things.”

Lisette said she often draws from her own family’s experiences to relate to other DSCC families. Many families she works with are more hopeful once they learn Lisette is a former participant herself.

“I want families to know that we’re here to help out throughout the process. It’s not just you and your child having to deal with this. There are resources, and I am here to help you,” she said.

Looking ahead, Lisette would like to earn her master’s degree in social work and advance positions at DSCC.

She encourages current DSCC participants to take ownership of their care and the necessary paperwork and to be persistent with their goals.

“No matter what your condition is, you can live a so-called normal life,” she said. “Nothing is really out of reach.”