Amber Cowles, ShelterCare case manager
Helping children and families has been Amber’s focus for as long as she can remember.
Amber is a case manager with ShelterCare’s Homelessness Prevention Program, which assists families who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness, helping them keep, recover or stabilize their housing. She is also a foster parent, providing respite care for parents of children with behavioral and psychological difficulties.
When she was a child, Amber’s family struggled with some of the same issues as the families she works with at ShelterCare. “I’ve been through some stuff in my life,” she says. “That’s why I do this work.”
Amber has a bachelor’s degree in counseling and more than 10 years of experience working in social services. As a case manager Amber works with families who have been referred to ShelterCare through a state program called SPRF, which stands for Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families. Through this program, child welfare refers families to ShelterCare who are unstably housed. Families benefit from pinpointed financial aid, such as assistance with application fees and move-in costs, and six months of case management.
At any given time there are 15 SPRF families in Amber’s caseload. As one family “graduates,” another is accepted into the program. She says the main thing she wants her clients to know is that she’s on their side. She meets with each family several times a week to help them get on the path to stable housing. “I’m a big encourager,” she says.
Amber’s enthusiasm for families and children also comes through when she talks about her foster kids. “I love children,” she says. “I always wanted to be a foster parent.” She began fostering about 10 years ago. At the time she worked for Jasper Mountain and saw the need for qualified foster parents.
She says fostering has helped her grow as a person in so many ways. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for my kids.” She continues, “Because of them I’m a lot more patient and willing to listen. I have learned so much from my kids.”
Amber also credits fostering with teaching her teamwork and compromise, something she’s found especially valuable as a newlywed. She and her spouse, Ryan, married just over a year ago. They are currently expecting their first child.
“I absolutely love what I do,” Amber says in closing. “I love my clients and my coworkers and I get to work with the whole community. Every day, I feel like I’m making a difference."