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Friday, December 01, 2017
Mary Hutchens to retire after 40 years

Interview with Mary Hutchens -

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your history with Racker Centers? How did your career begin with the agency? What career path did you follow while here?

I completed my Masters in Social Work degree in 1977 and applied for the Home -School Coordinator position that FRC had at TST BOCES. I interviewed with Jean Strout and later with Dr. Racker. I met with Dr. Racker at her office at the hospital. She was so warm and engaging; asking me questions about my family and my life story. It was a unique interview that told me a lot about what the agency felt was important. I already felt a level of support and belonging that has continued to this day.

The position I was applying for was primarily to support the OTs, PTs and Speech Therapists that we had at BOCES at the time. The role was to communicate between school and home; providing information about the child’s progress and connecting families to other supports that they and their child might benefit from. I remember thinking at the end of my first month…”I can’t believe I am being paid to do this!”

At the point I started, the schools were beginning to see the need for more counseling support for their students. I was happy to be able to provide play therapy to a number of young children at BOCES. This number grew steadily during the 10 years I was in this position until it became the majority of my duties. I believe it was the beginning of an emerging need to offer more social-emotional support to students.

In 1988 I helped develop the Day Treatment program at TST BOCES. This initiative was in response to their request to partner in a model that would offer more comprehensive mental health services to students and support to their families. We developed a similar program at the BOCES in Cortland in 1993. Since the late “90s, we have been asked to develop supports in the public schools that could help identify issues at an earlier point in time. I have so appreciated having the opportunity to help create new services, puzzle through complex issues and work alongside dedicated and talented people.

What is one of your fondest memories of working at Racker?

Anytime groups of staff get together to think about new ways we can be helpful to kids. I love our energetic, hopeful conversations about the whole child. We think about their interests and identifying strengths that are not easily apparent. Racker staff have a wonderful way of thinking creatively about what can make a difference. We imagine things that are not traditional and then about how to make it happen. Our staff so often go the extra mile.

These opportunities are especially rich in the partnership programs we do with the schools. Schools are where our kids “do their work”. If they can find success in school, their chances for success in life increases.  Having educators at the table, sharing their expertise and collaborating day to day makes us so much stronger.

What do you feel is one or some of your biggest accomplishments while working here?

It’s always been important to me that our staff feel both supported and challenged in the work they do every day. It’s critical that we offer learning opportunities to gain new skills and strategies, that we foster strong teams and provide a safe place to explore the emotional reactions this work can raise. We have created a strong supervisory team that keeps these priorities in the forefront.


How would you summarize the changes you’ve seen occur at Racker Centers from the beginning of your career until now?

I believe we are more aware of the social emotional needs of the people we serve. We are better able to articulate the fundamental need for relationship that we all have and how key that is to supporting growth. I believe our Mission’s emphasis on Belonging has better focused our diverse programs and clarified some of the skills that are universally needed among our staff.


Many things have changed over the years, what are some things that have remained the same?

While our agency has grown tremendously, we have maintained a sense of family and culture. We have also remained an agency that is aware of the community we are in and the needs that are being presented. Like the people we serve, we are of the community and try to do our part to make it better.


What are your plans for the future?

I trust plans will emerge. I have a lot of interests that I would like to dedicate more time to. My husband and I enjoy traveling and spending time in exotic places. Spending time with our two granddaughters will be an important part of the plan too.