After Nearly 35 Years Lisa Neff Says Goodbye to Residential Administration
By Meaghan Ayer

In the late 1970s Lisa Neff began her career of helping others at an Ohio agency for troubled children. The agency had a group home and treatment foster homes for children with developmental disabilities, runaways, and those coming from abusive households. After spending 10 years creating a safe haven for children in need, she headed to the East where she settled in Maine.

This is where Lisa’s journey to Waban began. After working with the Child Welfare Institute at the University of Southern Maine creating training packages for residential support professional trainings, Lisa then moved to YWCA in Portland where she ran the Low Barrier girls shelter and an off-site residence for women. Wanting to continue her work in residential programs, she took a job as the Residential Director for an agency in Bath serving adults with developmental disabilities. This was Lisa’s first introduction to a residential and day program serving only men and women with a developmental disability, and eventually is what led her to Waban.

Lisa joined the Waban team in 2004 as the Adult Habilitative Director for Waban’s day program that was in the process of relocating, combining, and becoming what is now Life Works. She said that she’s always loved a challenge and welcomed the role of helping to teach others. “It takes a team; you have to meet people where they are and try to help them grow.”

The habilitation center was a place where members could focus on their fine motor skills, interact with friends and peers, and have the support of professional individuals. A few years later she took on a more applied role as a Residential Home Administrator for one of Waban’s homes. She felt that working directly with the members and staff gave her a better chance to capture what their needs were. “For me, you can make more of an impact,” she said smiling and shrugging her shoulders.

When asked how she’s kept a professional, yet caring relationship with her residents all these years Lisa stated it came with her many years of practice, “You learn along the way.”

Her own personal system of checks and balances has helped to keep her from over stepping boundaries when it comes to her staff and members: “Ask yourself if you would do something for one person, would you do it for everyone?”

At the end of the day, in this specific line of work, you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t care. Having a close, personal relationship with a member, whether you’re a direct support staff or a home administrator is inevitable, but you can still remain professional. Lisa was careful to stress that point, saying that there were plenty of times where she felt herself having to stop and think. Even now, as she looks forward to her retirement, she says the most rewarding part of the job is being able to have the close, personal relationships with her residents. Those relationships have taught her that her job and the job of her staff, is to support Waban’s members in their daily journey of having a normal, yet unique life. “When you see people comfortable in their own home, then you know you’ve done something right,” Lisa said.

The statement seemed so simple, but she was right. The people she has served in her 35 plus years in residential services, have taught her that it’s important to give both her staff and her clients opportunities to grow and change and learn. Waban has been proud to employ Lisa for the past 12 years and will miss her optimism and veteran experience as she says goodbye to her Waban family and accepts a well-deserved retirement.

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