Mary Beth Schultz is the Executive Director at The Caring Place in Valparaiso. The Caring Place is a shelter that provides services and a safe place for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and their children.
The shelter services, as mandated by the state of Indiana, are provided free of charge for anyone in need. The Caring Place also provides community education, legal counseling, support groups, case management, and independent living planning.
Schultz started her career as a supervisor for the Psychiatric Crisis Team, Employee Assistance Program and Community Mental Health Referral Services for Porter-Starke Services.
Her experiences as part of the Crisis Team is what lead her to where she is today. She would be at the ER in the middle of the night at times and would encounter a lot of abuse victims. She often worked with law enforcement and judges during that time which she feels helped make a smooth transition from mental health into working with abuse victims.
“It’s important for police to understand the victims,” said Schultz. “The most dangerous period is 48 hours after you leave. If it’s not handled appropriately by law enforcement and everyone, then it can be dangerous.”
Schultz says that because the situations can be so dangerous, everyone at The Caring Place who helps these victims must go through Domestic Violence training once a year.
Previously, Schultz attended Holy Cross School of Nursing, which matriculated with St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame. She then graduated in 1996 from the College of St. Francis with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science.
Schultz began working in domestic abuse because she saw a lot of potential in the victims. She says that people in abusive situations, “they bloom, they blossom, they get better but they’re never given a chance.” And Schultz wants to give them that chance.
Compared to working in mental health, Schultz says she saw improvement more in domestic violence situations. The Caring Place allows them to make goals and improve their lives.
Schultz says that often times it can take someone on average seven times to leave a domestic violence situation, but even through all that, The Caring Place sticks with them to help empower them.
“You’re making long lasting changes in someone’s life,” said Schultz. “You’re giving people hope.”
What encourages Schultz to continue to help people is seeing the end result, seeing the person empowered and successful on the other end. She often hears from domestic abuse survivors ‘Oh, The Caring Place saved my life!’ and “that encourages me to stay in this.” she said.
The Caring Place is now offering a Caring Designs program where they help furnish the victims first apartment. Any unused furniture is sold and the proceeds are put back into the program.
Schultz says that programs like this highlight the importance of helping people be successful long term. “Not just dealing with the problem, but dealing with future success.”
Schultz is also interested in Parish Nursing. She wanted to understand domestic violence in the local church community. She was awarded a scholarship from United Way that gave her the opportunity to take a class at Valparaiso University to obtain a certification for Parish Nursing.
“I think the church really needs help identifying what domestic violence is.” said Schultz. “I think religions aren’t recognizing when someone’s not safe and shouldn’t be there.
She would like to work with St. Theresa's with Valparaiso University in the future to help them recognise domestic violence and help them know what to do and how to help that person in danger.
In her spare time, Schultz really likes to watch movies. She loves all kinds. Before working in domestic violence, Schultz actually used to write movie reviews for a local newspaper. She wrote them for about 9 years before she decided her favorite hobby had started to feel like a job.
Schultz has two grown daughters, Maggie and Lindsay. Lindsay is a Structural Engineer and Maggie works as a Social Worker. When asked if Maggie’s career choice was influenced by her mother’s, Schultz said when her daughter came to her wanting to get involved in that field “I convinced her to stay away from it.”
Schultz knew from her experience that it is a very hard field to be in because there are some cases where no matter what you do you can’t help a person, especially if they don’t ask for it or want it, but you do your best. Her daughter ended up attending business school instead, but later came back to answer the call of social work.
Schultz is extremely proud of both of her daughters. Schultz taught her daughters to stand up and help people, and that lesson reflects in all the great work that Schultz does. “You sometimes have to stand up and it’s not always easy,” said Schultz. “It’s not about me. It’s about doing the right thing.”