2016 Blog Entries

Thank you Rasmuson for Sanctuary

A big thank you goes out to the Rasmuson Foundation for helping us afford our first year of the implementation of the Sanctuary Model. Without the help of the foundation we would not have been able to add this important step to becoming a trauma responsive organization.

The Sanctuary Model is an evidenced informed organizational change model steeped in Trauma Theory that has proven to improve outcomes for children and adults who are struggling with the aftermath of pervasive trauma and chronic stress. It will help us move from a trauma informed organization, meaning we are aware of the affects of trauma on the people we treat, to an organization that is responsive to the affects of trauma on the children and families we serve and the staff that serve them.

The Sanctuary Model doesn’t stop at developing clinical tools to work with the child or family member who have experienced trauma; it is a model that recognizes that organizational culture in which treatment is provided is critical in the successful provision of that treatment. An organization that commits to the Sanctuary Model also recognizes that that staff and foster parents who work directly with children and adults affected by adverse experiences are also affected by that trauma. Borrowing from the work that has been done in therapeutic communities, Sanctuary seeks to develop a trauma responsive organization that consistently carries the same principles in the board room as are expected in our foster home.

Those principles, called commitments within the Sanctuary Model, are expected to be upheld by everyone in the organizationfrom the youth and families that we treat, to the administration and staff, to our treatment foster parents, volunteers and our board members. These seven commitments seem almost intuitive when one thinks of what it would take to develop and maintain a healthy organization. Yet when put into practice one recognizes that while these commitments may appear intuitive, they are not always practiced in most organizations day to day practices.

Our journey to being Alaska’s first Sanctuary Certified program will take us between 3 and 4 years. We have begun the work by training our organization’s leadership, and a Sanctuary Core Team. The Core Team and a subgroup, the Trainer Committee, will take on the responsibility of training all of our staff and foster parents in the principles and tools of Sanctuary. That process will take us to the end of 2016. In 2017 the same Core Team task will be finding ways of embedding Sanctuary into all parts of our treatment programs, with its first task to train the families and children we serve. During 2017 we will also be further imbedding the seven commitments into our policies, procedures, hiring practices and staff evaluation although some of this is already happening.

Those seven commitment are not that foreign to us here at AK Child & Family because you can find many of the concepts embedded in what we call the Spirit of AK Child & Family. In a way you might say we couldn’t have adopted Sanctuary if these commitments were that different from our spirit. The difference is these commitments will not be on a wall only referred to occasionally. These seven commitments will be the agreed upon expectation of those who are doing the treatment and those who we are treating. They will be expected to be upheld in supervision from the Board of Directors to the CEO and throughout the organization. The Seven Commitments are simple to state yet a challenge to live, they are:

A commitment to non–violence, (in deeds, words and intent)
A commitment to emotional intelligence (we can’t get by not understanding our own emotions if we expect others to manage theirs)
A commitment to social learning (it’s one thing to make a mistake, it’s another to not learn from it)
A commitment to open communication (we owe it to each other to speak the truth and expect others to speak the truth)
A commitment to social responsibility (we all must own our own behavior to create a better world)
A commitment to democracy (everyone deserves to be heard)
A commitment to growth and change (we ask the children and families that we treat to grow and change we must lead the way by our example)

Our hope is that we will be ready for the Sanctuary survey team in 2018 and not only see better outcomes for families and the children we treat but also see a healthier and more resilient workforce as they all experience the culture Sanctuary brings to our organization.

I will close as I started, we could not have kicked this year off without the generosity of the Rasmuson Foundation. There is a saying by Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. The grant from the Rasmuson Foundation helped us take that one step.