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As you probably know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Working to prevent child abuse is absolutely critical, but so is learning how to respond when abuse has already taken place.

If you’ve been following AK Child & Family for any recent amount of time, you are probably familiar with the “ACEs”—Adverse Childhood Experiences.  Defining and analyzing these experiences helps us understand the extent of trauma a child may have endured, how that trauma affects the brain, and ultimately helps us navigate treating a child who has experienced them.

It’s February, Valentine’s month, and rather appropriately, our theme of the month here at AK Child and Family is Communication. As any relationship counselor worth their salt will tell you, good communication is the bedrock of a healthy relationship. This is true of romantic relationships, and it’s equally true of the relationships we have with our colleagues, our supervisors and the students and families we care for.

This is a recycled blog from January 2017; we feel that it is too good to use just once!  We hope you enjoy the read, and glean something to take with you on your own self-care journey.

We love to sing around here at AK Child & Family. To share our holiday spirit we decided to tweak the lyrics to a very familiar song; knowing everyone knows the tune and can easily sing along. The reference to cookies is of course a nod to storytime where our students enjoy warm chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven– and there was no need to change the drummers drumming because it reminds us of the monthly drum circles we do with our kids.

Here in this place of healing called AK Child & Family – we are filled with gratitude for many things....most especially: 

Each year, we send a letter to our friends & supporters. This year's theme was "Reaching My Goals" and included the brave first person testimony of a student in residential treatment. We wanted to share it with you here, along with some original art by other students currently undergoing treatment, (and also themed). These are featured at the end of the letter--Enjoy!

Reflections on the importance of volunteering from employees of Alyeska Pipeline, who donated their time to AK Child & Family on September 12, 2018.

AK Child & Family's Director of Community Programs, Katy Smith, was recently interviewed on KTUU's Moms Everyday about how parents can help their children transition into the new school year. verbal responses to the questions had to be condensed for the interview, but her full-length, written answers are detailed below. Enjoy and happy Back-To-School! 

Our 2018 Alaska Flag Day Celebration was another smashing success! Below are some of our favorite pictures.

After a recent tree donation from the Anchorage Garden Club & planting ceremony, our students wanted to reflect on the experience and symbolic nature of trees through writing poems. Please enjoy these original poems by students currently undergoing treatment in our residential units!

In honor of National Foster Care Month, we wanted to highlight some perspectives of the amazing Therapeutic Foster Parents working with our students at AK Child & Family! Please enjoy the write up (from a past blog) by the biological mother of a student who went through our program, as well as some photos from a current Therapeutic Foster family.

The following blog is a tribute to the memory of Lynn Gaylor, beloved former Chaplain, Program Director & Director of AK Child & Family, who passed away April 13, 2018.

Pick.Click.Give. entered its 10th year on January 1, 2018. This philanthropic milestone gives reason to pause as we look at Alaska’s philanthropic landscape over the last decade.

Over the winter break the Activity Therapy department broke new ground by launching new all day groups for CP youth for the two week winter break from school. Built in a prime downtown location, the First United Methodist Church of Anchorage campus was their launching pad. We are so grateful that the church let us use their space, for our fifteen who participated in the program.

During the summer of 1966 I spent a month at The Jesse Lee Home for children as part of a youth work camp. This was a new facility outside of Anchorage as the old home in Seward was damaged in the 1964 Earthquake.

What an honor and a privilege to do the work we do. For 127 years, young people have come to this place of refuge and healing – this place that honors their whole being – this place that knows to whom we belong. For approximately 46,385 days now we have been caring for young people in need. It is an amazing team effort that takes each and every one of us. I am so very grateful for all the dedicated, hard-working and caring people who have been, are, and will be a part of this agency and mission – a part of the healing stories that happen here. For all of this, I give thanks.

Our agency theme for the month of October has been SANCTUARY. If you’re following us on social media or have been to our agency within the last 2 years, the word Sanctuary should ring a bell! AK Child & Family has been in the process of officially implementing what is known as The Sanctuary Model—an organizational model designed to “counteract the biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and moral wounds suffered by the victims of traumatic experience and extended exposure to adversity.” In a nutshell, it is an organizational intervention of sorts--a reformatting of our entire agency’s way of thinking & behaving, so that the WAY in which we operate is just as trauma-informed as our specific work with youth and families.

Earlier this year, Ak Child & Family staff and grantees had the opportunity to attend the 5th Annual Alaska Advanced Trauma Training institute, which was hosted by the Alaska Child Trauma Center at Anchorage Community Mental Health Services. A big thank you to these groups, and the Division of Behavioral Health for making this opportunity possible!!

I would like to emphasize how I was welcomed at our Oliver Cottage these past few months. There was a group that was held after what I heard was a pretty tense situation between peers. When staff called the group into session everyone grabbed a chair and circled around. I heard that we were going to process what happened the day before and what will come of it, so I prepared myself for a potentially tense conversation. As we all settled in to the circle and quieted down, we all had a moment to quietly acknowledge each other’s presence.

This year marked our 25th annual Alaska Flag Day Celebration -- 25 years of celebrating the birth of Alaska's State Flag!

We are pleased to welcome our former CEO, Jim Maley back to Alaska for our 25th annual Alaska Flag Day Celebration on Sunday, July 9th! Jim has been an integral part of the evolution of our agency and his dedication and care for children & families continues to be unwavering. Please enjoy the following interview with him, on his development of our first ever Alaska Flag Day Celebration, the agency & his passion for helping young people!

I find great privilege in being able to share my family’s story within the therapeutic foster care system, through AK Child & Family. It is never an easy decision once you realize that your child needs help you are unable to provide to them at home. When I made the decision to seek help with Alaska Child & Family, I never thought it would include therapeutic foster care.

During the month of January, our agency focused on the commitment of emotional intelligence, particularly self care. As an agency, we have discussed this quite a bit and encourage it regularly. The self care plan we adopted through sanctuary gives us a tool to explore what self care looks like for each of us, and to explore what works and what does not.

What follows is a picture of Unalaska that I took in about 1967-8 when we were beginning to look at the possibility of doing a sort of low-key community organizing job there...So I visited. The attached is a picture taken from the cemetery hill high above the town and looks back at the whole town of Unalaska. The original Jesse Lee Home is hidden just below the crest of the hill.

In Oliver cottage we play fantasy football and the people who play are the staff and the students. Everyone who plays in the fantasy football league gets to come up with an appropriate name for their team and mine team name is Speed because I like the Flash and I am a very fast runner when it comes to short distance.

In chapel yesterday, we used the Chinese New Year as a framework for our prayers. Celebrating inclusivity and diversity are an important part of our Spiritual Life program. Throughout the chapel liturgy 15 candles were lit.

18 years ago today marked my first day of employment with what was then Alaska Children Services. Having been hired as a Psychiatric Treatment Counselor in Gould Cottage I had an opportunity to work directly with youth and families in a very meaningful way. Over the ensuing years the opportunities for professional growth and development were plentiful; I remain exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to transition into a Treatment Program Supervisor role followed by Director of Human Resources and culminating in my current role as Chief Administrative Officer.

Each month, staff at AK Child & Family staff nominate a colleague they believe embodies true SPIRIT...

Each new day is another opportunity to take a chance to do something good for ourselves and others. When I think about creating a community of self care I envision this vibrant place where everyone is able to participate in endless hours of activities of their choosing either individually, with friends, family members, and the like. I picture only positive interactions and emotions, it is so beautiful.

“I find All Staff to be a great place to get to know my teammates. Nothing builds a bond quite like learning and sharing a meal together!” Teagan Presler, Training Specialist II

As we begin preparing for the holidays, we often find ourselves more observant of our surroundings, such as the festive decorations, the music, and the individuals that are absent from our lives. Many youth in our care are not in the position or place to visit with family members, or spend holidays within their own household. Part of being a residential staff member is seeing the negatives, but also being there to see and help the youth recognize the positives within their lives.

Knowing that saying “thanks” can become a thoughtless reflex – or worse- can be forgotten in the rush and pressure of daily tasks and endless “to-do” lists, for the month of November our team of leaders and supervisors here at AK Child & Family decided to focus energy on the theme of “Gratitude” for more than just one calorie-filled day.

“National Philanthropy Day is both an official day and a grassroots movement. Every year, since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed November 15th as National Philanthropy Day, communities across the globe have celebrated by hosting events to recognize activities of donors, volunteers, foundations, leaders, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy.”

Girl Scouts are proud to contribute to AK Child and Family and help in their mission to support our Communities Families.

Halloween has come and gone, but we wanted to give you a glimpse of how AK Child & Family staff & students celebrate this great holiday! Costumes are worn, games are played, decorations are hung and of course--candy is collected. Enjoy these pictures!

AK Child & Family is currently in the process of becoming Sanctuary Model certified. If you are unfamiliar with the Sanctuary Model, here’s the description in a nutshell: “a theory-based, trauma-informed, trauma-responsive, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture.

Each month our students attend our Community Role Model event at our Benson Center Gym. Each event features an inspirational speaker who shares their successes and struggles with our students. This month's speaker speaker's name was Samuel Johns.

...What does being emotionally intelligent mean? The easiest definition that I have come up with is knowing and managing our feelings so we don’t hurt ourselves or others. Put another way, knowing and managing our feelings so we can be successful in anything that we do. Given that most of us have average IQ’s and average talents and skills, the one factor that can make or break our success in whatever pursuit is emotional intelligence.

This year, we were very grateful to receive season tickets from two couples: Judith and Larry Helgeson and Bob and Jeanine Huston! The Hustons have even offered to help us transport students to and from games if need be--we are so blessed! Each couple has written a little bit about why they support our mission and why athletics is important to them. Thank you Bob, Jeanine, Judith and Larry, for brightening the lives of our youth!

Saturday October 8th 2016 marked the 23rd annual Mayor’s Charity Ball and AK Child & Family once again attended in support of our community. Board members Jim Arlington, Christina Rankin, Pat Abney, Dan Goodstein, and Stacy Marshall were joined by Rachel W (nee Arlington), Scott Rankin, Rob Morris, Penny Goodstein, and James Marshall.

September is Emergency Preparedness month and while we take steps every month of the year to ensure we limit the impact of emergencies or disasters, we also place a little more emphasis on preparedness communications at this time of year as we get ready for winter. Among other things this month, Julie Harvey from the Office of Emergency Management kindly agreed to share some tips and reminders at our all-staff meeting.

Each Fall & Spring, AK Child & Family hosts a Student Variety Show, during which students have the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of staff, other students, family & friends!

I came to Alaska in March of 1982 via the Alcan Highway from Minnesota. It almost feels like one of those dark and stormy night tales as we hit multiple snow storms in the Canadian Mountains and had some scary moments in getting through the storms to Alaska.

This summer Community Programs facilitated a gardening group for youth of all ages. The objective was to work together for one afternoon per week, for 12 weeks throughout the summer on community and personal garden projects in order to increase understanding and appreciation of our role in the natural world, while teaching creative and critical thinking skills.

Chalk the Walk is our annual back to school activity! Students & staff decorate our campus sidewalks with chalk to ring in the start of a new school year! Check out some of our favorites below. Chalk the Walk is supported by United Way of Anchorage in which hundreds of Anchorage agencies participate each year.

It is such an incredible blessing when mission teams come to serve with us! People from all over the country get the unrivaled opportunity to visit this extraordinary corner of God’s creation and to be God’s ministers in so many different ways.