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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.

Proverbs 22:6 Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives.

This was my first year attending the Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA) Conference and it was truly an unforgettable experience. The wealth of information in each conference was something that I could tap into multiple times, yielding different and better results for me in my role as a supervisor.

One summer, dedicated staff member Thomas Hull decided to set a goal for students in the Oliver cottage: pick a mountain peak, and cycle the elevation of that peak in miles! Since then, students set a new goal each summer and commit to cycling each week.

A photo blog highlighting our summer garden projects!

Myth: Fostering a child who's been removed from the care of their birth parents is dangerous.

Reality: Not all treatment foster children have been removed from the care of their primary parents. In many cases primary parents have placed their children with us for the help that they need to work through issues that have arisen...

I then thought to myself, “I am going to see how many hats I can make in less than a week”. I made 8 hats and my mom gave me a big bag of hats. So altogether I had 57 hats. While I was at camp we made 3 hats. When we got back from camp my mom and sister made 9 more hats just in time for Alaska Flag Day.

I always try to do a big thank you with my five minutes in the spotlight during the brief program we have during our Flag Day Celebration, and I always feel like the thank you is way too inadequate for the amount of work that goes on. So while writing a blog post may still feel inadequate, at least I will have more time to thank more people.

For 24 years, AK Child & Family has celebrated the birth of Alaska’s State Flag with a fun filled evening of BBQ, ice cream, live music and more. Below is everything you need to know about this year’s event!

For the past year and a half, youth served through Community Programs (Therapeutic Foster Care, Home Based Services) have the opportunity to participate in Parents Night Out.

The month of June has been dedicated nationally as “Safety Month”. We are encouraged to take precautions as the summer months kick in and our sense of adventure is heightened. Wear sunscreen! Use bug spray! Watch out for animals on the trails! Contain your fire! All of these things help keep us safe in the general community.

But what about our community at work?

This year, the annual Alaska Run for Women took place on June 11. The mission of the event is "to raise money for and awareness of breast cancer and women’s health, and to showcase the talents of Alaska’s women athletes." Each year, this event serves as a vehicle for fundraising, participation, awareness and competition, and grant making to organizations concerned with breast cancer research, education, outreach, prevention and early detection.

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.

In honor of the original Alaska State Flag design created by Benny Benson in 1927, our students and staff have the opportunity each year to submit their own design for Alaska Flag Day!

In a combined Anchorage School District and Department of Fish and Game program designed to teach students about fish life cycle, students at AK Child & Family tracked the progress of fish from egg to hatchling over the course of this school year.

Origami Owl is a custom Jewelry company created by Bella Weems. They have lockets that are clear and you can add little charms to tell a personal story. As a group activity, the boys in Gaylor Cottage made very special and unique lockets for their mother or mother figures for Mother’s Day.

All along the way, the boys displayed the activity courtesies that we, as staff, teach them through recreation class, treatment assignments, and milieu therapy. I was very proud that each one tried to be genuinely helpful to each other and those around them.

May is National Foster Care Month and here at AK Child & Family are celebrating our Treatment Foster Parents and Families. We thought that it would be a good time to talk about some of the “myths’ that we here about regarding Foster Care. We will be doing a 4 part series of blogs this month about some of these myths.

The Kids Day booth was a huge success for both the staff at the booth and the kids who participated in the fantastic activity that Jay Her put together!

We know though the advancements in trauma research that people who have been traumatized have extreme difficulties with expressing emotions and with emotional control. As a result people with trauma history sometime unwittingly give signal to others that are quite disturbing. The following is a great example of how we help the children and families we work with express emotions as well as manage strong emotions when they are better prepared to express them.

AK Child & Family is blessed to have so many dedicated and talented individuals working for youth and families in Alaska. Every month we recognize and honor employee-nominated SPIRIT award winners in our all-staff meeting and highlight their accomplishment in the front office of our Jesse Lee Campus on Abbott Road for all visitors to the agency to see.

There’s something beautiful about seeing a community pull together to provide opportunities for our kids who may not have the opportunities otherwise. For the past few years I’ve seen the youth in our care attend a summer music program. I’ve seen some of these youth start off the program being shy with little to no knowledge of formal music theory and techniques; and by the end of the summer they are comfortably strumming away on their guitars and singing smoothly to background accompaniment.

Last week the students got a much deserved respite from the grind of school, and enjoyed a relaxing spring break at the units. The Recreation department worked hard to fill their schedule with plenty of additional programs and leisure recreation activities.

My family always goes to Phoenix during winter here in Alaska. We are snowbirds, I think the word is. Anyway, a couple of days ago my family left Phoenix, Arizona and came back here to Alaska. I already knew that a couple of days after we arrived in Anchorage we would be going to another symphony, so I was really excited and anxious to get back.

I had the amazing opportunity to attend our Spring Student Talent Show last Thursday, organized by the Spiritual Life department. Just as I expected, I did not leave disappointed! A bi-annual event, the Student Talent Show is a chance for our youth to showcase their skills, hobbies, interests, etc. and express themselves creatively in front of a supportive audience.

Sixteen years ago at Community Programs I was hired as the first Assistant Director. We had just moved to “the Abbey” a ramshackle office building on Tudor Road, called the Abbey after the teen night club that was once housed there. It was our first office building as Community Programs was previously housed in a residential home. We were feeling very professional with our own offices and small conference room.

Directed by James Redford, Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating youth who’ve experienced more than their fair share of complex trauma. Set amidst the rural community of Walla Walla, Washington, the film explores the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities - a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

AK Child & Family was honored to have crew members from the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation meet with our students during this month’s Community Role Model program. The pilots and crewchief were diverse in their backgrounds and cultures; similar to the very students we serve.

Every month we work to bring in someone from the community with a passion for working with youth and a track record of having made a difference in the community.

During the month of February, we have been highlighting the importance of increasing our cultural awareness & competency here at AK Child & Family, where both our staff and the students & families we serve represent a rich variety of cultural backgrounds.

Hello all! My name is Lauren Curran and I am so thrilled to be a new member of the AK Child & Family mission and team! As the Communications Coordinator, I will be managing much of the agency’s internal and external communications including newsletters, collateral and promotional materials and social media. Additionally, I will be involved in promoting agency events, community engagement and public relations.

Most of the buildings on the campuses of AK Child & Family are named after people who were a part of our history. Below is a story of one of those individuals:
Jesse Lee Cottage #1 is named after Lynn Gaylor and houses adolescent boys.

One month and a few days later, how are your New Year’s Resolutions going?

After working at AK Child & Family for almost ten years, I still feel the same passion and determination to continue improving the lives of the youth we serve. That passion and determination is in part due to the wonderful coworkers I’m surrounded by each day. Through our teamwork, we are able to empower our youth and help them believe in their own success.

On January 23rd representatives from AK Child & Family, Alaska Police & Fire Chaplains’ Ministries, The Children’s Lunchbox and Heart to Heart Pregnancy Resource Center met for lunch at the 1st United Methodist Church’s United Methodist Women’s General Meeting for the purpose of presenting the four charities with the funds that were raised in the December Christmas Auction.

As AK Child & Family continues its self care focus this month, we turn our attention to emotional self care. Emotional self care (as opposed to our last blog on physical self care) focuses on feelings of acceptance and value, feeling control over the events around us, feeling competent in our day to day, and feeling emotionally safe.

In 1999, The Board of Directors approved AK Child & Family’s Code of Ethics centered on the acronym SPIRIT which stands for Students, Positive, Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Teamwork. The R stands for Respect and our Code of Ethics says “We recognize individual efforts and contributions to our success. We ensure students, families and staff are treated with dignity and respect.” The theme of respect is also woven into our agency’s treatment principles.

During Spiritual Life activities we always pay special attention to the details of the environment we are in. First and foremost, we pay special attention to the fact that we are acting as God’s hands and feet in an environment where the young people we serve have been affected by traumas of every kind. As ambassadors for healing and a return to wholeness, we know that how we do what we do is as important, if not more so, than what we do. God’s in charge, we just “set the table.” And we work to do that beautifully and well so as to create glimpses of the Divine.

Order of the day- “You will write a “blog” on self care”.
Hhhmm! What is a blog? Self Care? What is that? When I think of self care- what comes to mind?

As caregivers we try to have an endless supply of compassion and empathy. We attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of those whom we care for and assist through their confusion and suffering. But being in the presence of and absorbing the strong emotions that come with this job can drain our wells of compassion and empathy. We have a responsibility to ourselves, as well as the youth we care for, to manage our stress and anticipate compassion fatigue (the overwhelming stress that can come for caring for others and subsequent burnout) the best we can. One way we can help combat compassion fatigue is through practicing self care.
Self care can mean a lot of different things to a different people.

Activity Therapists are Community Programs staff whose primary focus is to work one-on-one and occasionally in groups with the youth receiving services on developing and practicing skills that enable them to function normally and successfully. Part of that is making sure that the lessons/skills our youth learn, acquire and practice are tools the youth can use for life.

We’ve spent the last year celebrating our 125th anniversary, honoring our history and roots, acknowledging our struggles, resilience and growth, and reaffirming our priority of meeting the needs of Alaskan youth and families. This long, robust history provides a solid foundation as our journey continues.