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Happily Ever After?

The conference title: Happily Ever After? was an interesting choice for a conference held at Disney World, “the happiest place on earth.” It is also a sharp contrast to the people and lives we interact with daily to find their happiness; a critical reminder of the important nature of our work.

Holly Grant, Treatment Foster Care Supervisor, and I attended the four day Conference, July 20 – 23, along with 600 plus other attendees; clinicians, supervisors, foster parents and senior managers from all parts of the United States. Alaska was well represented with 13 participants and our very own Rev. Dr. Michael Oleksa providing the Networking Luncheon Session: Communicating in a Multi-cultural Society. Needless to say he was a huge hit. We are thankful and appreciative that our participation was made possible by the generous financial support of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority through the Bring the Kids Home Initiative.

The take-home message for me continues to be how to help kids heal from their traumatic past and find stability through family reunification or other lifelong permanent connections. We need to work harder at the time children first enter services to address family needs and restore stability. Unfortunately, youth come into services in early to mid-adolescence making the treatment process challenging as they deal with adolescent developmental issues at the same time as they address family and behavioral problems. For those youth not returning home, attending to their grief and loss concurrently with intensive permanency planning with the Office of Children’s Services, needs to be a treatment priority. Too often, behavioral health programs focus primarily on behavior, not underlying grief / loss / trauma and fail to prioritize the need for children to find a stable family in which to grow up in.

There are many program models now that engage birth families even when children are adopted by foster families. This relationship allows the child a safe and stable home while maintaining a sense of identity and belonging. Children can tolerate more than we often give them credit, if we tell them the truth and earn their trust. At AK Child & Family, Treatment Foster Care is not intended as a “forever home”, but a healing place and a permanent connection to caring adults that helps them reunify with their family or to help them find their “forever home.” We recognize that all of us need a stable home and a permanent family, so that we can live, “Happily Ever After.”

Sponsors of the 2014 FFTA conference
AK Child & Family
Aldea Children & Family Services
Alternative Family Services
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Bair Foundation
Camelot Community Care
Centers for Youth & Families
The Children's Guild
Creative Community Services, Inc.
Engage PEO
FFTA Maryland Chapter in Honor of Steve Howe
Growing Home Southeast
KVC Health Systems
The MENTOR Network
Omni Visions
Pressley Ridge
Rapid Resource for Families
Therapeutic Foster Care at the Kennedy Krieger Institute
Turning Point Family Services
The Village Network