Integrated Family Services
Children are my heart; my life has been devoted to ensuring a better world for children. Our two sons and two daughters have become some of the best adults we know and some of our best friends. Their children, (all 14 of them!) of course, are the best grandchildren anyone has ever had!
I am very blessed to have a history of caring for about 70 foster children, from 1988 to 2010. What a privilege it was to be part of healing hurt children. I treasure every one of them and am in touch with many of them. In the meantime, I began a journey at the legislature trying to change the system for the youngest foster children. Their sense of time and attachment issues deserved better attention than was being paid them. Their foster parents, who loved them dearly, needed a forum to advocate for those children. In 1993, we passed "The Foster Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" which created a task force to change procedures and laws. Eventually, this work caused a 1997 legislative bill that created a way for foster parents to intervene in court cases and advocate for their children. When I had become a foster parent, there was no avenue for me to advocate in court for the children I loved and protected. With a lot of work, we had changed that system. Who better to provide information to Courts about the children than those who care for them 24/7?
In 1994, with a lot of work behind the issue, we created Expedited Permanency Planning for foster children 0-6 in the state. This is when attention began to be paid to children's early attachment issues and brain growth issues. What an achievement! I thought I had set out to pass these two laws (advocacy forums for foster parents and attachment issues addressed in law) and I could go home and just rock foster babies. I was wrong, and my advocacy continued at the legislature for foster children. In my early years at the legislature, I would take my current baby with me, in order to bring a tangible person to demonstrate who we were talking about. I got too old to get up all night with them, then take them to the legislature, but continued to lobby for our children.
By 2005, I had received numerous calls from divorced parents who were having terrible difficulties protecting their children within the divorce system. I always felt under-trained in this field, and could not offer much of tangible help. However, enough phone calls came in to convince me to become trained in this field and see if I could help some of the children of divorce. I became a professional mediator, mediating family disputes, and then became a Court-Appointed Child and Family Investigator (CFI) in 2006.
I have found that my forte' is in Mediation work, PC/DM, and now, supervised parenting time. I have found that some of my child clients look very similar to my foster children, with tough backgrounds and hurting families. When a child 'wins,' then I feel again, "what a privilege to do this work."
Mediation has been very successful for me. It is touching to find the human emotion - most often hurt - that lies at the base of most conflict. A great deal of healing for families can take place in mediation. Mediation is a significant process that often works.
My education is very complex and long-range. As a student, I attended the Oregon Institute of Technology for pre-medical studies, and was admitted to the U of Washington Medical School in 1970, but soon decided to stay home with our 3 year old son, who needed me more than medical school did at that time. My years raising our two sons and two daughters included a great deal of ongoing education in the social work and philosophy field. During our 23 years as foster parents, Jim and I attended about a hundred hours a year of mostly very advanced training in all of the fields required to be a good family expert: family dynamics, childhood development, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, attachment and brain development, etc. When lobbying at the legislature, I learned to read law as well as re-write law. After becoming a CFI in 2006, I continued my ambitious yearly training. I then worked hard to also obtain a BA degree in Family Assessment and Child Placement from Metro University of Denver (Individual Degree Plan) in order to bring together all of those years of training!
My bottom line is that children should always come first in all of the work I do. I have been grateful to find the courage to take a stand that might be uncomfortable for adults but good for children in my cases. It is good to be of use to the world, especially if that means making life better for children.