A Day in the Life of a Child & Family Therapist
“Children who have experienced trauma can act out in all sorts of ways,” Hillary says. “They can swear, they can yell, they can hurt other children. Most people respond to this by reacting to the behavior—basically by saying ‘don’t do that.’ But it’s our job to ask: ‘What are you trying to tell me with this behavior? What do you need?’”
Hillary is about to continue, but an intercom page interrupts her. She’s needed in a classroom—a child on her case load is becoming too frustrated to interact with their peers, and needs extra support. “I’m sorry,” Hillary says, with one foot out the door. “I’ll be right back!”
Hillary Winslow-Simpson (above), who has worked at Childhaven for 13 years, is a Child and Family Therapist, or CFT: an on-site clinical professional with a background in social work and psychology. CFTs at Childhaven provide mental health services, such as specific therapies that help trauma-affected parents and children relate to and help one another. But that’s not all they do.
Every child who enters our program is assigned to one of our CFTs, who provides an initial assessment of the child’s development and condition. Then, the CFT works with the child’s parents and teachers on a personalized treatment plan, setting goals to reach in the classroom as growth and learning take place.
“For older kids, a lot of the goals are around managing their feelings,” Hillary explains. “Especially frustration, which can go through the roof pretty quickly. We teach our kids that they can give themselves a time-out if they need it—it’s not a punishment, it’s a way of calming down and providing self-care.”
Child and Family Therapists also support the true heroes in our kids’ lives: their parents or caregivers. “Many of our parents struggle with mental illness, depression, anxiety—you name it,” Hillary says. “They’ve experienced trauma just like our kids have: domestic violence, poverty, gang violence. But they’re still doing the best they can to be good parents.”
Therapists like Hillary model what nurturing family bonds look like both for parents and children. “We need to help them feel celebrated for who they are,” she says. “We’re constantly affirming that they are worthy of love and support.”
“I worked with one little boy who was so angry when he came to Childhaven,” Hillary remembers. “I would ask him nicely not to touch things in my office and he’d actually growl at me and shake his fist!” She laughs. “Mom had some mental health challenges, but she came to every parent group we held, and all the treatment plan meetings. She really wanted things for her and her son to improve.”
“Today,” Hillary says, tearing up, “that boy is one of the sweetest kids at Childhaven. He’s always running around smiling, and he makes little hearts for his mom and all the teachers during arts and crafts time. And mom has been in stable housing and employment for a while now.”
“Childhaven became part of their extended family,” Hillary points out. “We helped them through a really rough patch—that’s what families do for each other.”
IN MEMORIAM: GINGER ACKERLEY
Ginger Atwood Ackerley, civic leader, business woman, wife, mother, grandmother, and passionate supporter of Childhaven’s mission, passed away early in the morning on January 5th. She was 79 years old.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Mrs. Ackerley was a graduate of Kent Place School in New Jersey and went on to attend Duke University. After college, she was a model in New York City where she and her husband Barry met on a blind date. They were married in July of 1963.
In addition to being a dedicated wife and mother, Mrs. Ackerley immediately immersed herself in civic and community work.
In 1987, Mrs. Ackerley was recruited by Mr. Ackerley to take a full time role in the corporate offices of Ackerley Communications to launch and chair Ackerley Corporate Giving, the philanthropic arm of the company. She would lead the development of a strategic initiative that would annually contribute 6% of its annual gross revenues in cash and in-kind services to communities it business operations served all across America.
In 1997 she and Mr. Ackerley founded the Ginger and Barry Ackerley Foundation, which is devoted to improving the lives and futures of northwest children. Childhaven is grateful to have partnered with the foundation to improve the lives of trauma-affected children since 1987. Over the last three decades, the Ackerley Foundation has helped us deepen our impact on the most vulnerable children and families in our community.
Ackerley additionally founded and served as Chairperson of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and was the recipient of many lifetime achievement awards. Among them were the Junior Achievement-Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame Laureate Award, the Washington Policy Center’s Champion of Freedom Award, the Seattle Sports Commission’s Paul G. Allen Award, the Washington Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award as well as the Corporate Council for the Arts (ArtsFund).
Mrs. Ackerley was a deeply devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She enjoyed boating in the Pacific Northwest with her family, summers on San Juan Island with her grandchildren and winters in the California desert with family and friends.
Everyone at Childhaven sends the Ackerley family well wishes during this time, and we salute Ginger for her indefatigable service to her community.
We’d like to give a special shout-out to the 100+ organizations that supported our Holiday Giving program in 2017! Thank you for making the holidays brighter for children and families! Here’s a list of our top ten contributors:
Starbucks (Dave Sheldon)
Swedish (Sherry Martin)
To respect the privacy of the children and families we serve, we may change their names in articles and/or use stock photos.
Heart art by: The Childhaven Toddlers