We NEED You NOW

Stories of hope and healing, like ours shared below, made possible by The Tree House of Montgomery County are at risk and we need your help. 

Here’s the low down –

The Tree House has been operating as a public-private partnership between Montgomery County Government and the Primary Care Coalition (PCC). Recently, they started the process of becoming a non-profit, out from under the PCC umbrella.

Becoming a Non-Profit would allow The Tree House much more flexibility in service delivery and open up additional avenues for funding…thereby allowing them to serve more children and families in need.  The Tree House planned to continue their important relationship with Montgomery County Government by partnering directly with the County.  

A lot of hard work and careful planning has gone into this transition process over the past year and a half and things were looking very promising!  All paperwork has been submitted, the Employer Identification Number (EIN) has been issued, and non-profit status is expected to happen anytime now.  

On Friday we learned that the $150,000 promised to The Tree House by Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) last November to help get started has been cut to $30,000. This is a crushing blow. Particularly as the money received from the County and most grants comes well AFTER services are provided…meaning this is not a matter of simply re-working a budget.

After learning this devastating news, The Tree House has looked into lines of credit, but the fees are unaffordable. Without the additional $150,000 of funding, The Tree House will have no other option than to cut staff and reduce service delivery in the coming months. 

We refuse to let this happen and are asking you to:

1. Contact the Montgomery County Council and let them know that The Tree House, Montgomery County’s ONLY Child Advocacy Center, is important to you and should be important to them. Final budget decisions lie in the Council’s hands.  

While contacting all of the Council members would be great, we especially hope you will reach out to George Leventhal and Craig Rice.  Mr. Leventhal chairs and Mr. Rice is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. Both have been key advocates for social service delivery across the County. Furthermore, we just learned that after hearing from concerned citizens, they have been in contact with Uma Ahluwalia, Director of DHHS.  She has assured them that DHHS will be working with The Tree House to restore this funding. So, in addition to sharing your concerns and the importance of this funding, please thank them for their service and advocacy thus far. While this is a seemingly hopeful turn in the story, I am only cautiously optimistic.  This has clearly already become political and such a reduction should have never been an option.  

Mr. Leventhal can be reached by phone at 240-777-7811 and by email at Councilmember.Leventhal@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Mr. Rice can be reached by phone at 240-777-7995 and by email at Councilmember.Rice@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Contact information for the entire Council can be found here.  

2. Private Funding will also help with this situation. So after you have contacted the County Council to share your thanks and concerns, join and/or donate to Team Burning Brightle for the 2017 Tour de Cookie on Saturday, May 6th. 100% of the proceeds from this sweet, family- friendly bike ride and expo go directly to The Tree House. 

To ride with Team Burning Brightle, click here and complete the online registration form. **Be sure to enter promotional code KPBB5OFF to receive $5 off your registration fee. Additional information about the event

If you aren’t able to attend the event, but would like to make a financial contribution, please visit our fundraising page here

_____________________________

1 in 4 children are victims of child abuse or neglect.
And, in the United States, 5 children die each day due to child abuse or neglect.

Each of the children and family members who make up these statistics have a name.  And a story.

While you may believe this kind of thing doesn’t happen where you come from, the numbers speak for themselves.  Child abuse and neglect do NOT discriminate.  It is happening to your son’s friend from Cub Scouts, kids in your youth group at church, your daughter’s BFF, the one who bullies your child at recess, the cousins who live together in low-income housing….the list could go on and on.  Yes, it is happening right in YOUR OWN backyard.

The good news?! There are safe places where these stories can be shared and handled with care.  Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) like The Tree House CAC of Montgomery County provide a range of specialized services to children and families impacted by child abuse and neglect.  Among the services provided are forensic interviews, medical services performed by a child abuse certified pediatrician, victim advocacy, psychological assessments, and on-going therapy.  Staff are trained on the impact of child abuse and neglect as well as trauma informed evidence-based practices.  Therapists and other staff are equipped and able to screen, assess, advocate for, support, and work with children and families. Together, they provide appropriate medical, psychological, psychiatric, and therapeutic interventions tailored to each child.  In general, this multidisciplinary approach allows the family to stabilize and work through the resulting trauma from the abuse and/or neglect.

In 2015, The Tree House provided services for over 700 children and families (over 800 in 2016).  The Phoenix Family is just ONE of them. Over the years, we went through multiple therapists with the girls…many times taking months for the girls to get settled and begin to share…only to be told those stories couldn’t be told.  Most of these therapists had the best of intentions, but were either ill-equipped or not permitted to provide the level of specialized services that the girls and our family so desperately needed.  As a result, the trauma continued to boil and eventually reached the tipping point…burning into the lives of the girls, our family, and members of our community.  At just 4 and 5 years old, the girls were experiencing such severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that they became self-injurious and aggressive towards others.  At times they even struggled with suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts and behaviors.  These cries for help reached the point of requiring multiple acute hospitalizations and eventually extended placements in a Residential Treatment Center.  We worked with countless professionals over the 5 years that we were therapeutic foster parents and the majority of them lost hope and labeled our girls as “damaged beyond repair”.

Today we are considered a “success story”.  There is NO doubt in my mind that the greatest influence on our success is the trauma-based and child & family-centered services we have received through The Tree House.  While our friends and their children were rushing off to extra-curricular activities, we were heading to therapy.  For two years we spent the majority of our afternoons and evenings at The Tree House, participating in individual (x3), family, group, and child/parent therapy.  In addition to providing the highest level of therapeutic interventions, our Tree House therapists (and all staff from receptionist to Director) believed in and advocated for our family, and the potential the girls had if afforded permanency through adoption.  This advocacy was crucial to the court case and lead to us being able to finalize all of the adoptions.  In short, the services provided were nothing short of life-saving.

To use the words of The Tree House,

 “The Tree House CAC of Montgomery County Maryland is dedicated to reducing trauma and promoting healing for child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Through an innovative collaborative process between the private and public sectors, key professionals come together on behalf of the best interests of victims. This effective early intervention is essential to ensure that an abused child or adolescent develops into a healthy and productive adult, capable of forming trusting and loving relationships. Underpinning the work of The Tree House is the belief that the cycle of child abuse can be broken and the knowledge that child abuse and neglect is preventable!”

Our girls were highlighted in The Tree Houses’ 2015 Annual Report.  Their names were changed for confidentiality, but I love how hope and healing is highlighted here and in the Tree House’s mission and vision shared above. All too often we hear about the negative impacts of abuse and neglect.  Most recently the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study has brought attention to the potential for long-term affects including early death, increased incidences of incarceration, physical illness, addiction, and depression to name a few.  While this is important information, this doesn’t have to be the plight of our children.  When offered timely & appropriate evaluations and treatment recommendations coupled with effective therapeutic services, children and families are able to strengthen.  This increases resiliency and has the potential to have a strong impact on reversing the negative impacts of adverse childhood experiences.  Our girls are living proof of this.

hope and healing pic 1

hope and healing 2 

About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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