Karen Olivier’s Montrose Wolf Award Acceptance Speech

“Receiving the Montrose Wolf Distinguished Contributor Award in honor of Dr. Montrose Wolf makes me very glad I knew him well enough, if just to say, that his positive, and encouraging style of working with people served as a touchstone for me personally and professionally. And so, I am overwhelmed and humbled to accept this award that is always such a powerful reminder of the exceptional personhood of Mont Wolf and his legacy to our field.

Lately, there has been cause for personal reflection and most of my thoughts have focused on how I came to be part of this best practice model we call Teaching-Family. My first and only job before becoming part of the Model was in a residential program with severely disturbed and psychotic children and youth. And, as good as we thought we were at implementing clinical and behavior programs, I didn’t see a lot of change in the kids with whom I was worked. Inside those concrete institutional walls with so many shift staff, quiet times, and lock down rooms, there were many of what I now know were, lost children. Lost in the sense that they no longer had a family, didn’t live in a family and back then, didn’t have a hope of getting a family.

I would like to say something important and meaningful that will stay with you past this evening and long after the conference. But after sitting with the practitioners at the Award Luncheon yesterday, and hearing some of their stories I was reminded again of the origins of the Teaching Family Model. And that is, practitioners are the heart of the Model, and if I may carry out this analogy a little further, the kids and families are the soul of the model. These are the people that have important and relevant messages for all of us that we need to pay attention to in our agencies, and our communities back home.

I believe we would all say that we experience the Teaching Family model at our own agencies in individual and unique ways. But, we are bound together by common values and purpose. And that commonality allows us to talk and learn together in spite of far-flung geography, politics, legislation, and funding issues. This Association that represents all of us, as we diligently work in our respective corner of the world, is a pretty special thing. It is worth guarding as a precious commodity, and it is worth the time and investment of its members.

As TFA members, our collective job is to continue to strengthen and promote a high fidelity, high quality model that continues to evolve and change in response to the needs of the people we serve. We need to be accountable to those youth and families, and to each other to continue to achieve the best possible intervention outcomes. The outcomes are simple: we must work fiercely to keep children home with their parents and in their own family, and failing that, rebuild broken families, and failing that, create new families that will invest in children and be there for them, forever.

All the work we do as an Association must continue to support better and better outcomes for kids and families. We have to be creative and innovative as we flex and adapt the model in our practice. We must carefully mentor and replicate our knowledge with each other and with new agencies. And we must be champions and advocates for the children, families and individuals we serve through the use of our quality assurance mechanisms, our collective knowledge and expertise and through current, reliable TFM research. There is never a shortage of things to do in this Association and back at our agencies. And the participation, energy and encouragement of TFA members keep us strong and moving forward.

In closing, I would like to recognize some important people with a special thank you:

First of all, to the Founders of the Teaching Family Model for paving the way for all of us to continue to build and evolve programs that build on their legacy.

To the Association members, the TFA Board and my many TFA colleagues over the years for the privilege of working being able to work with you on so many meaningful committees, projects and initiatives that have contributed to my knowledge of the Model. And, a special thank you to Peggy, our Executive Director for your enthusiastic advocacy of the Model and for being so supportive to me personally.

A BIG THANK YOU goes out to my own agency of whom a number are present here tonight. At Closer To Home, the practitioners and staff there embody all that is good and positive and every day brings their passion and commitment to our children and families. The team of people I get to work with are just amazing. You never give up, and you inspire me!

And finally, I want to thank Diane Jaeger, my colleague and dear friend who still continues to impress me with her unflagging dedication, insight, and forward thinking vision. Without your support I know I wouldn’t be standing here today. After 20 plus years of working so closely together, I am betting we will make it to til death do we part.

Tonight’s recognition in this community of professionals makes me truly grateful for all the wonderful moments over the years, for all the big hearts and brilliant minds I have encountered, for the learning and wisdom you have all freely shared and for the friendships I hope to have for years to come. I thank you all.”