Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children

Joan Sherman Program

     On September 9, 2011 SCAN, Inc. announced the founding of the Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children, thanks to a $534,930 donation from former SCAN volunteer and board member Joan Sherman. A former Fort Wayne resident, Sherman now lives in the New York City area. Sherman’s gift, which will be donated over 5 years, is the largest private donation SCAN has received in its 37-year history.

     The Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children will provide resources and staff training to further develop resiliency services and a site for collaborative research with the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, a nationally-recognized nonprofit leader in behavioural health. The partnership with Devereux Center for Resilient Children was established to conduct research on the adaptation of resiliency building programs and concepts known to work in school settings to SCAN’s Family Restoration Program.

     Resiliency is the ability of an individual to adapt and overcome biological and psychological hazards in life. Research shows children who have been traumatized can be taught specific resiliency skills that help them adapt and recover from the trauma. Devereux has developed scientifically-validated resiliency assessment and behavioural screening tools which are used with families in SCAN’s Family Restoration Division. Family Restoration serves those Allen County families who have already crossed the line of abuse and neglect and are referred by the courts and the Allen County Department of Child Services.

     In 2010, 60 percent of families completing Family Restoration services were able to improve parenting skills and the home environment to the level their children could return home safely. SCAN’s data show 91 percent of families who completed the Family Restoration program have not returned to services because of a new charge of abuse or neglect of a child.

The Devereux Center for Resilient Children

     Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012, Devereux is the largest non-profit behavioural health organization in the United States and the leader in development of programs and services that foster resiliency in children and the adults who care for them. With headquarters in Villanova, Pa., Devereux has been providing high quality human services to children, adults, and families with special needs deriving from behavioural, psychological, intellectual, or neurological impairments. Devereux’s Institute of Clinical Training and Research provides a variety of resources and skill-based training services for direct-care/direct-support professionals throughout its own network of service providers and to more than 100 human service, educational and behavioural health-care organizations in the United States. Visit


Four Day Resiliency Training Kicks off Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children

     The Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children officially kicked off in January with four days of training for Family Restoration staff, additional key SCAN personnel and several individuals from other community agencies serving children and families. The training was made possible through the generosity of former SCAN board member and volunteer, Joan Sherman and her husband, Don, now of New York City. In September the Shermans announced they were donating $534,930 over five years to SCAN to SCAN to fund training and research in Resiliency, with a goal of improving the outcomes of children affected by abuse and neglect.

     Attendees at the recent training learned to “help children pack their suitcase” for life by equipping them with the skills and tools to not just survive but thrive and be successful in spite of the life-altering trauma, explains Linda Likens, National Director of the Early Childhood Initiative for the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.

     “Resiliency is the ability to recover from or adjust to change or misfortune,” says Rachel Sperry, national trainer for Devereux. During the training, staff learned, then role-played various approaches to working with children with challenging behaviours and their caregivers and families.

     The old way of thinking, when trying to change a child’s negative behaviours was, “This is wrong. Let’s fix it. But this is a strength-based approach", Likens points out. “We see the child’s strengths and build on them. Challenging behaviours indicate a lack of protective factors. If a child is acting out we attempt to build in the child protective factors.“ added Sperry, “A challenging behaviour is a message to us that the child is in need of help in building certain skills.”


   Children are assessed for protective factors when they are referred for services by the court system to SCAN’s Family Restoration Division. For example, if on the assessment a child is low in self-control, which is a protective factor, the Family Restoration caseworker, now called a Family Resiliency Worker, uses specific hands-on activities and strategies with the child and the parents during the Supervised Visitation time.

     “We can help children be resilient by helping their families be resilient, “ Sperry said, noting great attention is placed on creating an environment that helps the child progress in developing protective factors. The Family Resiliency Worker serves as mentor and coach, guiding the parent during visitations to perhaps make eye contact with the child or to engage the child in conversation in such a way the child builds confidence in expressing opinions and behaviours without ridicule or being discounted.

     Visitations take on consistency and planning in content, from the initial greeting parents give children to the activities, which are “recipes, ” Sperry says, for building protective factors, to sharing snacks and meals together, clean-up time and a review of what was accomplished and the plans for the next visit, which include clean-up time together followed by a review of what specific protective factors were addressed that day and what the plan is for coming sessions.

     “From the get go, we encourage the entire visit to promote positive behaviours,” Sperry says. During a visit, “When a child literally loses it, the caseworker is helping the parent identify the emotion,” understanding why the child is behaving that way, and coaching the parent to redirect the child or address the issue causing the behaviour.

     Kathleen Rusher, administrator of the CHINS Division for the Allen Superior Court Family Relations Division, attended the training and said it strongly complements what the family courts are doing to engage families in every step of the adjudication process involving a child in need of services. She points out, “Kids can get Resiliency factors from people besides just their families.” Resiliency, the Search Institute 40 Assets and other strength-based programs are “your way of being, not a program,” Rusher said.

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