In each [TAC] training, we see the use of a resource in a different way, discover new ways that the learning can be applied, and make connections that can apply outside the TAC training.Cortney Schlueter and Christine Bowlby, TAC Trainers
C.A.S.E. is very pleased to spotlight two TAC trainers from Nebraska, both of whom work with Right Turn, a collaboration between Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and Nebraska Children’s Home Society and the only statewide program focusing on post-adoption services.
Cortney Schlueter, LMHP, LADC the Right Turn Program Director, has over 15 years of experience working with children and families. Her passion for adoption first grew out of working with children in shelter and foster care beginning in 2001. Her clinical background includes extensive experience in assessment and providing treatment services in outpatient and residential treatment centers. She also has used her clinical skills to consult as part of the state’s child welfare reform efforts in 2010. Cortney completed her Masters Degree in Counseling from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in December of 2004.
Christine Bowlby, LMHP, RPT is the Training and Education Coordinator for Right Turn. Throughout her 18 years of practice, she has provided treatment and consultation for hundreds of children and families. Chris has extensive experience treating child sexual abuse and working with foster and adoptive families with attachment and trauma histories. She received her Master’s Degree from the University of Oklahoma and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University.
Cortney and Chris are remarkable TAC trainers who have trained four groups of Nebraska clinicians and provided the state with 45 adoption competent mental health professionals. They will begin two new cohorts this fall, one in Omaha and one in Scottsbluff, a very rural area of the state. The new class in Omaha will be the largest class they have taught with 16 students enrolled. The class in Scottsbluff is currently being registered.
When asked why they became TAC trainers, Cortney and Chris had similar responses. Chris described her excitement in bringing adoption competency training to mental health professionals throughout the state of Nebraska where, prior to the TAC, no such training program existed. Cortney shared the same excitement and her desire to be a part of a groundbreaking training. On a personal note, she describes how delighted she was to participate in the TAC Train the Trainers but had a four-month-old son from whom she would be away from for an entire week. The solution: her husband, her mother, and her son traveled to Baltimore with her for the training and made the experience a family affair.
Bringing the TAC to Nebraska was a key strategy in implementing the mission of Right Turn which was only two years old when the agency implemented the TAC. Right Turn had been receiving calls since its inception from adoptive families struggling to find quality mental health services for their families and their children. The agency’s assessments underscored the state’s critical need for adoption competent clinical services. The TAC was the solution that the agency had been seeking.
Chris and Cortney describe the tremendous sensitivity that TAC trainers must bring to the task as many students come to the training with personal experiences with adoption. Some are birth parents, grandparents of children for whom adoption plans have been made, adoptive parents and adopted persons. Chris states, “As trainers, we need to be very sensitive and supportive of students. It is essential that we create a supportive training environment. Even highly experienced adoption professionals can have strong emotional reactions to the training materials that are presented and the classroom discussion they generate.” Cortney adds, “We often follow up with students after class to see how they are doing and whether they are ready to move forward with the training.”
Classes to date have ranged from 7 to 14 students and the smaller size, Chris and Cortney believe, has helped to create an environment where students are willing to share their powerful personal and professional experience in adoption. They have observed how students truly bond with one another, look forward to seeing one another, and even bring in a favorite recipe to share. Their students have felt comfortable contacting them for consultations on cases to receive guidance on how to proceed. Often, even TAC graduates contact them for advice. These consultations are now being provided more formally through an ongoing TAC Consultation Group that Cortney and Chris host for TAC graduates. At the same time, both trainers agree that they themselves learn so much from their students.
Both Cortney and Chris have found it immensely satisfying to bring together mental health professionals from diverse fields – including social services, mental health and substance abuse — to learn how to serve all adoption populations – child welfare, private, and international adoption. The viewpoints of these different professionals greatly enrich the class. Chris comments, “It is so satisfying to help build a community of advocates for adoptive families.” Both agree on what has surprised them most: even highly experienced clinicians learn so much from the TAC training and the discussions held in class. As Cortney points out, “As TAC trainers, we used to wonder if we could enrich the experiences of professionals who come to the class with in-depth experience. We now see that these professionals embrace the opportunity to learn and grow in adoption competency.”
Thanks to the dedicated and expert work of Cortney and Chris, Nebraska’s community of adoption competent mental health professionals is growing to the benefit of the state’s adopted children and young people and their adoptive and birth families.