Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Home Cooking for the Holidays


     Alyssa Richard, Operations Coordinator, for Laraway's Backpack Program had an idea.  She asked staff to share some of their favorite recipes and she created a recipe book for client families.  Her colleagues answered the call and Backpack's first cookbook is being sent home to families along with Holiday Baskets chock full of holiday treats, gift certificates and hats, gloves and mittens.  Backpack staff solicit donations for these baskets each year from area businesses.  Thank you donors!  Thank you staff!  Thank you, Alyssa, for your really cool idea!
      We share two of the recipes below:
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Prep 20 m        Cook 20 m      Ready In 40 m
·         3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
·         1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
·         1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon dried thyme
·         1 tablespoon dried basil
·         1/2 cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Cut chicken breasts into 1 1/2-inch sized pieces. In a medium bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, thyme and basil. Mix well. Put melted butter in a bowl or dish for dipping.
  3. Dip chicken pieces into the melted butter first, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the well-coated chicken pieces on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Easy Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
Prep 5 m          Cook 10 m      Ready In 15 m
·         1 (16 ounce) can refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits
·         1 (9.6 ounce) package Jimmy Dean(R) Original Hearty Pork Sausage Crumbles
·         1/4 cup flour
·         2 1/2 cups milk
·         Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Bake biscuits according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, cook sausage in large skillet over medium heat 5-6 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk; cook until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Split biscuits in half. Place 2 halves on each of 8 plates; top with about 1/3 cup gravy.
*Backpack is a public-school-based, behavioral intervention support program.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gifts for the Season and Beyond

     It’s often said this is “the most wonderful time of the year!” You can also say this is the most EXPENSIVE time of the year! Between gifts and travel and increased costs for heating and electricity, we can find ourselves looking for ways to save a buck or two. To help you with your holiday budgets, I have three gifts for you:
      Gift #1- Breathing.  Life can get busy and stressful; sometimes we need help and support from others. Something we can do with and for ourselves is to breathe. Go ahead, take a deep breath. Feels good, huh? Now try a few in a row. Deep breathing has been shown to have a positive impact on your brain, heart, digestive and immune systems--Wow!
      Gift #2- Five Senses. My son has recently introduced me to meditation and yoga practices. We are fortunate to have many options right here in our local communities--Google the name of your town and yoga. Yoga and meditation are wonderful for bringing you into the immediate moment and freeing you from the worries or sadness of the past or future. A simple way to do this on your own is to think about your five senses. Take a moment to focus on what you hear, see, smell, taste or feel. This simple mindfulness activity can go a long way in bringing your stress and anxiety levels down.
      Gift #3- Appreciating and Celebrating. No matter how tough things get, all of us have many things going well in our lives and much for which to be thankful. Friends, family, pets, a favorite sports team, ice cream, doing well at school or work--the list can go on and on. Because life gets so busy, it’s important we take time to appreciate and celebrate those joys and successes. You can do this as part of your own reflection, or even better, involve others. Begin a meal by asking each person to share some good news from the day. Let a co-worker know about something you saw them do really well. There are many ways we can recognize and celebrate each other.

      I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and Holiday Season!!  Please enjoy these gifts and share them with others.  ~By Greg Stefanski

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Poem by AH: My eyes have seen a lot...has yours?

My eyes have seen a lot...has yours?
Where are you as I wait at the top of the stairs for you to return?
March 29th 2016 I needed you
now you message me? what will this lead to?
I remember the bang as I hide here alone and scared
where my life almost ended.....
I pack my own lunch why don't you do it?
music is my escape
school is where I'll always be successful

     AH, a youth in Laraway's therapeutic foster care program, attends a local public high school.  She  plans to become a cosmetologist and is enrolled in an academic program in which she's actively shadowing practitioners as she learns about the field.  She's also part of  a Photo Voice project, funded by a grant from Healthy Lamoille Valley, in which Laraway youth are documenting the impact of substance abuse via photos and text.
     Laraway will co-host an Opening Reception with Healthy Lamoille Valley at Laraway's Johnson Campus on March 13th, 2018.  Stay tuned for details.

Monday, November 27, 2017

#Giving Tuesday: The Collective Power of Us

     #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement fostered by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. #GivingTuesday harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season. 
     #Giving Tuesday inspires us to take collective action to improve our communities.  It's about giving back in better, smarter ways to initiatives and causes we believe in.  It's a collective acknowledgement that we're all in this together. 
     #GivingTuesday harnesses the power of us, to build a better world.  To support Laraway Youth & Family Services' work with children, youth and families, please visit us at and click the Donate button to make a secure gift.  If you wish to come for lunch and/or arrange a tour of our campus, please contact Katherine Stamper at (802) 635-2805 x 106 or  Thank you!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Music as a Therapeutic Tool by Ashley McCauliff, Behavior Interventionist

     There is so much derived from music--there is kinetic narrative in a child who is amidst dysregulation--the body seeks to achieve catharsis via manifestation of anxiety, displaced anger, false bravado--telegraphed in the seemingly mindless exchange of objects among a table, "the search for the elusive nothing" is the lyrical enactment of a body in crisis.
     As the winter approaches, there is limited opportunity to disperse of this energy--having witnessed the beautiful equilibrium 20 minutes on a drum set achieves, or the melodic calm of working in tandem with a child to learn the opening chords to "Jump" by Van Halen has--I believe, with immovable conviction, music is so, so an integral part of Laraway.
     Allow me to recount the afternoon I sat in on a flock of children and staff orchestrating the story of that moment; then, cohesive, healing:
     Today there was a keyboard alight with electric funk--skillful notes ricocheted off the surrounding skulls and inhabited the snare drum in vibratory triumph-they were long, brassy hums reminiscent of a computerized Tibetan Monk--each key jangled loose the opening seconds, that gloriously haunting synth intro: classic eighties noise capable of waking you at 3 a.m. so as to remind you it’s still there,  doing figure eights on your hippocampus----there it was--the most natural kind of glibness--where I might sing, broken keyed, "it's the final countdown, (dun-na-na-na, dun-na-na-na-na (poorly transcribed phonetic rendition of proceeding beats) and incite a modicum of laughter.
     The children arrived, hot blooded, placated by nothing but the symphony of their outpourings upon that piano. I watched them, first buzzing and electric, thunderous, wailing--transform into bodies with purpose, the joyous agony and emotive power of their pain echoed, shook free to the somber, sorrowful, then resilient cry of music, as harmonious and wondrous as ever I'd heard.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Laraway Receives $8,000 Grant from Mobius Mentoring

"Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction."
~John Crosby

     Can you think of someone who mentored you?  Maybe it was a teacher who stayed after school to help you unravel a pesky math problem...reinforcing that you could "do math."  Maybe it was a coach who worked with you on your fast ball...demonstrating that practice and determination pay off.  Maybe it was a classmate's parent who hosted you for homework time and dinner after school, knowing your parents were working second shift or, simply, there were struggles at home.
     Mentors can and do make huge difference in the lives of children.  Laraway serves children and youth at risk.  Many of our clients are hindered in their ability to participate in "traditional"after school activities---due to mental health issues or simply lack of transportation---where mentoring relationships grow spontaneously.  For this reason, we are delighted and appreciative to Mobius Mentoring for an $8,000 grant to create a mentoring program for students at Laraway School.  Stay tuned...more stories to come!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Celebrate the Harvest: Laraway Hosts Lamoille Chamber of Commerce Mixer October 10th


     George Swanson, Laraway's Land Steward, has been busy planting, tending and harvesting produce from our large and bountiful garden.  Food items were carefully planned with our cafeteria staff to insure high nutritional impact and value.  Laraway youth are also involved in the planning and planting although they seem to like harvesting the best!
     Why does this matter?  It matters because over 90% of the children and youth Laraway serves qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch per federal guidelines.  Providing nutritional breakfasts and lunches during both the academic year and summer programming insure kids' are well-fueled for classroom learning and educational adventures alike.
     Laraway is delighted to partner with the Lamoille Chamber of Commerce to host a "Celebrate the Harvest" Mixer on Thursday, October 10th from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Visitors will sample foods showcasing items grown on site, view a harvest-themed photo exhibit, participate in an optional scavenger hunt, and mingle with area business leaders.
     For more information and/or to RSVP, please contact Katherine Stamper at (802) 635-2805, x 106

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lessons Learned in Backpack's Talent Show

"Thank you for everything.  Thank you for being there," a Backpack Program camper expressed to Josh, one of Laraway's exployees who is leaving to pursue continued studies.
     The heartfelt speech came near the end of Backpack's Talent Show, a staple of summer programming at Laraway.  The teen worked with Josh over the last few years.  His words showed the value---a positive effect---of staff  connections to the youth we serve.
     The Talent Show featured card tricks and mind-reading magic tricks.  There were cart wheels, sprints and a few fancy flips.  One youth drew laughter with his "Am I (acting) Annoying?" routine.  Songs and a hastily choreographed dance number by "Sara and the Alyssas (and Tom)" rounded out the performances in the shade of a large, white tent on Laraway's campus.  Homemade maple lemonade kept performers healthy and hydrated for their on-stage antics.
     It's worth noting that a card trick didn't go well...the first time.  Audience applause and encouragement found the youth---under the supportive gaze of the audience---TRY AGAIN and SUCCEED. 
     Expressing gratitude.  Standing in front of a crowd and performing.  Sharing your voice, humor, dance moves and, yes, your capacity to be "annoying" are all valuable lessons.  Persevering when the magic LIFE requires isn't working and trying again...this, too, is an important life lesson.
     Thank you Backpack Campers and Backpack Staff for another awesome summer program!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

CLiF presenter Simon Brooks tells tantalizing tales at Book Give-away at Laraway

  "If you like dark and scary and weird and twisted...then Roald Dahl is for you!"
     This is how CLiF presenter and masterful storyteller Simon Brooks introduced one of the books available for students to take keep.  And then, he started to tell stories, amazing stories of fishing trips gone awry and other adventures, punctuated by all manner of sound effects and dramatic gestures.  The kids laughed.  The adults laughed.  We were hooked.
     Each student, from kindergarten to high school, was allowed to choose two books thanks to a CLiF Summer Readers Grant.  Selections were made from fiction and non-fiction tomes as kids returned to their seats to read or be read to.
     The Children's Literacy Foundation puts books in the hands of children to encourage a love of reading.  Laraway students benefit greatly from this program.  For more information about CLiF, please visit

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer Program at Lararway Begins

     Driving along Route 15 in Johnson, you might notice activity afoot at Laraway Youth & Family Services. Gardens are tended with the promise of fresh vegetables for the cafeteria. Fruit-bearing trees, planted last year, stretch and grow, aiming towards a maturity that will yield apples, plums and nuts. A line of solar trackers gently follows the direction of the sun---like synchronized dancers---harnessing the sun's energy.
     Just as we tend to our landscape, Laraway staff tend even more significant gardens, the gardens of our youth. Founded in 1972, Laraway addresses the needs of at-risk youth who experience social, behavioral, mental health and learning challenges. Laraway provides these services in a community setting.
     Passersby will see children and youth from our school, foster care and public-school-based programs playing basketball, engaging in outdoor art projects, and tending flowers and vegetables in this fertile parch of Vermont soil. A walking trail leads to the Lamoille River, a great spot to dip down fishing rods on a warm, sunny morning.
     Laraway staff and youth will settle in for our summer program, which includes components of service, learning and creative activities to enhance self-confidence. Let the summer fun---and learning---begin!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

First Trailblazer and College Scholarships Awarded!

SCHOLARSHIP:  A sum of money or other aid granted to a student because of merit, need, etc.

     Three Laraway youth are graduating from high school and continuing their studies.  One will attend college in Vermont.  One will attend college in New York City.  One will attend a technical training program at a college in New Hampshire.  Each has received a $500 scholarship to aid with college expenses.
     Scholarships are like "Pennies from Heaven" for students trying to figure out how to pay for college.  The rising cost of education can impede a young person's view of whether or not continuing their educations is even a possibility.  Youth at Laraway, many of whom lack traditional family supports, may be the first in their family to pursue a degree...a great opportunity and a great challenge!  Stick-with-it-ness counts for much on this journey.
     It was just over a year ago that Fr. Rick Swanson and Tim Heath-Swanson approached Laraway about creating a scholarship fund by hiking the Long Trail and asking friends, family and community members to make financial gifts.  Through their efforts---and l-o-n-g walk on the trail---they met and exceeded their $10,000 goal, creating the Trailblazer Scholarship for Laraway Youth pursuing education in the trades and/or IT fields.
     The Trailblazers inspired an effort to create another scholarship for Laraway youths attending college.  Jake Swanson, award-winning owner of Art of the Carve, donated one of his wood carvings which was raffled off, raising $1,000.
     These funds were not easy to raise.  Board members, staff members and many community friends chipped in.  Members of St. John's in the Mountains Episcopal Church and the 2nd Congregational Church of Hyde Park also stepped up to support the scholarships.  Laraway's directors, teachers and administrative support staff bought tickets and made outright donations to help us realize our fundraising goals.
     And now, we have three students leaving Laraway to pursue their educations, with scholarships and warm wishes for their continued studies.
     Thank you to EVERYONE who supported the creation of these scholarships!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On track to graduate

DC is on track.  He’s graduating from Hazen Union High School in June, having successfully completed one year in the construction program at the Green Mountain Technical and Career Center (GMTCC).  His is hopeful that his part-time job at All Metals Recycling in Hardwick becomes full-time upon graduation. He’s a certified boxing trainer.  He comes from a family with a military background and plans to enlist in the coming year.
            At nineteen, DC stands 5’9” and 200 pounds.  “I like picking up heavy things,” he says with a hint of a laugh."  DC sorts and grades different metals at his job and prepares them for shipment.  “I’m a hands-on sort of guy.”
            DC’s participation in boxing seems a logical extension of his kinesthetic strengths.  He trains for and participates in bouts sponsored by the Northern New England Golden Gloves of Vermont.  He’s completed certification to be a trainer.  He’s presently training a 50-year-old man eager to learn the sport.
            DC speaks with fondness for his own trainer, Armand Geleno.  “He’s 89 and he has more heart than anyone I know.”
            School wasn’t always a positive experience for DC.  After encountering some difficulties, he was assigned a Behavioral Interventionist (BI) from Laraway’s Backpack Program to work with him in 7th grade at his public school. 
            “At first, I wasn’t too happy having someone with me at school,” he said.  “He did help me knuckle down and do my work.  It’s a really good support system, helping me to focus on my goals and what I need to do to achieve them.”
            Incentives are woven into the Backpack program.  Students who meet their goals during the week choose a fun activity to engage in with their BI.  DC particularly enjoyed ice fishing.  He remains an avid fisherman, fishing all the time.  Asked if he preferred a particular catch, he said, “Anything I can fry up” and then volunteered that brook trout sautéed with a bit of butter is especially good!
            As he reflects on his high school experience, DC is particularly proud of a project he worked on at GMTCC.  Students built a double-wide modular home.  He worked on the roofing, flooring and walls.
            “The building got done,” he said.  “Someone is currently living in it.”
            After graduation, DC plans to work full-time for a year and then enlist in the military.  He has family members who’ve served in the Army.
            “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” DC said.  “It’s a chance to learn, to gain discipline.  It’s a good opportunity to give back.”
            "DC has been a pleasure to be able to work with and watch grow into a strong, funny, witty and charismatic young man," said Brittany Rogers, a Laraway Behavior Consultant.  "He has worked very hard in the past two years to prepare himself for this upcoming transition into independence.  I wish him the best and look forward to hearing about his successes when I see him in the future."
              "Since starting to work with DC, he has continued to show growth and demonstrate responsibility," said Laraway Case Manager Elysa Daily.  "Having been able to get connected with a job through Pathways at his school has really helped him to meet his goals and strive to be better!  We will all be sad to see DC transition out, but wish him the best of luck after he graduates!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Alicia Stone, Clinical Intern: Giving youths space, to heal

            Alicia Stone has a crown tattooed on her finger.  It’s serves as a reminder that she, as young woman and aspiring professional, deserves to be treated well.
            Alicia, a student in the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program at St. Michael’s College, has been interning under the supervision of Matt Sadowsky, Director of Laraway’s Clinical Program.  She earned an undergraduate degree from Johnson State College in 2010 and spent several summers working as a behavioral interventionist at Laraway.  She’s worked with a variety of age groups, but found a special affinity in working with kids.
            Alicia experienced some losses in her adolescence.  “I had some bad experiences with therapists when I was a teenager,” Alicia said.  “I want these kids to know that, whatever they’re facing, you CAN get to the other side.  Adolescents are a vulnerable population, between childhood and adulthood.  Rebellion is part of the process.”
            Alicia’s office is bright and cheerful with an image of a large, red heart on the wall.  There’s a stuffed animal---a brown bear---on her bookshelf and plenty of small manipulative toys to keep youthful hands busy while encouraging free-flowing, spontaneous chatter.
            When kids show up for therapy appointments, she may experience a variety of youthful emotions.  Some arrive ready to chat while engaging her in a game of Pokemon or a romp outside on Laraway’s 39-acre campus.  Others might be quiet, even sullen because of something that happened.  That’s when she gives them space.
            “You’re there for them, to hold their emotion,” she said.  “They don’t always like to let others in to help.”  This is when she might simply let them know she’s there if they want to talk.  Just being there, as a stable, supportive adult, can be helpful.
            Asked what she likes about interning at Laraway, Alicia smiled and said, “Every day is different.  Sometimes kids use you as a punching bag and, then, later, they’ll send some small message---a word or gesture---to let you know your relationship is still intact.”
            Alicia recognizes that therapists must carefully guard against vicarious trauma---becoming negatively impacted by the trauma experienced by their clients.  She takes time for self-care via yoga and a guided meditation app on her phone.  She sees value in her 30-minute commute to and from Laraway each day.  Her cats, Bolt, Callie and G (short for Giovanna) offer unconditional love.
            “Everyone should have some sense of unconditional love in their life,” Alicia said.
            Alicia’s 8-month clinical internship ends of June 5th and she’ll soon have a Master’s Degree in hand.  She’s thoughtfully planning “Termination”—the process of saying goodbye to clients and ending the therapeutic relationship.  Progress, growth and strengths are shared in conversation. There’s also a termination activity, planned with the client, to mark the passage.
            “You have to make an ending a positive experience,” Alicia said. 
            Reflecting on her experience at Laraway, Alicia said, “I highly respect Matt Sadowsky and strive to achieve the blend of both private and public sector work that he role models. He’s been a really great supervisor.  Actually, Matt and Mag (Sladyk-Benoit) have both offered me great insights when I’ve had questions.”
            “Interns like Alicia are the very reason we created Laraway’s Internship Program,” said Matt Sadowsky.  “She is bright, fun, and really interested in learning this craft.  Best of all, the youth that she worked with got to learn from her as she got to learn from them.  That’s one of the benefits of doing this work---we all get to be life-long learners.”
                We will miss Alicia and wish her well.  Her immediate plans are to study for the EPPP for Licensure and acquire full-time employment, working with kids, of course.
            What have the kids at Laraway taught Alicia?
            “PATIENCE,” she say, flashing her broad, beautiful smile.
            Thank you, Alicia, for showing Laraway’s kids that they, too, deserve to be treated well.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Laraway Youth Participate in Advocacy Day at Vermont Legislature

     Laraway youth participated in an advocacy training day at the Vermont State House in Montpelier. They learned about the legislative process (i.e., how a bill becomes a law) and how to contact their legislators to advocate for topics important to them. During the training they picked apart a bill on raising the minimum wage, a significant issue for young people entering the paid work force, many in minimum wage, service sector jobs. During the activity they all agreed the minimum wage should be raised. They also identified who might be opposed to such a bill: employers facing slim profit margins. 
     Sitting in on and observing the workings of legislative committees was also an important part of the experience. Youth witnessed Bethany Pombar, Executive Director of the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP) testify before a House committee on a bill addressing housing for youth. Overall, youth representing Laraway behaved appropriately during these sessions even, it shall be noted, when some of the adults in the room presented challenging examples of role modelling. Legislative environments can be stressful when high stakes issues are considered!
      During lunch, a member of the House of Representatives from Dover approached the youths' table in the State House cafeteria and started chatting. All youth shared their transition goals---an important bridge to adulthood---but especially important for youth who've been in state's custody. Two were fairly engaged throughout conversations, articulately noting changes they'd like to see to ease their transitions. One youth suggested that Guardian ad litems (GALs) should be Educational Surrogates when possible, not placing this expectation on foster parents.  Another youth suggested better regulations for quality foster homes. The third youth did not share their view publicly, but shared with the Laraway group their feeling that law enforcement needs to be trauma informed. The representative from Dover encouraged our youth to reach out to their local representatives. 
       There was a photo op with Senator Bobby Starr of Orleans County and friendly introductions and exchanges with Lt. Governor David Zuckerman. Youth received a tour of the State House and witnessed House passage of a resolution naming the day, April 13, 2017, as Youth Development Program (YDP) and Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP) Youth Awareness Day.  
      It was a long---11 hours---and exciting day.  Laraway youth participants expressed satisfaction that they attended and would encourage other youth to participate in the future. Spending time talking with legislators and meeting Lt. Governor Zuckerman were highlights.  The representative from Dover was phenomenal---super genuine and engaging.  Another great day with our youth! 

Note:  Thank you, Mollie Norcross, for providing details for this story.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Laraway co-hosts Screenings of Film "Resilience"

     Laraway, in partnership with Lamoille Restorative Center, Lamoille Family Center, Lamoille County Mental Health Services, Johnson State College, Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union, Community College of Vermont and Healthy Lamoille Valley is sponsoring screenings of the new documentary Resilience.
     The film, a follow-up to Paper Tigers, which was presented last year at public screenings in the area, looks at the research surrounding ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences.  We are learning that negative childhood experiences can adversely impact not only emotional health and behavior, but also physical health.
     The following screenings are free and open to the public:  March 21, 6:00 p.m at Hazen Union High School; March 29, 6:00 p.m. at Johnson State College; and April 3 at 6:00 p.m. at Green Mountain Technical and Career Center.  A panel discuss will follow.
     For more information on the film, please visit

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"I love how the property and how the outdoors are seamlessly embedded in the curriculum"

      Kristy Wrigley studied political science in college and started her career working in residential care with at-risk children.  She ran a group home in Burlington for five years.  She spent time outside, engaging the kids in therapeutic outdoor activities.  They went camping, building deep connections amid nature’s peacefulness.
     “I wanted to go live outdoors for a few years,” Kristy said with a smile.
     She began a Masters in Mental Health Counseling at Trinity College and interned with Mike Gray at The Howard Center in Burlington.  He worked with children who experienced significant sexual abuse. 
     “Mike was an incredibly influential mentor for me,” Kristy said.
     Kristy completed her degree and wrote a grant to support treatment for children with challenging sexual behaviors.  The grant was funded and she worked for Washington County Mental Health Services.  Her clients included those convicted of sexual offenses and those at risk of committing a sexual crime.  At the same time, she provided clinical consultation at a specialized camp, facilitating groups and providing therapy.  She then worked in private practice and as a contractor for the Vermont Department for Children and Families.  She became the Clinical Director of Comprehensive Care at The Howard Center’s Jarrett House, guiding program development.
     Kristy’s association with Laraway began three years ago; she provided consultative services in her specialty area.  Today, she is on Laraway’s staff as the Clinical Supervisor at Laraway School.  Kristy supervises and supports the clinicians working directly with students.  She supervises all treatment plans, making sure treatment is integrated with educational goals and insuring Medicaid compliance.  She also provides individual and group therapy for students, including initiating a Girls’ Group to foster open dialogue and positive peer relationships. 
     “I love working at Laraway, I really do,” Kristy said.  “The atmosphere is really positive and the students respond to that.  I love the property and how the outdoors are seamlessly embedded in the curriculum.  My roots are in wilderness therapy and Laraway is a great fit for me.  People here are very committed and constantly asking the question, ‘What is good for the student?’”
     Asked about her approach to clinical supervision, Kristy thought for a moment and said, “For better or worse, I’m a pretty direct person.  It’s the Philly girl in me.  (Kristy grew up near Philadelphia.)  I try to be direct.  I also try to empower.  I want to know what my supervisees’ passions are.  I want them to feel empowered to go in there and do what they think is right for a kid.  I provide a scaffold.  Within those parameters, a clinician is afforded all this room to make the work their own.  Providing consistent clinical supervision is also very important.  People need to have it every week to make sure they’re doing good work and that there’s a place to share it.”
     Kristy commented on all the good work happening at Laraway School.  “Kids are getting clinical offerings every day.  There’s all this sensory stuff going on and outdoor adventure education is amazing.  Kids will behave in a positive way when their sensory input is aligned. Some kids need a little; some need a lot.  We’re here to provide what they need, as individuals.”

     A question Kristy ponders in her work, and ancillary research, is:  How does Laraway become increasingly evidence-based and outcomes-based?  This is a tall order, but one that can’t be ignored as we strive to prepare students for happy, healthy independent lives.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

If You Teach a Youth to Prune...Increasing Laraway's Harvest

     George Swanson, Laraway’s part-time Land Steward, and a gentleman farmer with his own acreage in the Northeast Kingdom, has been planning plantings for when the snow melts and the ground rejuvenates. He sketched out a plan for crop rotation, to make the most of our fertile, certified-organic soil along the Lamoille River. He is planning a new plot for tomatoes, strategically located to minimize blight. After consulting with Lisa Rock, our inspired and creative cook, George will plant more root crops and increase potato production.  We want to grow what Lisa and Dave can use in the kitchen---and lots of it! The root cellar in our farmhouse can store about 400 pounds of produce.  George is aiming to fill the space with healthy, nutritious veggies for our cafeteria.
     “The saying goes ‘any month with R in its spelling is a month for tree pruning.’.  Our first tree pruning student workshop starts February 22 (weather permitting) and will continue into March,” George said.  It looks like snowshoes will be needed!”
     Seed starts will take root in Laraway’s classrooms in March and April, presaging what we hope will be a plentiful growing season.  Feeding kids healthy food helps them grow…and learn.  Teaching kids to grow their own vegetables satisfies their appetites while equipping them with self-sustaining skills for adulthood.
     Stay tuned…and WATCH OUR GARDEN GROW!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Greg Stefanski talks Community on "Present Time" at 99.3 WBTV Radio

     Greg Stefanski, Laraway's Executive Director will speak about the concept of Community on "Present Time" at WBTV LP 99.3, live streamed at on Friday, February 17, 2017 from 10:10 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  In addition to his role at Laraway, Greg is a community activist and adjunct faculty member at Johnson State College and the Community College of Vermont.  He also designed a college-level course on the concept of Community.
     As Greg points out in his writing, "Community is can grow, it can be harmed.  We have to take care of it, especially in a world of competing influences, some of which might actually harm community." 
     So much of our work at Laraway is about helping the children, youth and families we serve find and sustain Community.  If this topic catches your fancy, we hope you'll give a listen!

Monday, February 13, 2017

You're Invited! Open House at Laraway on Thursday, February 23rd, 4:00-6:00 p.m.

     Have you ever wondered what it's really like to be a foster parent?  Did you know that Laraway's Clinical Program has expanded, offering services to local schools and community members?  Would you like to see our renovated youth recreational space, supported by a grant and designed with input from our clients?  If we've captured your curiosity, we encourage you to visit.
     Join us for Laraway's Winter Open House on Thursday, February 23rd from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at our Farmhouse at 275 Vermont Route 15W in Johnson.  Light refreshments will be served.  For more information and/or to RSVP, please contact Katherine Stamper at 802-635-2805 x 106 or  If you are interested in visiting Laraway and can't attend the Open House, please contact Katherine for a private tour.
     Laraway Youth & Family Services is a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and building on the strengths of children and youth with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges, through alternative education, therapeutic foster care and public school based behavioral intervention supports.  For more information, please visit