Hey teachers! Look what is happening for you!

School House Connection is a national organization promoting success for children and youth experiencing homelessness, from birth through higher education.

If you don’t know it, Montana has a huge population of school-age children and youth that are homeless in some fashion. Unfortunately, not enough of our public is aware of this. Here are two great webinars School House Connection is offering in this month of November:

Sesame Street in Communities: Traumatic Experiences
The McKinney-Vento Act requires that states have procedures to ensure that McKinney-Vento students “who meet the relevant eligibility criteria do not face barriers to accessing… extracurricular activities.” This new provision adds to longstanding requirements to remove barriers to enrollment (including full participation in school activities) and retention in school. Join the experts in a discussion of strategies to ensure full participation for all our McKinney-Vento students, including unaccompanied youth. 

Breaking Down Educational Barriers: Insights from Students
Two young people, one who has graduated from college and one who is in the second year of a degree program, will share their tips for schools and service providers on how to identify youth who are experiencing homelessness, keep them engaged in and attending school, and work with them as true partners to get them to high school graduation and into (and through) post-secondary education.

Montana is so fortunate to have the greatest, most compassionate, caring teachers and school staff on Earth! Don’t miss this opportunity to put that compassion to work in learning about how to help homeless kiddos!


Imagine living inside a box buried inside a box buried inside a box…

That’s how Dr. Kent Hoffman, Co-Originator of Circle of Security International began his comments about this incredible new resource for parents! See his full statement below.

A short six years ago, ChildWise Institute was founded by Intermountain, a nationally-recognized organization specializing in helping and healing children from emotional and mental health disorders. Intermountain are also experts in helping families of distressed children create a nurturing environment of stability and success. I think of Intermountain as the trauma center that heals the wounds of children, youth, and families – and ChildWise a the organization working to stop the wounds from happening. We do this through three integrated strategies: Advance AwarenessAccelerate Knowledge, and Advocate for Positive Change. ChildWise is an independent 501-c-3 non-profit, but I refer to us as a social-profit organization because the goals and results of our work is a healthier community and state…. healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically.

We are so excited to announce the release of a new book called Be Child WiseRather than me telling you about the power of this invaluable resource, here’s what parents and professionals are saying:

“Imagine living inside a box buried inside a box buried inside a box. Now imagine your response to such a condition. Would your behavior be easy going or enjoyable to be around? Absolutely not. Your behavior would likely be somewhere on the continuum between intensely out of control or profoundly withdrawn.

Finding a way to reach a child “living inside a box buried inside a box buried inside a box” is precisely what this wonderful volume is offering its readers. As a parent or professional working with such a child you have come upon an approach that will help you understand the hidden pain and hidden needs that a child-at-risk simply can’t articulate.”
Dr. Kent T. Hoffman
Circle of Security International

“We all know the basic parenting complaint that kids don’t come with a guidebook.  Well, this book is the closest thing I have found for children who have been through trauma.  Finding all these resources in one place is a personal miracle – it would take years of attending top-notch parenting classes to amass all the ideas, hints, tips and new perspectives offered in this book.  When you work with this book, your child’s therapists will be asking for your resources!”
Patti Gilhousen Guptill, adoptive parent

This book is incredibly complete; a fabulous guide to making families wise and healthy. The book should be in every therapist’s, social worker’s and family’s hands. I especially like the ending statements for each chapter as a reminder of poignant thoughts and the permission for parents to read as they need and explore chapters that are relevant at a certain part of the child’s life. This will remain a classic.”
Sharon Kaplan Roszia M.S. 

“The relational treatment program outlined in this book literally saved my family.  It saved us from suicide, and very likely homicide, at the hands of my then 11-year-old adoptive child who suffered from attachment disorder.  I am a far better parent and my child is far healthier thanks to this program.”
Adoptive Parent

Go here to learn more or order your copy.

911 Alternative for Mental Health Crisis

Coming from a 25-year background in the world of technology and venture capital, I still keep my eye on what new technologies, companies, and people are being funded. I saw this today on TechCrunch… a fascinating trauma-informed approach! While this product is in its infancy and limited to a very small area of San Francisco for now, the implications are exciting! We’ll have to see what the results are over time, how it impacts the lives of those that have mental health issues in that area and haven’t found appropriate help, support or understanding, and — IF this company is successful in securing their next round of financing.

Go here to read the article about the company and its new app!

Confronting Adverse Childhood Experiences to Improve Rural Kids’ Lifelong Health

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Montana ranks 5th in the nation for the percentage of population living in a rural area (44.1%), eclipsed only by Mississippi, West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine. And as you may know, Montana is the 4th largest state in the nation! There are so many great things about being such a rural state — the charm of small towns, the beauty of farms and ranches, the wide-open spaces, our majestic mountains, rivers, streams, and creeks; and of course, let’s not forget the higher-than-average childhood adversity. What?

That’s right. In a recent study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, findings show that children living in rural areas have higher ACE scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences). You can read a first-hand take on this problem by Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Adrienne Coopey by clicking here.

Yes, Montana is a wonderful place to raise kiddos. But underneath the beauty and wonderment of this state, we must pay attention to the health and well-being of our children, youth, and families. ChildWise Institute presents and trains people all over Montana on the neuroscience of ACEs, toxic stress, and resilience; and our experience supports this report. We know this by collecting and aggregating ACE scores of the adults we train, and the comments we hear – especially in the rural areas of Montana.

Together, we truly can elevate the well-being and future of Montana’s children, youth, families, and communities. Get involved! Join the movement!

PBS Documentary on Native American Tribal Justice and Families Debuts Monday August 21

ChildWise Institute works with all of the Amercian Indian Tribes in Montana to some extent and hopes to develop these relationships into friendships that are full, rich, and deep. Justice is often something that has been deprived of our nation’s Native Americans for a very, very long time – and is still lacking.

A new PBS Documentary on POV titled Tribal Justice that spotlights tribal courts that incorporate indigenous customs and beliefs into their justice systems and the families that are affected. The documentary, directed by Anne Makepeace, follows Abby Abinanti and Claudette White, chief judges in two of the more than 300 tribal courts across the country, as they navigate cross-jurisdictional issues in their courts and communities.

Tribal Justice has its national broadcast premiere on the PBS documentary series POV (Point of View) on Monday, August 21, 2017. POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, now in its 30th season.

You can read more about it here. I hope you will tune in for this documentary… I know we will!

Outside Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theater at the premiere of ‘Tribal Justice.’ Front row: Judge Claudette White, director Anne Makepeace, Judge Abby Abinanti. Back row: Claudette’s sister Dorena, Claudette’s son Zion, Claudette’s sister Mary.

Class of 2017 hopes to spark change with donation for suicide awareness

The team at ChildWise Institute is so proud of these amazing young men and women!

Every corner of the State of Montana has been affected by suicide. These high school seniors are making a difference in their own community and serve as an inspiring example for all of us. We wanted to shine a light on them, and hope you will do the same. Please click on the photo to read the entire article.

SP_N1Toole County Health Nurse Kristi Aklestad, left, graciously accepts a check from Class of 2017 members, Andrew Johnson, Grace Aklestad and Colt Pederson last week at the courthouse. The class chose to donate what was left in their class account to suicide awareness and prevention after losing two classmates prior to their graduation in May.

Photo by Jennifer Van Heel

Teaming Up to Help Traumatized Children

Intermountain and Bigfork school district collaborate on new day-treatment program for students on school campus!

For many years, Intermountain, the founding organization of ChildWise Institute, has been making tremendous strides in the Helena area schools with in-school services for kiddos that have experienced stress and trauma in their lives. But it’s not about Intermountain, it’s about how these kiddos are becoming more successful in school and realizing higher levels of hope for their futures!

And now, Intermountain is doing the same thing for Bigfork schools. Thanks to a visionary and caring school Superintendent, Matt Jensen, Intermountain will provide therapeutic support for the kids and their families! This is an unusual opportunity and approach, but one that Intermountain believes works. and they should know. Intermountain has done this successfully for many years in the greater Helena area.

“It’s hard for us to have a kid in our system that we’re working with blood, sweat, and tears, and just pouring everything we can into this kid, and then send them away to a program outside of town,” Jensen said. “It’s good for them — God bless them when they go — but we’re totally invested with the child and the family. This model where we can have them in our schools — the program is great.”



ChildWise Institute was recently highlighted on the website SHD Prevention for our work in the business sector as it relates to Adverse Childhood Experiences! Understanding ACEs, and changing & enhancing some business practices can have a  very positive effect on a business’s bottom line – called the Return On Investment (ROI). Using a company’s Employee Assitance Program, employees are able to address ACEs in their own lives and the lives of their children, which ultimately can result in healthier, happier employees – which can result in an increased ROI! But there’s more to it than that! Read the article here.

Suicide Prevention Bill Includes ACEs!

“These types of demographics and statistics are unacceptable.”

That’s what Senator Windy Boy, sponsor of Montana Legislative House Bill 118, said in regards to suicide rates in Montana. 

“We’re ranked among the highest in suicide nationwide,” said Windy Boy. “Indian Country is ranked the highest in Montana.” He continued, “This is the first step in reducing that,” adding that he wants to thank the governor and the Legislature for their support in “making sure this was a priority in this session.”

The major contribution to this Bill to include the science of toxic stress, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and resilience came from Representative Jessica Karjala. Karjala had worked tirelessly on a Bill specific to ACEs and resilience, which included a pilot project, but it was tabled in hearing. The staff at ChildWise Institute worked closely with Karjala and were also very disappointed that the Committee did not fully grasp the importance of advancing awareness and actions throughout Montana based on what we know about ACEs, toxic stress, and resilience. While having ACEs included in Bill 118 is a good thing, it is only the beginning of what needs to be addressed in Montana to elevate the well-being of its children, youth, families, and communities. Suicide is, of course, only one of many serious negative health or social outcomes of childhood adversity according to the data of the ACE Study. We have a lot of work to do, still.

Stay tuned for the next Montana Legislative session in 2019! We’ve already started the work!

How Dirty is Too Dirty?

How Dirty is Too Dirty?

By Daniel Champer, LCPC, Intermountain Clinical Manager of School Based Services

A quick internet search of the phrase “mushroom cloud” reveals that the technical definition of the phenomena is “a distinctive pyro-cumulus mushroom-shaped cloud of debris and usually condensed water vapor resulting from a large explosion.” The phrase will also conjure up frightening descriptions related to 1950’s nuclear trials and WWII documentaries. The aforementioned imagery is pretty universal. Yet, for anybody who has interacted with an adolescent using any of their five senses, I believe that my definition is much more appropriate. I believe that a mushroom cloud is actually the phenomena created when unwashed bodies, raging hormones, and bad attitudes interact with copious amounts of body spray or perfume.

Most teenagers smell. And for those that don’t, it’s probably a safe bet that their dens, I mean bedrooms, do. The perfume industry generates about 30 billion dollars yearly on a global scale.  Why?  Because most teenagers smell. So, the real question becomes:  How smelly is too smelly? How messy is too messy? How pimply is too pimply? And then, what in the name of Mr. Clean do I do about it?

The Merriam-Webster definition of hygiene is as follows: “The conditions or practices (as of cleanliness) conducive to health.” Hygiene is an integral part of health for all individuals. It is especially important for adolescents and young adults as it is directly related to physical health, mental health, and social health. We often think of poor hygiene as a condition in and of itself, yet the reality is that poor hygiene is often one of the earliest signs that something isn’t quite right in the life of a youth.

While it may be a slight over-exaggeration to state that all teenagers are gross, hygiene does tend to deteriorate during this development stage. Developmental factors such as limit testing and individuation mesh poorly with increased body hair, hyperactive sweat glands, and several gender-specific physical developments. Poor impulse control and underdeveloped judgment directly correlates to eight dirty glasses on a nightstand and a pile of dirty laundry a grizzly bear could hibernate under. So, if these teenage tendencies are somewhat normal, then how do we know when that young person in our life is just “too dirty?” Trust your senses.

Use your sense of sight. Observe your teenager in a variety of settings. Evaluate if your child’s hygiene is similar to that of other same-age peers. Make sure to notice if hygiene habits change for the worse. Note instances in which your teenager takes a personal inventory of his or her hygiene, (every kid gets caught smelling their armpits at some point, and that’s actually a good thing).

Use your sense of smell. This one isn’t too hard. All teenagers will have an off day, but make sure to notice if a young person consistently presents as malodorous. Also, check in with other trusted adults to see if they share a similar experience. Use your sense of hearing. Pay attention to what the young people in your life say. Do they talk negatively about themselves? Do they express a desire to be closer to same age peers in both socially and romantic ways but just can’t seem to do so? Does the shower turn on regularly? Adolescents tend to experience shame and embarrassment in relation to hygiene. Listen to see if the teen in your life expresses an interest in keeping themselves clean and presenting themselves as attractive.Use your sense of touch. Check for consistently unwashed and oily skin. On second thought, it’s probably better to use your sense of sight for this one. Evaluate an adolescent’s need and desire for physical closeness. Poor hygiene can often be a sign that something else may not be right in the life of an adolescent. This shift is also often accompanied by an attempt to isolate and withdraw from relationships and individuals with whom they were previously close.

Use your sense of taste. Actually, never mind. Don’t do that.  That’s just gross.

What do you do if your teen’s dirty is too dirty? Check in with them. Have a conversation around hygiene and health in general. Discuss the need and the process for achieving good hygiene. Normalize the difficulties that teens face in keeping their bodies clean. Make sure to ask the hard questions about suicide and drug use. Check in about their mental health. Ask questions about their social health. Also, be sure to talk with other trusted adults, such as teachers and coaches who regularly interact with your child. If you think there may be something else going on, make sure to seek professional medical or mental health treatment.

If we as adults use personal hygiene to help determine the mental and physical health of the young people of our community, then someday we can transition from using adjectives such as messy, smelly, and dirty to healthy, happy, and wise.

Daniel Champer is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who currently serves as the clinical manager of School Based Services for Intermountain in Helena.  Daniel provides clinical leadership and oversight to teams of mental health professionals who provide therapeutic services in public school settings in the Helena area.