Dedicated Board Members & A New CEO Chart the Future
Photography by Daniel Smyth
For more than 150 years, The Children’s Home of Cincinnati has transformed the lives of vulnerable children. It is an organization proud of living its tag line: “Amazing Stories. Created Daily.”
Behind the scenes those stories are made possible by a dedicated staff and leadership from a board of trustees that is committed for reasons that often go beyond the natural impulse to give back; there is usually something personal that makes their commitment even more poignant.
For members of the board, the reasons for serving are as diverse as the 23 members themselves. For example:
Clinical psychiatrist Susan McElroy saw a way to channel her expertise in a very practical way to an at-risk segment of the community that is very different from clinical research setting where she usually works.
Banker John Langenderfer, the father of a daughter with ADHD, saw it as a way to help others with the disorder from the point of view of someone who understands the importance of getting children the right therapies.
For Joseph Dominiak, the COO of Skyline Chili, giving back to a children’s services provider goes to the core of who he is. Dominiak was raised in an orphanage near Buffalo, adopted at age 3.
Those are some of the motivations of three of The Children’s Home trustees serving on a board that has a dynamic mix of healthcare, business and educational expertise. Although they are a varied group, there is a similar mindset that comes through in talking with many of them: they take their responsibilities seriously. Many are determined that this is the only board on which they serve, outside of their “day jobs,” so they can devote the necessary attention.
That commitment was something John Banchy, the new president and CEO of The Children’s Home, noticed when he came to the organization in April. “There are no absentee board members here,” he says. “That impressed me. Each one is active, serving on two committees. It is also a policy making board. They are engaged.”
The breadth of the on-campus services and outreach programs of The Children’s Home may surprise some people not familiar with its 21st-century mission. Many know it is an iconic Cincinnati institution, founded in 1864 to help children left without parents after the Civil War. And it was well known as an orphanage for most of its history. But it stopped being a residential institution in 1998. Its changing role has been to focus on outreach children’s services, providing counseling, treatment and assessments in more than 150 area schools, community and home settings. It serves about 350 children on a daily basis on its bucolic campus on Madison Road near Red Bank. However, it impacts more than 6,700 children and adolescents a year.
In fact, The Children’s Home is the largest provider of children’s behavioral health services in Southwest Ohio.
On-campus programs include providing a full day of care for ages 3-18 with complete mental health treatment and education. Its campus also includes an autism high school with job- and work-training programs for adolescents across the autism spectrum.
“I’ve spent a bit of time trying to grow our autism program and letting kids see what the work place is like,” says Langenderfer, director of Healthcare Sales & Origination for Huntington Bank. “If kids with autism don’t find a job early on, they tend to never work. We try to get them involved in private-public partnerships to grow the autism school. They need a special place to learn.”
Langenderfer says the ADHD programs are also critical, both on campus and in area schools. He notes many of the children served have some type of ADHD issue.
“If they don’t have the ability to see a doctor, a psychiatrist, and get their medicines during the day, it’s really hard for them to manage in the classroom. You need constant monitoring. It can be a long process.”
Despite its incredible reach in the community, the general public may not be fully aware of the extent of The Children’s Home’s services. Perhaps one reason is that staff therapists and social workers are often embedded in schools and might seem to be members of the school’s staff with it not readily apparent they are Children’s Home staff.
“Sometimes The Children’s Home does fly under the radar,” says McElroy, chief research officer for the Lindner Center of Hope and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Even when I joined the board, I didn’t realize they were helping so many kids off the campus. They are kids with really difficult behavioral issues. They are children who fall through the cracks.”
But if people are touched by The Children’s Home, the connection is usually long lasting.
“If you know someone, have a child or came through yourself, your loyalty is life long,” says Dominiak, who also serves as vice chair of the board. “Part of my effort is to focus on getting people involved who don’t have a connection to be drawn to the great things The Children’s Home does.”
Going forward, board members know the larger challenges involve dealing with the changing healthcare environment and the changes in how comprehensive care is evaluated and compensated.
“It has been a healthy change from being an orphanage to going out into the community,” says John Campbell, a longtime board member and attorney with Kohnen & Patton. “But you have the challenge of continuing to fund it and find support.”
“Our challenge down the road is to continue to integrate behavioral health and physical health in children’s care,” says Karen Bankston, PhD in clinical behavior and a new board member. Bankston is the associate dean of Clinical Practice Partnership and Community Engagement at UC, the former COO of Drake Center and a member of the Home’s Health Advisory Council.
“We have to look at children holistically. What is their environment and how do we create a plan that looks at the entire picture? Who is connected to the child and how do we intervene in that way? It’s about creating pathways that ensure children will be able to learn and grow and develop.”
Campbell says focusing on getting services to children also means insuring that the staff remains first-rate.
“We have to stay ahead of change in needs and support systems and that also means finding ways to keep good people on staff,” he says. “We have 315 people here incredibly dedicated. The home visits I’ve seen some of these people do are just wonderful.”
Board members agree that fostering the mission of The Children’s Home in turn ensures the civic health of the region.
“It is vital to the community. Kids are the future,” says Dominiak. “We need to take care of kids from all economic backgrounds and all abilities. Every kid who comes here is unique and how they need to be treated is unique, from dealing with family conditions at home, building self confidence or just teaching anger management.”
The Children’s Home of Cincinnati is located at 5050 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227. You can reach them at 513.272.2800 or visit their website at thechildrenshomecinti.org