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ACH Volunteers: Meet Emma

Volunteers are a critical part of our mission of protecting children and preserving families. Each volunteer, whether individual, group, or mentor, brings with them a passion for serving others. Our goal is to provide a meaningful experience to all volunteers every time you participate in an activity or event, regardless of frequency.

Hear from Emma Gilbert, a volunteer from TCU:

“My experience at ACH has completely shaped how I want to approach children in my career and has given me the tools to show compassion to children of all ages. What started as volunteering in connection to a class, turned into a wonderful relationship with a nonprofit organization that continues to help families thrive every day. I have participated in Nurture Groups at the Wichita campus, campus cleanups, and go to the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) on Tuesdays. At the RTC, I was able to foster relationships and create a safe space to hang out with adolescents varying in age. I learned at the RTC how everyone has a story to tell, and I’m so happy I was able to get to know each adolescent on such a personal level. I feel so lucky to volunteer with ACH and implement its incredible mission to protect children and preserve families. I look forward to participating in other opportunities ACH has to offer!”

- Emma Gilbert, TCU Child Development Student & ACH Volunteer

ACH partners with TCU’s Child Development department and offers students real-life experience serving and cultivating relationships with vulnerable children in the community. Emma was first connected to ACH through one of her classes in August 2021. ACH Volunteer Services Manager shares, “Emma did a great job. She was the only person from TCU who came into the Residential Treatment Center to volunteer, and it was very successful. She is youthful and can relate well to our teens.” Emma is a double major at TCU in Child Development and Psychology. Volunteers like Emma with the heart and passion to care for the youth in our care are an essential part of fulfilling our mission. It takes a community.

Employee Spotlight – Alice Barrientez

Connection Through Culture

November is Native American Heritage Month and at ACH, we value the diversity of our staff. Having a group of unique individuals is crucial for the youth in our care to learn from and relate to.

Alice Barrientez, a supervisor in ACH’s Residential Treatment Program, utilizes her Pueblo and Apache heritage in caring for children who come from traumatic childhoods in foster care. She also shares her traditions with the youth and offers many teaching moments inspired by her culture.

Helping Youth Comes Naturally

The Robert and Jane Ferguson Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is designed to help foster youth with significant behavioral or mental health challenges. At the RTC and throughout ACH, staff utilize Trust-Based Relational Intervention® to meet the complex needs of children who have experienced adversity, early harm, toxic stress, and/or trauma. This method of therapeutic intervention was developed by TCU’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development.

Alice says that many of the practices of TBRI® are second nature to her thanks to her Pueblo upbringing. She was taught how to calm herself down and regulate her emotions, skills we teach to our youth.

“You have to spend days, weeks, or months before you can get the child to be comfortable with you.”
- Alice Barrientez,
ACH Supervisor

Alice also believes that being raised around horses, although not the same, gives her the same mindset for the youth in the RTC, many of whom exhibit extreme behaviors.

“You have to be very careful when you approach a horse and take very small steps. You never want to come behind it,” Alice said. “When you see a child and you know they don’t trust you, you don’t go up to them and hug them, especially our kids in the RTC. You have to spend days, weeks, or months before you can get the child to be comfortable with you.”

Alice also shares her culture with the youth in the RTC through cooking traditional Native American foods and assembling a teepee at the start of Native American Heritage Month. Alice explained the significance of each part of the teepee.

“The rope that ties’ around the tripod represents family members involved in the upbringing of a child. The tripod is the foundation,” said Alice. “The poles that lean on the tripod for extra support are your elders, counselors, medicine man, leaders of the community. The covering is the shield protecting all of the above to succeed in life as a group of people.”

The significance of the teepee can be reflected in work of the RTC. The RTC are the poles that come together in the center, and the staff are the cover that all comes together to shield the children.

Helping Youth Comes Naturally

Gardening is a large part of Alice’s culture, and this is something she was able to share recently with Cody, a 14-year-old boy in the RTC. One day Alice noticed Cody was feeling anxious and went outside with him to help calm him down. He saw the planter boxes outside of the facility and asked if he could plant some seeds. Alice gave him seeds for Summer Squash, and it wasn’t long before flowers started to sprout.

Alice explained to Cody that, just like humans, plants need to be treated well and cared for.

At first, Cody didn’t understand, but Alice compared the plants to him. She asked him, “What would happen to you if I left you alone and didn’t talk to you?” Cody replied, “I’d be sad and lonely.”

“How does it feel when I give you a hug or a knuckle bump?” asked Alice. “It makes me happy,” Cody replied.

Alice explained that the way our staff gives the youth support, care, and praise, while also guiding them when they make a mistake, is exactly what a plant needs.

“He was able to associate his growth with the growth of the plant,” said Alice.             

Cody continued to take care of his squash and had two of the four seeds turn into squash. He was able to prepare dinner with the other youth in the program using his squash—an accomplishment he was very proud of. Alice is also proud of the fact that the other youth respect the garden, which reflects a sense of community and growth.

Encouraging Growth

Alice has a strong connection to the youth in the RTC because she also experienced trauma during her childhood. Those experiences help her understand the youth and the reasons behind their behaviors.

“They have a feeling of misplacement, and they feel lost,” said Alice. “They have had too many adults let them down.”

Her experiences have allowed her to better understand the youth and help them in times of stress or anxiety.

“I just do what comes natural to me,” said Alice.

You can learn more about the RTC and take a virtual tour at

You can also help us bring hope to those who need it most this holiday season—just visit

Yendo más allá del aula

Ser maestro requiere paciencia, amabilidad y una mente abierta. Al educar a niños con necesidades emocionales o conductuales graves, es igualmente importante brindar seguridad, amor y esperanza a través de relaciones afectivas.

Marcy Collins es la Coordinadora Académica del Campus Wedgwood de ACH, donde ha estado brindando apoyo educativo a los niños bajo nuestro cuidado durante el año pasado.

Este campus es el hogar de varios programas de intervención en crisis, incluidos Summit, Turning Point y Behavioral Care. Wedgwood también alberga el Programa Morris, que ayuda a los jóvenes de 14 a 17 años que no pueden vivir con sus familias a desarrollar las habilidades para la vida necesarias para hacer la transición a una vida independiente.

Proporcionar normalidad durante tiempos inciertos

A diferencia de muchas otras instalaciones de tratamiento terapéutico, los niños de Summit y Turning Point asisten a la escuela durante su estadía. Estos programas brindan intervención en caso de crisis para evitar hospitalizaciones, en un entorno hogareño seguro.

“Cuando los niños ingresan a nuestros programas, todo su mundo se ha puesto patas arriba y tienen que lidiar con graves problemas emocionales y de comportamiento”, dijo Marcy. "Tener escuela durante su estadía establece una estructura y les da un lugar para practicar las habilidades de afrontamiento que están aprendiendo".

Los niños bajo nuestro cuidado asisten a la escuela a través de Odysseyware, un plan de estudios en línea que asigna trabajo a los estudiantes y brinda lecciones. Para los jóvenes de Morris, algunos asisten a la escuela de manera virtual o en persona en las escuelas de nuestro vecindario o están trabajando para lograr un GED. Collins trabaja con cada uno de ellos para asegurarse de que estén en camino de graduarse mientras se adaptan a sus necesidades específicas.

Liderando con amor

A menudo, los niños en nuestros programas provienen de lugares difíciles, experimentando un trauma que ha tenido un impacto en su salud mental y conductual. Por eso, Marcy debe estar preparada para manejar estos diversos comportamientos en su salón de clases.  

“Dejo claro que por cada niño que llega a nuestro cuidado, me familiarizo con su historia”, dijo Marcy. “Aprendo sobre estos niños incluso antes de conocerlos, porque quiero saber con qué están trabajando”.

Esta preparación ayuda a Marcy a aprender cuáles son sus factores desencadenantes y cómo puede evitarlos, así como las mejores técnicas para ayudarlos a calmarse en situaciones estresantes. Al igual que con cualquier niño, hay momentos en los que no quieren hacer el trabajo escolar y se niegan rotundamente o se derrumban.

“Esa es una oportunidad para trabajar con ese niño y prepararlo para la vida fuera del programa de tratamiento”, dijo Marcy. "Podemos mostrarles cómo superar esos momentos frustrantes".

Las relaciones obtienen resultados

Debido a su aula única de estudiantes, Marcy debe ir más allá del papel tradicional de maestra. Mantener el vínculo entre un maestro y un alumno es igualmente importante que el que existe entre un cuidador y un niño.

“Estoy allí no solo para ser maestra de escuela, sino para ayudar a los niños”, dijo Marcy. “Los hago sentir cómodos, seguros y como si la escuela no fuera su enemigo”.

Daniel Pectol, Director de Servicios Residenciales de ACH, elogia a Marcy por su capacidad para desarrollar relaciones con los niños y utilizarlas durante situaciones estresantes cuando un niño se siente frustrado o molesto.

“Tienes que conectarte antes de corregir y ella puede volver a encaminar a un niño”, dijo Daniel. "Ella es personal con ellos y se sentará con ellos y se asegurará de que tengan lo que necesitan".

Siempre a bordo

Para Marcy, la clase no termina cuando termina la jornada escolar. También brinda capacitación a los empleados que trabajan en el campus de Wedgwood. El amor y el cuidado que brinda a los niños también se extiende al personal, según el supervisor de Turning Point, McKenzie Slawson.

"Ella lo ayudará a guiarlo en la dirección correcta y responderá cualquier pregunta que tenga sin juzgar", dijo McKenzie. "Marcy es una persona muy importante aquí en nuestro campus".

Durante la pandemia, Daniel se mostró radiante por los esfuerzos de Marcy dentro y fuera del aula. Ella cubrió a los empleados que se enfermaron con COVID-19 y también dio un paso adelante en el cuidado de niños positivos. Con todo el estrés y la incertidumbre de la pandemia, Marcy se aseguró de que cuidaran a los niños.

“Marcy está comprometida a mejorar las cosas para los niños”, dijo Daniel.

Para Marcy, hacer malabares con un salón de clases lleno de niños de diferentes edades, todos con desafíos únicos, puede ser difícil, pero dijo que la recompensa es mucho mayor.

“Me encanta ver la confianza que desarrollan mientras están aquí en ACH”, dijo Marcy.

Si desea apoyar a Marcy y nuestros programas en nuestro campus de Wedgwood, ACH ofrece muchas formas de participar. Para comenzar, visite