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Sydney And Jenna Dressler Are Living The Dream As Foster Parents

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Parents decide to make their house into a foster home for myriad reasons. Some want to help kids who need loving homes. Others see foster families at some point in their lives and decide to give it a try.

Jenna Dressler always wanted to foster. No, really.

“That’s how I always envisioned building a family … through foster care, and not necessarily adoption and fostering children who needed temporary homes,” she said. “We got thrown into it a little faster than we were anticipating. We were thinking I’d graduate college and have a job before we did. Sydney’s the reason why we got propelled so quickly.”

Sydney, her husband, used to work at Adult & Child Health as a skills development specialist on the School-Based team, so he was familiar with the agency’s Therapeutic Foster Care program. You could say it was a match made in heaven.

Foster family, fast and furious

Sydney and Jenna Dressler hold one of their foster children.

While Jenna always wanted foster children, Sydney made it happen – sort of – but very quickly.

He worked closely with a child during his time at A&C, and eventually brought home the boy, 8 years old at the time, as a kinship placement.

“I watched one of my kiddos there bounce around from foster home to foster home within just a few months of each other,” Sydney said. “He had been in the system a long time. We realized that’s where our calling was and we needed to fill that gap for him. We were still within a year of being married, bought a house, brought an 8-year-old home as a kinship placement. So we definitely like to do everything all at once.”

Eventually, Sydney and Jenna married and landed full-time jobs. They’ve since fostered three other children, all infants. After the kinship placement, the Dresslers were respite parents for a while before opting to foster infants.

They foster one child at a time, because that’s all their two-bedroom house and work schedules will easily accommodate.

Building relationships with biological families

Of all the rewarding aspects being a foster parent provides, Jenna said she most enjoyed the positive relationships she’s developed with the biological parents.

“Even though COVID has been terrible in a lot of ways doing virtual visits, I was able to start building relationships with the kiddos’ parents more easily because we had a platform while we were talking,” Jenna said. “We were very fortunate that our last two kiddos had parents who have been extremely open and gracious to having a relationship with us.”

That approach has helped them put their role as foster parents into perspective.

“The goal is to stand in the gap, not stand in the way,” Sydney said. “You’re just standing in the gap until the family is ready to be reunited. I want to be able to provide a peace of mind to these parents. I don’t want you to go to bed worried about where your kid’s at. They’re in a safe place, we’re taking care of them, and they’re going to come home when you’re ready and when they’re able.”

Why you should foster

Jenna wants to dispel the notion that parents will endure too much heartbreak when the kids return to their biological families.

“When I sit here and think about the idea that we may not have known and loved the four children that we have, I can’t imagine not having the immense love we have for them,” she said. “There’s been a lot of grief, anxiety and hurt and things that come along with having the kiddos go home, but not loving them at all just wrecks me. It’s so worth it. You can struggle through that with your support system. Those kiddos need those relationships. They need that love. They need you.”

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Agency News

Adult & Child Health Receives CCBHC Designation

Adult & Child Health, a leading community mental health center in Central Indiana, is thrilled to announce it has been designated as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). This designation is announced alongside the exciting news that Indiana was selected as one of 10 new states to join the CCBHC Medicaid Demonstration Program. By becoming a CCBHC, Adult & Child Health can unlock critical resources to address the growing need for mental health services in Indianapolis. This includes crisis care, improved staff recruitment and retention thanks to sustainable funding, and the ability to expand their service offerings. CCBHC will allow Adult & Child Health to offer competitive compensation and top-of-market wages, making them a more attractive workplace for qualified providers. With the rich history and commitment of Adult & Child Health to making a difference, they can achieve even greater impact through this transformation. “Indiana’s selection for the CCBHC program is a major step forward in strengthening mental health resources for residents,” said C.J. Davis, CEO, Adult & Child Health. “This designation allows us to make a significant impact by expanding access to essential mental health services in Central Indiana. We’re committed to ensuring our community members have the resources they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.” The Biden-Harris Administration announced the additional states being added to the CCBHC program earlier today. Adult & Child Health had been selected by the state to be a CCBHC if Indiana was selected, but the decision of which states would be selected to join the program had been pending until today. CCBHC is a transformational program that provides sustainable funding for designated organizations and has been shown to increase access to mental health and substance use care, reduce homelessness and substance use, decrease use of emergency rooms and hospitalizations and improve overall health outcomes. It requires that designated CCBHC organizations provide 24/7 crisis services, outpatient care within 10 business days, medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, care coordination and support services, as well as other evidence-based treatments.

School Based Services

Perry Township School Enjoys a Successful Summer SEL-ebration

Students and families at Glenns Valley Elementary enjoyed a Summer SEL-ebration on May 15 thanks to the planning and preparation of Glenns Valley Elementary SEL Specialist, Miranda Mellendorf, and Glenns Valley Elementary Social Worker, Amanda Craig, along with support from the GVE PTA, GVE teachers, and additional members of the A&C SEL team. Attendees made tie-dye t-shirts, slime, decorated some petunia plants to take home, added to the GVE Gratitude Banner, helped with a collaborative sticker mosaic, played outdoor games, and discovered how all of these fun activities can help promote SEL. The event was free for students and their families and was made possible by a Family Engagement Impact Grant from the Perry Township Education Foundation.

Sarah Miller, PMHNP-BC

Sarah Miller works with the addictions team, general psychiatry for adolescents and adults, and the competency restoration team. She is board-certified as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Her specialties are working in addictions and with people who experience serious mental illness.

Miller graduated from Indiana University with a psychology degree and went back to school for nursing. She received her nursing degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and worked in a nursing home and also spent time working in a group home with adolescents. She received her master’s degree from Vanderbilt University.

She enjoys hanging out with her family and her two dogs, and going to sporting events.

Joanna Chambers, MD

Dr. Joanna Chambers is a psychiatrist who began seeing Adult & Child Health patients in November 2021. She graduated from Medical College of Georgia with her Doctorate of Medicine in 1996 and completed her residency in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. In addition to bringing a wealth of experience, she currently serves as an associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine where she teaches Clinical Psychiatry. She is certified in Addiction Medicine and has a special interest in treating pregnant and postpartum women. She is President of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry Organization as well as a sitting member of many medical association boards. Recently, she has won the Residents’ Award for Teaching Excellence in 2020 from Indiana University and has received “Best Doctors Award” in 2010, 2011, and 2014. Dr. Chambers is incredibly active in the medical, academic, and research realms of medicine. She is currently accepting new patients on Wednesdays.