At Open Sky, family support begins on day one. After working with the Admissions Team throughout the application and enrollment process, a family’s first point of contact at Open Sky is the Family Care Coordinator.
The Family Care Coordinator is a family’s point person at Open Sky throughout their entire journey in the program. Family Care Coordinators are a friendly and familiar voice on the other end of the phone if parents have questions or are seeking information. Family Care Coordinators help families navigate their transition into wilderness therapy by overseeing a variety of important administrative and logistical tasks, such as:
Throughout the student’s stay, Family Care Coordinators manage and track important paperwork, including medical information, immunization records, power of attorney, clinical evaluation, and all other legal, medical, and therapeutic history and documentation.
Family Care Coordinators manage student photos and letters and post them to the family’s Parent Portal once a week. This is an exciting day each week for families, as parents get to glimpse what their child is experiencing in the field, as well as communicate with them through letter writing.
Family Care Coordinators also support scheduling and logistics for the Family Quest™ Intensive, Wellness Weekend, and graduation.
From enrollment through graduation, Family Care Coordinators are devoted to making the process as smooth as possible for families.
Our Family Care Coordinators are JJ Simms, Hunter King, and Kat Brail. JJ works with families of adolescent girls, Hunter works with families of young adults, and Kat works with families of adolescent boys. Together they make an experienced, caring, and professional team. Get to know each of them a bit better in the following Q&A.
JJ: I’ve worn many hats at Open Sky. I started in 2015 as the Research Coordinator, then became a Field Guide, and then came back to the office side of things and worked as an Administrative Assistant. I’ve also worked as a Transporter and covered for the Food Manager. By working in each of these departments, whether short or long term, I have witnessed how all the cogs in the machine work together and I understand how many of our processes work. Having a visceral understanding allows a lot of perspective. I’m also the passion behind our ongoing research! Having the experience as a Field Guide and Transporter is also valuable to my role as a Family Care Coordinator. For example, I’ve been with students through the intake and outfitting process, I’ve worn the gear through the elements in the field, and I know what a Safety Watch looks like for a student. There are tons of protocols, intention behind the protocols, and diligence in carrying them out. It is gratifying to be able to tell parents with confidence and experience, yes, your child is well-cared for.
Hunter: I started at Open Sky as Compliance Administrator. I tracked student paperwork, letters, and photos. From there, I transitioned into the role of Clinical & Family Services Coordinator. That role was more focused on talking to parents about the Parent Portal and scheduling calls, Wellness Weekend, and Family Quest. So, the Family Care Coordinator is basically a combination of those two roles. I love that this role allows me to combine my deep care for families, my expansive knowledge of the Open Sky program, and my enthusiasm for collaborating with almost every department here.
Kat: Getting my start at Open Sky as a Field Guide, I learned firsthand the power of the wilderness. I found myself relenting to the wilderness and letting it do a lot of work in helping challenge and heal students in such different ways. This has helped me fully represent the work that is done in the field, as I can speak to my experience directly. Beyond seeing its impacts, the work in the field allowed me to understand all the intersections of the Open Sky departments as they come together to support students and families. Translating that knowledge to helping parents as a Family Care Coordinator was a familiar transition. Much like the guides have systems for gear and the day’s schedule and tasks, I find that I have several systems in place as a Family Care Coordinator to help families out as effectively and concisely as possible.
JJ: The thing I value the most is witnessing the progress of the student and the parents and family. I love sorting student photos and letters, as well as their weekly goals, because I get to watch students grow, change, and celebrate milestones. I love knowing when a student has a call with their parents or when the parents attend Wellness Weekend or the Family Quest intensive because I can personally check in afterward with the parents. By bearing witness to some of these experiences (even if we’re not in the field), we can be a pillar of support throughout the student and family’s progress. Something I really value is that as a family’s point person, they share with us their gratitude for all of Open Sky. It’s really special to receive those words and updates on the organization’s behalf. It’s also humbling to hear how we as Family Care Coordinators play a role in supporting them through this journey.
Hunter: In all areas of life, I love being able to offer what I can for everyone. In this role, I really value being a resource for the therapists. I know they have a lot going on with providing the best care and treatment possible for our students, so it is important to me to be a constant support for them. I love being there for parents too. Whether the parents reach out every week or only occasionally, they know they have us to support them, listen to them, and answer questions that arise. I love building relationships with them over time and seeing the change from day one to graduation.
Kat: I appreciate being a steady, reliable source for parents to count on. I understand the massive undertaking the wilderness intervention can be and hope to be a source of information, compassion, and kindness for families on the journey. I appreciate the first call with parents the most, as it is a time to help frame what the next few weeks will look like for them and their child. I always try to remember what they were like on that first call versus the time of graduation, as during the process much changes with the family at home as well.