by Marilyn Benoit, M.D.
Now that I have qualified for lifer status at AACAP, it seems that I should be doing some new and long desired activities with a life of leisure. Because of my daughter, Maria, I have entered the generative phase of grandparenthood. I delight in my 7 year old grand-daughter, Katie, who seems to venture into all endeavors with wonderful exuberance. She definitely has "the world is my oyster" attitude. She loves school, piano, gymnastics, acting, swimming, hiking, and lots of unstructured outdoor play. The family lives in Montana which is a wonderful place to live. Now Katie has two foster siblings, whose adoptions will hopefully be finalized before too long. She has shown so much resilience through what was initially a very difficult time bringing the kids into her previously quiet and uncomplicated home. She was thrown into in-home family therapy, individual therapy, and the foster kids having to be taken to the courthouse for family visiting while she waited around. Then there were the nights when either Mom or Dad had to take an asthmatic child to the emergency room, and stay with the child at the hospital during a few days of confinement. Definitely a major challenge for a 5 year old! But with my advice and that of their therapist, her parents have been attentive to her needs and she is doing very well. She loves her foster siblings and is delighting in being the "big sister."
Meanwhile, Grandma Marilyn decided to take on a new job. Not that I was looking. But I had been serving on the Board of the Devereux Foundation for seven years, during which I served as Chair of the Clinical & Professional Committee. The organization, which is the largest not-for-profit behavioral healthcare organization in the country, had not been successful in filling the role of Chief Clinical Officer, and after a national search in the fall of 2010 proved futile, I was approached to consider taking on the position. Having worked for the organization in a leadership position seventeen years earlier, I had a good understanding of the scope of the job. So two months later I closed my Washington, DC office and said goodbye to the only city in which I have studied and worked for my entire adult life. It?s where I grew up socially and professionally. That was a very difficult transition. I took an apartment in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania close to headquarters in Villanova, a beautiful suburb of Philadelphia.
It was wonderful to have my Philadelphia and New Jersey child psychiatrist colleagues welcome me with an invitation to their annual dinner graduation party for the fellows. The warm embrace of my professional family definitely has made the transition easier. The job is amazing. Devereux serves both the mental health and the intellectually disabled populations, caring for children adolescents, and adults. Treatment occurs across the spectrum from campus-based residential and acute care inpatient to community based services, including outpatient and therapeutic foster care. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders are served in residential and day treatment with highly specialized educational and vocational services. I could not have designed a better position for myself. The job truly utilizes all the skills, knowledge, training and expertise I have accumulated over the years. I oversee the quality of care provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, behavioral therapists and direct care staff. The Devereux Institute of Clinical Training & Research, which I oversee, provides APA approved clinical internships to psychologists. We do applied research, develop psychometric assessment tools, and our Center for Resilient Children has a great training program to build resilience in children and their parents. Our Center for Effective Schools provides in-school interventions, and we conduct outcome studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of our interventions. It is a challenge to oversee eleven residential centers and countless community programs around the country, but I am fortunate to have a very devoted and brilliant staff with whom to work. My good fortune has been that I knew the environment, the culture and the people with whom I work. Did I hit the ground running! The energy among the staff is infectious, and keeps my old engine humming!
Last updated October 2011.