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What's Up Magazine

Kathleen Wise

Mar 01, 2011 11:00PM ● By Anonymous

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The phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” has been a guiding principle for Kathleen Wise, MSW, ACSW, LCSW-C, of Cambridge, who has dedicated her 45-year social work career to advocating for services that enable our communities to be nurturing places where families thrive.

Wise, who is retiring this spring from her position as Program Administrator for School-Based Health Centers, Early Head Start, and Healthy Families America in Dorchester County, realized early on in her career that resources for families needed to be directed toward prevention activities instead of crisis management. She has always worked tirelessly to see that families have the tools they need in order to remain healthy. Whether it was through her work as a private-practice family therapist in Cambridge, along with psychiatrist husband Samuel P. Wise, III, MD, or as the Adolescent Case Manager for the Dorchester County Health Department’s Teenage Pregnancy Program, Wise has been committed to the fact that family issues cross all levels of society.

She recalls, “I was fortunate that I was raised in a close-knit family. While my mother worked, I was cared for by my Aunt Lil, who believed in family and modeled for me good parenting skills.”

Wise received her bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and her master’s degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. She comments, “What I have done in my career has been as much informed from my faith as from my education. Everyone has a family, and some families have issues that make parenting difficult. We see these issues in our churches today, where people are struggling and need help raising their families. We are all called to give back to others, to those in need.”

Her philosophy on parenting has always been that if you want a child to be nurtured, then you need to have nurturing parents. In order to have nurturing parents, you need to have nurturing workers. And in order to have nurturing workers, you need to nurture them.

“Our programs are about developing healthy relationships,” she comments.

The Early Head Start program targets children, prenatal to three years old. Parents can take parenting and GED classes while their children enjoy the socialization with other children. Healthy Families America provides home visits to screen and assess newborns to determine risk factors that may affect their health and well-being, in addition to offering parents the support services they may need.

In her roles as both program administrator and advocate, Wise secured funding for the county’s School-Based Health Centers and Healthy Families Dorchester. Today, she educates legislators on the importance of these support programs, as well as creates partnerships with other community organizations to enhance services. Her programs serve 60 to 75 families in Dorchester County and utilize the “Parents as Teachers” curriculum.

Over the years, Wise’s commitment to families has included serving as both adjunct professor and clinical supervisor of undergraduate psychology interns from Wheaton College and Chestertown’s Washington College. She’s also been an active member of Christ Episcopal Church in Cambridge and served as a board member of the Dorchester Arts Center, Dorchester County Board of Education, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Governor’s Council on Adolescent Pregnancy, Tidewater Performing Arts, Mid Shore Council on Children, Youth and Families, Inc., and Dorchester County Children and Family Services. She was a founding member and serves on the Maryland Assembly for School-Based Health Care, a nonprofit advocacy organization, and was appointed to the School-Based Health Care Policy Advisory Council by Governor Ehrlich.

In her “retirement,” Wise will serve as a consultant to the Maryland Assembly of School-Based Health Care. She will also take a course in early-childhood mental health with the Psychiatric Institute at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, where, in her early years, she taught medical students how to collaborate with social workers in the treatment of their patients. She will use what she learns in the course to help train staff in mental health skills.

When asked what is most exciting about her field of work today, she responds, “There is new research and information about brain development. It is now thought that emotional life experiences can change brain chemistry, and that corrective experiences or processing what you did and how you felt can put it in a framework that allows you to heal.”

“We are in a hopeful time in mental health. We now know how to give people an optimal start and how to handle life’s bumps when they happen,” she adds.