The Children's Mental Health Network was thrilled to learn that Barbara Huff has been selected as the co-recipient of the Blanche F. Ittleson Award for 2013. The American Orthopsychiatric Association gives this award annually, and we can't think of a more deserving family advocate. The American Orthopsychiatric Association's oldest, largest and most prestigious award, the Ittleson Award is given for outstanding achievement in the delivery of children's services and the promotion of children's mental health. Ortho is honoring Barbara's career contributions to the development of a humane and responsive mental health system for children with emotional disturbance and their families. The award will be presented during the Symposium ,"Changing the Culture Toward Humane and Just Communities" which will be held April 10-12, 2013, in Greenville, South Carolina. The symposium is jointly sponsored by Ortho, the Clemson University Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, the Haruv Institute (of Israel), the International Family Therapy Association and the International Society for child Indicators. You can read about the award recipients for 2012 here.
I first met Barbara in the mid-1980's when she was the Executive Director of Keys for Networking, Topeka, Kansas. Since that time, our lives have been intertwined with the birth and growth of the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, which she was the Founding Director. After serving a term on the Federation Board in the early 90's, I started a wild ride with Barbara as the conference planner for the Federation annual conference. (For you youngin's, in the old days, Board members organized and put on the conference). After leaving the Board, I took on the task of organizing the annual conference each year, giving Board members a break, which consequently meant that Barbara and I spent a lot of time talking on the phone. What always amazed me was her unwavering commitment to families. In that distinct Midwestern accent of hers, I can clearly hear her saying (as she often did), "Well Scott, we are just going to have to have our call later tonight, around 11:00 pm, because right now I have a family member who needs help." Now, mind you, this would be at 7:00 or 8:00 pm in the evening already! Think about it - the national leader of the Federation on the phone with a parent somewhere in the United States helping them through a crisis. And you wonder why I would do absolutely anything for Barbara? And why she is so loved and revered by families and professionals (even the ones she irritated the hell out of) across this great nation? This woman has given her heart and soul to families across America who have children with emotional challenges in a most unselfish way.
Her motto was always, "Whatever it takes, Scott, whatever it takes. We need to make sure that all families of the Federation feel special, because they are." Ortho - you got it right on this one. I feel so blessed to have been able to know Barbara on both a personal and professional level. Forget the advocate part, people like Barbara are a rare breed, and when you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to be in the presence of such a humble, wickedly smart and tenacious advocate for families like Barbara... well, it just doesn't get any better than that.
Congratulations Barbara. Well deserved.
Scott Bryant-Comstock, President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network