About

 

Who We Are

Willows in the Wind is a non-profit founded in 2007 by parents whose daughters had attended residential therapeutic programs. They saw a need for a safe meeting place where parents of teens with behavioral and mental health issues could share their stories, concerns and resources.

 

Over a decade later, Willows in the Wind continues to offer monthly parent support groups, parent coaching, parent education workshops, transition planning and after-care support.

 

Who We Are

Our mission is to provide integrated support services where parents can feel safe, regain confidence, build on their knowledge, establish a supportive network of resources, improve their family relationship and heal the isolation and grief that accompanies them.

Some parents are seeking additional at-home services for themselves or their child. Others are considering out-of-home placements. All are welcome.

We work with parents who have a teen or young adult who is:

  • Experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues

  • Accessing therapeutic support at home

  • Currently in a therapeutic residential program

  • Getting ready to transition back home

 

Meet the Team

Jan Rao, Executive Director & Founder

As an alumni parent of a therapeutic boarding school graduate, Jan recognized the need for community support and education around therapeutic placement. In 2007, she founded Willows In The Wind. Through Willows, she created a network to help families gain a support system, turning what could be a negative and isolating experience into a constructive and educational process. She strives to help parents reinvent themselves by taking the time to focus on their own needs and enrich their families’ relationships in a healthy, positive way. Jan lives with her husband Michael and is the proud mom of two adult daughters. 

Becky Perelli, Board of Director

Becky Perelli, RN, MS, is currently the director of Student Health Services at West Valley College where she not only keeps the clinic going even when financing is short, but also writes grants for extra funding to improve the services already provided. As a single mom with three children and a full-time career, Becky took on the role of family case manager when her eldest son needed intervention at age 13. Looking back, she realizes how helpful it would have been to have the support of an organization like Willows, and is now happy to be part of this committed team at Willows.

Suzan Miller, Board of Director

As a parent of a graduate from a Therapeutic Boarding School who still struggles with why she was sent away, Suzan and her husband helped start the parents group in 2005 that would evolve into Willows in the Wind. Helping parents to deal with the pain and the shame from those years continues to energize her and her husband, as well as keeping them humble when they recall that we parents are part of an underground support group no one ever wants to be a part of. Learning about, and setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with our children, our friends and co-workers enriches all of us. Bringing awareness of struggling teens to educators across the country is of vital importance to improving how schools deal with our kids and how our kids deal with life.  

Sarah Mackay Lynch, Board of Director

Sarah is a former educator and the parent of a teen heading off to college. she is a regular co-leader of the San Rafael Willows support group as well as a Family Connections course leader. Sarah benefited so much from parent coaching in her own journey that she decided to work with parents herself. Sarah is also a certified parent coach and a member of the International Coaching Feration.

Patty Juergens, Parent Engagement Leader

Patty Juergens is one of the facilitators for the Oakland Willows in the Wind support group.  She lives in Oakland and has 3 children.  She has helped many Willows families get services for their children through the school districts, using the IEP process.  She is also familiar with using the Adoption Assistance Program to obtain treatment for struggling kids.  She is grateful for the support that each attendee brings to our meetings and recognizes that most often, the best advice for difficult situations comes from fellow parents.

Jennifer Taylor, Parent Engagement Leader

Jennifer is a therapeutic education consultant; her practice JET ED Consulting offers resources for out-of-home placements when local care has not yielded healthy recovery.  The mother of two teenage boys one with autism who needed residential care in high school, she brings great empathy and experience to the Willows meetings in San Rafael.  Jennifer is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Laura Hennigan, Administrative Manager

Laura supports Willows in the Wind part-time by maintaining and updating monthly communications, as well as consolidating and organizing the parent database, consumable resources for parents, and more. She has an extensive background in health care, research and non-profit work. She is mom to two human children and one pup.

Testimonials

The caliber of speakers chosen by Willows has been excellent. I hope all the participants realize what a gift this is.

– Transitions Workshop participant

Having a child attend a therapeutic boarding school is a traumatic and transformative experience. In the beginning, I was unprepared for the way it shook the foundation of my life. I feel fortunate to have received the support from other parents at Willows. It was through these meetings that I connected with others who were in different phases of the journey and yes, surviving this unique journey! Although our stories were different, we all shared a common thread and the challenges that allowed for understanding, and a wisdom that even the most cherished friends and family, or the most skilled therapists, could not provide. Willows helped me find strength amidst the rubble and for that I am forever grateful. 

– Willows Parent

How do you tell your beautiful daughter she cannot live with you? It was the worst week of my life. With the wonderful support of Willows and the staff at the school, we got through it. I know it will be a life-long challenge, but with wonderful groups like Willows, all you have to do is reach out for help. It is there.

– Sue, Willows parent

In my experience, Willows is a group of very caring, thoughtful, smart, and dedicated parents who have all dealt with extraordinarily difficult/risky parenting challenges. It is so helpful to meet other parents who have been in the same boat and to share information and support with them.

– Transitions Workshop participant

We write with profound gratitude for the help you gave us at a very difficult time for our family. We truly appreciated the leadership, expertise, emotional support, helpful suggestions, and skillful facilitating of the group. It was a lifeline for us while our child was in residential treatment. The group was the only place we could go where others truly understood what was going on for our family.

– Willows parents

Willows was there for me many years ago when our then young teenager was in residential treatment. Willows was the ONLY place that I felt I could tell my story without judgment. I received great comfort from being in the company of others who loved their children but had come to the end of their emotional resources and ability to keep their loved ones safe. Thank you, for creating this safe space. Our teen did the hard work, and so did we. Soon to be 25 years old, she is living and working in New York and connected almost daily with all the members of our nuclear family. We celebrate the successes.

– Willows Parent

 

Jan Rao

As an alumni parent of a therapeutic boarding school graduate, Jan recognized the need for community support and education around therapeutic placement. In 2007, she founded Willows In The Wind. Through Willows, she created a network to help families gain a support system, turning what could be a negative and isolating experience into a constructive and educational process. She strives to help parents reinvent themselves by taking the time to focus on their own needs and enrich their families’ relationships in a healthy, positive way. Jan lives with her husband Michael and is the proud mom of two adult daughters. 

Executive Director & Founder