The Willows Team

Jan Rao

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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, 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.

Becky Perelli


Suzan Miller



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 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.

Sarah Mackay Lynch

Patty Juergens


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


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 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.

Laura Hennigan

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Our Inception

Willows in the Wind was founded by alumna parent Jan Rao who joined forces with Robin Sacks. Having had their own experiences making this decision, and transitioning their daughters from Spring Ridge Academy in Arizona, Jan understand the pitfalls and successes that accompany the process of integrating these young men and women back into their families and communities.

Since starting meetings in Los Altos Hills, Willows has grown to include monthly meetings in Oakland and San Rafael. Board members and meeting facilitators including, Suzan Miller,  Becky Perelli, Diane Swirsky, Patty Jurgens, Jennifer Taylor, Sukie McGraw, and Sarah MacKay Lynch featured to the left.

Although some of our board members and facilitators have a clinical background, their work with Willows is in the capacity of a parent who has gone through this similar journey. Willows team members do not provide professional advice but have gleaned years of experience and provide coaching and support to other parents going through this process.​

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Call Jan:  (650) 868-1988



If a program, school or other resource appears on this site, it is not a recommendation.  Conversely, if a program, school or resource is omitted, it does not mean it is not a good program. What is a fine program for one child/family, may not work for another child/family and the opposite is true as well.

The information contained on this site is provided by parents, not professionals, and is meant as a starting point for parents with struggling children.  We recommend consulting therapists, psychiatrists, and other professionals to guide you in the placement of your child.