After 20 years leading and expanding the work of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), President and CEO Sis Wenger has announced plans to retire later this year. Until then she will focus on program initiatives and NACoA’s 2013 thirtieth anniversary year. She has requested that NACoA's Board of Directors develop a transition plan and the search for a new CEO.
“Through Sis Wenger’s leadership, lives of millions have been helped – here and abroad. She has been instrumental in establishing NACoA as the unequivocal voice for children and families impacted by alcohol and drug use problems and the champion for their support, resilience and recovery,” said NACoA Board Chair Dr. Faye Calhoun, former Deputy Director of the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. She added, “NACoA and those we serve are deeply grateful for her years of service and leadership.”
During Wenger’s tenure, NACoA launched initiatives with leaders of faith, education, social work, and primary care health fields. This work enabled the establishment of core competencies specific to each field to help these professionals understand, identify and address the needs of children and families impacted by substance use disorders. “It has been especially gratifying to have so many professionals in these fields collaborate with NACoA over the years,” commented Wenger, “and recognize that what they do matters greatly. They represent the systems that interact the most closely with children and families. This has strengthened opportunities for children of parents with alcohol or drug use problems to find the help they need to thrive.”
Under Sis Wenger’s leadership NACoA expanded to include a wide range of non-profit affiliate organizations whose missions complement or are enhanced by this collaboration. The affiliate network now spans several countries in Europe as well as Brazil and Canada.
Her interest in children affected by addiction in the family brought her into the arena of child and family advocacy over 30 years ago while she worked in programs designed to help prevent child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, and post-partum maternal neglect. What was obvious to her then – and is still too common – was that key decision makers in community systems, including the courts, schools, and foster care, as well as the prevention and treatment fields, consistently designed solutions for troubled kids and kids in trouble without looking to the source that fostered the trouble, most frequently a family impacted by alcoholism or other drug addictions. “I thought then, and still think, that a civilized society can and must break the silence that traps millions of children during their critical developmental years in a traumatic family environment that causes havoc with a child’s social and emotional development, often with life-long mental and physical health consequences,” she said.
Today NACoA is expanding its programs to serve the country’s growing Hispanic population with prevention education and recovery support efforts designed specifically for this population beginning in Northern California and New Mexico. The most recent product of The Clergy Education and Training Project® is a seminary curriculum, which will be rolled out this spring in both print and online formats. The evidence-based Celebrating Families!™ recovery program is in half of the states and growing and is available in Spanish. NACoA will also introduce a new website within the month.
“While there is much to celebrate about the subtle but deep inroads NACoA has made into the many systems that impact children’s lives, too many still suffer needlessly because individuals who should be concerned and in positions to intervene and support them choose not to do so. The work ahead continues to be critical – for the impacted children, their families, their schools, their friends and their neighbors. It is fortunate that there are so many extraordinary, passionate and diverse minds and hearts on NACoA’s Board of Directors and among its large cadre of advisors and program experts,” said Wenger. “They and those who came before them in the past 30 years have provided passionate hearts and strong shoulders on which so many of us have stood. NACoA is very blessed indeed and well positioned to continue on its mission ‘to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families’ for the next 30 years.”