When the Menninger Clinic left Topeka for Houston a few years ago, Kristine and Ray Wheat decided to start over.
They moved to Lawrence in 2002, and Ray now works for the Social Security Administration. Kristine, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, gave up her job working with children and families to start one.
"It was hard because we both enjoyed working there, but Houston wasn't for us. We are very happy to be in Lawrence," Kristine Wheat said.
While taking care of the couple's son and daughter, Kristine got another chance to volunteer as a way to help make a difference for children and families in tough situations.
She was sworn in one year ago to the Citizen Review Board of Douglas County, and she works with other volunteers to assist judges by reviewing cases involving abused or neglected children, families and juvenile offenders.
"When I found out about CRB, I found it to be a perfect match because I wanted to be aware of what was going on in my community in the realm of foster care, juvenile offenders and other issues," she said.
How do you handle cases as a CRB volunteer?
When these children come before the board, even if they are not physically in front of you, it's important because this is their life. We begin looking at different factors in that child's life, like what's gone awry and what are their needs, and what do we need to change in their life right now.
It's the same thing for children in need of care, who are in the state's custody. I feel a responsibility that it's up to me to help with this child.
In your work and service, what is the most important factor for children to have in their lives?
I would say having the caring adults in their lives. It doesn't have to be their parents, but to have adults there for them who is really being their personal cheerleader, who is really helping them through the bad times.
They are there with them through the ups and the downs. It's huge just having at least one important person in their lives who's there to listen to them. It doesn't necessarily have to be financially in the parent role, but hopefully they can have one person who they can always go to.
What have been your favorite moments on the CRB?
When an adoption has become complete, that's just wonderful.
Volunteer Service: Douglas County Citizen Review Board for one year; for three years with the Jim Cosgrove Benefit Concert for the MOMS Club, North Chapter. Family: Husband, Ray; son, Jamison, 7; daughter, Lauren, 4. Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology from Kansas University in 1992; master's degree from Washburn University in 1997. Moved to Lawrence: 2002, after she and her husband worked at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka. Wheat is a licensed clinical psychotherapist.
Also, when you have a juvenile offender who's at the end, and you are not going to be seeing them again, that's a nice time. It's very gratifying to see their success and to have them before you and say, "Nice job. From here on out, things are going to be much better for you."
What is important about who you are, and, also, what is important to other parents and community members about children?
The answer to both is summarized in this quote (from an anonymous person): "To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world." This summarizes how I feel about volunteering and parenting. You never know when what you say or do is going to make a huge impact in the lives of others.
What do you feel is a critical issue in Lawrence?
One issue that affects all Lawrence residents is the escalating housing prices in Lawrence.
I can think of many critical issues the CRB has faced, yet each hearing has adifferent set of critical issues so it would be unjust to state one. The one I feel is most critical citywide is the cost of housing.
What do you enjoy most about living in Lawrence?
I enjoy living in Lawrence because of the small-town congeniality and focus on the family. There are many family-orientated activities to attend in the community, and I feel it is a great place to raise a family. I would and do recommend Lawrence to people.