Staff Spotlight – Julia Dorman

Meet Julia Dorman, Wonderland FRC Supervisor. Julia has always been a history buff. At Sonoma State University, she studied history and liberal studies, planning to become a history teacher. Little did she know that her interest in the history of healthcare would turn into a passion for helping families at Wonderland. Understanding a family’s history and recognizing factors that may have affected several generations is key to being a successful family resources coordinator (FRC), and that’s exactly what Julia excels at.

Julia’s job as an FRC is connecting families in early-intervention services to needed resources. Sometimes these resources can be simple things – finding playgroups, classes, or next steps after graduation from Wonderland’s services. But Julia sees her role as much more than providing information. To her, it’s a wraparound role that is critical to supporting the whole family. “You can’t just support the family by only supporting the child. The child is being raised by the family, and the family needs to be well in order for the child to be well,“ says Julia.

That means taking the stress off families by providing them first with items or resources they may desperately need – diapers, baby monitors, and clothes. Or this could be finding a dentist in a network for a mother who doesn’t understand how to navigate her insurance coverage. The families can then focus their energy on the child’s therapy and their mental health instead of worrying about a toothache or basic necessities.

Julia currently works directly with about 25 families per month. While this may seem like a lot, as a supervisor of three FRCs, she is responsible for the well-being of over 150 families! To Julia, that means she can ensure that more families are served equitably.

Her passion for equity led her to take on the role of a CHERISH program coordinator, focusing on early-intervention services for children in foster care. The program addresses unique challenges that these children and families are often facing, including behavioral and attachment issues. “Sometimes, the children are confused about who their mama is, so we are trying to explain why they are where they are,” says Julia. “There are a lot of moving parts in working with CHERISH early-intervention services.” Multiple people and agencies are often involved, including the child’s parents, foster families, and social workers. Her role is to make sure that everybody is working toward the same goals, ideally leading to the successful reunification of children and parents, but also helping plan for alternative options when necessary.

This is where Julia’s background in history comes into play. Her job requires a lot of empathy and non-biased attention, as understanding history that affected families in her care is critical to providing the right services. The most common thread she sees is poverty and lack of support for mental health, often spanning generations in the same family. If early-intervention services and support were available to parents, grandparents, or even great grandparents, would that stop the cycle of issues affecting children today?

And so the most rewarding aspect of her job is helping reframe the relationship between foster families and parents, validating the struggles, the feelings, and the emotions of everybody involved. When she is successful, she can celebrate along with a happily reunited family. In addition to big successes, there are also occasional small miracles, such as regular Sunday visits from a foster parent whose bond with a child stays strong long after reunification.

To make sure that her knowledge and experience as a CHERISH coordinator is helping as many families as possible, Julia created a CHERISH FRC Training Manual, now available to all Wonderland staff.

Outside of work, Julia is a typical Pacific Northwesterner who loves traveling, hiking, and camping. Her favorite campground is near Hood River in Oregon, and she recently enjoyed a snow-covered hike on Mount Pilchuck. When not wearing hiking boots, she is often seen in fabulous heels around the office. She openly admits that shoes are her second serious passion after history.