A Founding Member of the AUCD Family Discipline Network Leaving Va-LEND

May 4, 2018

Just as a bridge in music links two sections of a composition, so it is with Elaine Ogburn, who has been the bridge connecting Va-LEND trainees with mentoring families for 19 years. This type of synergy is worth noting and will not be easy to duplicate when she leaves Va-LEND on June 30th. Elaine is the Family Mentorship Experience (FME) Coordinator and a Family Discipline faculty member of Va-LEND, part of the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. Elaine, who is expressive and passionate about her family, faith, and Va-LEND, received a B.A. in Psychology and Religious Studies from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, in 1976. After college she moved to the Shenandoah Valley area to do volunteer work through the Catholic Church for two years. It is evident that caring has always been part of her life. She then moved to Richmond and enrolled in the graduate program in the School of Social Work at VCU. Instead of completing her MSW degree she ended up getting involved in social work "through the back door," becoming a founder of Freedom House, an organization providing meals and services for people without permanent homes. She later worked at the Richmond Peace Education Center and then served as administrative assistant for eight years at the YWCA of Richmond. However, after marriage to Tom Ogburn and the birth of their daughter Becky, who has Down Syndrome, Elaine's focus shifted. She met the then-current Family Mentorship faculty member at a conference presentation, asked how she could get involved, and applied for the part-part-time job when it later became available. She got the job and has been making a difference ever since. Elaine is very proud of the Family Mentorship Experience (FME) at Va-LEND. She believes it has a firm foundation and is a strong and essential component of the Va-LEND curriculum.

Few would argue that Elaine has given far beyond any amount of hours shown on a time sheet. "Elaine Ogburn has impacted LEND trainees for the past 19 years with her first-hand knowledge of what families of children with developmental disabilities need from disability service providers," according to Dr. Beth Bader, the Va-LEND Associate Director, "and she devotes hours and hours of her own time to ensure that this happens."

One of Elaine's greatest professional accomplishments has been helping to establish the AUCD LEND Family Discipline Network. In 2004 she had been at her job for several years and wondered how other LEND family discipline faculty members organized their family mentorship programs. She looked up all the "Parent" faculty on AUCD's LEND directory and emailed them, and from the ensuing emails and calls it was clear that they'd all like to meet each other in person to discuss their work. AUCD was very willing to give LEND family faculty their very first meeting slot at the AUCD conference in 2004. At that meeting there was so much excitement and energy in the room that MCHB and AUCD offered to designate Family as their Discipline of the Year for 2005. "That designation resulted in a full-day Family Discipline conference in February 2005, which was the official beginning of the LEND Family Discipline Network," Elaine said with a smile. The Family Discipline Network has developed and grown from that initial meeting fourteen years ago, connecting family discipline faculty across the country and producing a variety of resources, journal articles, and research data focused on the significance of the family discipline, including both parents and adults with disabilities, in interdisciplinary training.

Over the years, Elaine has worked with approximately 240 trainees and 115 families while at Va-LEND. "I have enjoyed working with faculty members and trainees and nurturing the family mentoring relationships every year," she said. Elaine's advice to future FME Coordinators is to personally get to know every trainee and every mentoring family, be organized and detail-oriented, and definitely connect with the LEND Family Discipline Network. Elaine's immediate plans after June 30th include "Taking care of some caregiving needs within my family and catching up on lot of projects I've postponed for years. But I know I will miss working with Va-LEND faculty, trainees, and mentoring families and being part of the LEND Family Discipline Network!"