River City Six: Deb Anderson
Project Harmony (www.projectharmony.com) is a non-profit organization that exists to protect and support children, collaborate with professionals and engage the community to end child abuse and neglect. Deb Anderson, PhD, MSW is Senior Director of Early Intervention & Training at Project Harmony.
Tell us a little about your organization.
Project Harmony is a child advocacy center, co-located with law enforcement, child protective services, and mental health agencies. Abused or neglected children come here to receive forensic interviews, medical evaluations, advocacy and mental health treatment in one facility. We also train law enforcement officers, child protective service workers, educators, and other professionals to improve their knowledge and skills in this work. Our experts lead multi-disciplinary teams that review cases of abuse and neglect to better identify and meet family needs too. Then there’s our preventative program called Connections dedicated to helping families access mental health services before abuse or neglect happens. Together, these various programs help us toward our goal of ending child abuse and neglect.
How did you get started in the business?
After getting a master’s degree in social work, my family and I moved to Omaha and the first job I got was in Child Protective Services. I never intended to work there, but found that I loved the work. That work led me to training and consulting with a national child welfare organization that I continue today. After getting my doctorate, I taught at the university level for many years, which led to an opportunity to join Project Harmony to start the Training Institute. I came here in 2007 and haven’t looked back.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
I’ve had two large challenges at Project Harmony, starting the Training Institute and 8 years later, starting the Connections program. A personal and professional challenge happened during my doctoral program when my computer crashed and I lost all of my research for my dissertation. I truly went through all the stages of grief.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
Coming to Project Harmony was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made. My greatest achievement is that I’ve learned how to hire really smart, caring people who know how to take these programs and do more than I could have imagined!
Tell us a little about your family.
I have two grown children. My daughter is married and she and her husband have three of the smartest, most delightful boys in my world. My son is single and lives close enough to come watch football each week. I’m engaged to a wonderful, supportive, funny man who has two children as well. His daughter is married and she and her husband have the sweetest, happiest 2-year-old boy. His son also is married and he and his wife have two great step-children.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
A long walk outside, cooking, reading, and then hanging out with friends.
What is your favorite local restaurant?
I have so many! I really like Beacon Hills in Aksarben and Marks in Dundee.
What local non-profit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why?
Aside from my work with Project Harmony, I support the Tri-Faith Initiative, and also other non-profits that are focused on children. And I support the Nebraska Humane Society.
If you could choose only one descriptive word to be remembered as, what would it be?