His Grace Foundation welcomed Anna Boucher as our new Program Director just as 2020 came to an end. As a certified child life specialist with years of experience serving pediatric patients and their caregivers, Anna brings a wealth of knowledge and compassion to our team.
Our Communications Coordinator, Abby Perry, spoke with Anna about the journey that led her to HGF and what she’s looking forward to in the future.
Let’s start with your background leading up to where you are today.
I grew up in Houston and actually didn’t know I wanted to work with kids until probably right before college. I was a camp counselor for about four years. And during that time, it just became really, really obvious that I enjoyed leading a group of kids, whether they were four years old or 16 years old, and helping them overcome personal challenges and homesickness, all sorts of things.
In high school, I shadowed a child life specialist for half a day. I feel very blessed that it was one of those, you shadow, and you just kinda know that that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. Granted, I don’t think I would’ve known about the role at all if my mom (an ICU nurse) had not been the one to present it. So, that was just a really big blessing.
I am really big into art and just creativity in general. I found that, as a child life specialist, I’m able to pull my knowledge and my skill set as an artist and then my enjoyment of teaching and helping together.
Also, I’m a learner. I have always found hospital things fascinating. So, I think being able to plug in my hospital knowledge and continue to learn about hospital diagnoses and how kids and adults process different things was a big draw to the child life field for me.
I went to the University of Alabama and started doing courses as a freshman in child development, and it was the first time in school where I was just like— I love every single one of my classes. I ended up getting my bachelor’s in science in human development and family studies with a child life concentration. So, the concentration part had to do more with medical terminology, medical diagnoses, assisting or helping the hospitalized child cope, what stressors basically were surrounding children based on their developmental ages, concerning hospital things. I learned a lot about bereavement and supporting families through end-of-life decisions and the death of a child or for children post the death of a sibling or of a parent.
So, then from there, I ended up getting a job back in Houston pretty soon after my graduation and after my internship. From there, I got my job in Houston. I have been a certified child life specialist for close to six years now.
I have worked at a couple of different hospitals with a variety of patient populations. I got to work with the chronic patient population with liver transplant kids for a few years. And that’s where I really developed a better understanding of the impact that long-term diagnoses can have on kids and families. And then I had a chance in the emergency department where I got to see even some of those kids who are chronic who come in, and it’s an emergency. So, even though it’s a known diagnosis, it’s still a traumatic visit.
How did you learn about His Grace Foundation? What drew you to be a part of the team?
I’d seen the work that HGF had done through a fellow child life specialist as she brought in welcome baskets and talked about this incredible organization that supported these families.
I really enjoy building relationships with chronic patients and their families and being able to walk with them through good and bad times. There are so many times people have a hard time figuring out what to say or what to do to be a support. So, either people say the wrong things, or they say nothing.
I found it just to be a really big blessing that, as a child life specialist, I got to provide information to these families that were directly helpful to them within my scope of knowledge, to work with interdisciplinary team members, and to dedicate my time to my job of being here to support you versus feeling like I had to be pulled in other directions. I really, really have valued that about my role as a child life specialist. And I feel like I’m able to also use that, or that role kind of rolls into my role now as HGF’s Program Director.
I know we’re not seeing patients face-to-face at the moment. But it’s still a lot about we’re here for you. How can our organization help you? We wanna go deep with you, and tell us how. We know your face. We know your name. We want to be as personal of a support as we can be were it not this distance.
That’s one thing that I really, really love about HGF. I’ve told Valerie so many times—the thing that I’ve seen that’s different about HGF is that the focus isn’t wide and shallow. It’s deep and a smaller pool.
It’s not about how many patients we can support. It’s about the quality of the support we can provide to the patients and families, and not a lot of organizations focus on the depth. They focus on the breadth. So, I really value that about His Grace. Honestly, that’s probably the thing I value most.
I love that. As you think about what drew you to HGF, how does that spark your imagination for what you want to do in your role now?
I think what’s exciting about my role is that Valerie has never had a program director before. We’ve had a program coordinator who is amazing and who did amazing work. She really laid the foundation for anything I’m doing right now.
But I think because there hasn’t ever been someone who’s full-time directing the program, there really is more or less a blank slate. There’s a general this is what needs to happen, but then there’s also a lot of room for me to fill things in, which is exciting.
I’m focusing right now on the programming that we have in place. I really want to focus on fine-tuning that programming so we’re as efficient as possible. Then anyone going forward in this organization can have these things already set in place for them.
I think one thing that’s really wonderful about me being a child life specialist is that I understand where the child life staff is coming from and what they’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis. So, a big part of what I wanna focus on is really developing a stronger connection with the child life staff at TCH — building and forming that bridge so we can be deeply collaborative with each other.
I don’t ever wanna be seen as an extra task for somebody. I want to be as helpful and proactive as possible and be part of that group where they think, “They took so much off of my plate.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity, We’ll be back with part two tomorrow!