Finding Inspiration (and Supports) to Thrive

Category Tags

Aug 22
Tony Baisley, Communications Manager
Dungarvin National Central Office

“Wherever there are family, it is home.” Now, more than ever, this saying applies to the Russell family of five. Living in Everett, Washington – near Seattle – life was a wonderful kaleidoscope of activity. Annemarie is an educator (English teacher) and husband Aaron is a clinical psychologist. Matthew, 12, is the Russell’s youngest child. Matthew is a spirited, high-energy child who loves Play-Doh, to draw, climb trees, hike, trail run, and explore the outdoors. He has a good sense of humor and boundless energy. Matthew was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD when he was four.


matthew baby

“Until recently, Matthew was living full time with us in our home. It was a huge challenge — we felt like we were running a 24-hour group home and there were just two staff members, mom and dad,” said Annemarie. “Because of Matthew’s high behavioral and supervision needs, our family was incredibly limited in where we could go and what we could do. It became challenging to operate as a healthy family unit, especially supporting our two older children alongside Matthew.”

Matthew Russell_5

Unfortunately, the Russells experienced several ‘elopment’ incidents where Matthew got out of the house and “just took off.” After a few hospitalizations for really challenging behaviors, the family realized they needed more support. “Matthew’s world kept getting smaller,” said Annemarie. “We knew we could no longer successfully support Matthew in our home on our own, so we worked with the state of Washington to find supports and thankfully after a few months of the process, a group home placement opened up in Mukilteo, just 10 miles from home.”

Matthew Russell_2 Matthew Russell_3

“Initially, it was a bumpy group home experience,” shared Annemarie. “Particularly because the company that managed the group home was struggling with staffing and support. But we stuck in there because we needed the support and Matthew needed more opportunities. Then Dungarvin came into the picture.”

“When Dungarvin assumed leadership for Matthew’s group home (and other homes in the area), we immediately felt the commitment to Matthew as a whole person. Staffing was strengthened, a new group home supervisor was hired, and she was trained and well supported so she could step into the position and make positive changes. The house received some much-needed updates, staff seemed genuinely invested in Matthew, and we felt a strong partnership begin between our family and group home staff.”

Matthew Russell_1

“Matthew is fairly non-verbal and he and his roommate, Troy, just clicked and have become a team. I really attribute that to Jessica Harpel and Terri Moore, acting Area Directors for the OHS/Children’s program out of Tacoma, to understanding the synergy they have together,” said Annemarie. “Recently, I went over for a visit and found Matthew running after Troy, genuinely laughing, he didn’t know I was there. Troy is like a big brother to Matthew. It’s been wonderful to see how far he has come.”


“This whole team has expanded our bench of support. While it is sad that Matthew isn’t able to live with us – our home was such an insular experience for him – his Dungarvin home is now like this expansive village where he can thrive. I no longer want to make decisions about Matthew without consulting his Dungarvin team!”

From Kendra Ellis, Senior Director, to Jessica Harpel, acting Area Director, to Tempestt Brown, Program Director, to Dr. Victoria Frazier, State Clinical Director, to Tara Ellenbest, Children’s Program Director, the entire Dungarvin team has worked collaboratively to cultivate a strong sense of community and authentic connection for Matthew. His Soundview home is a therapeutic environment supporting his growth and increasing positive behavior. “There is now this whole community of support for Matthew from his family as well as at his Dungarvin home,” Annemarie believes.

“I love the idea that Dungarvin serves kids throughout their lifespan. As Matthew grows into an adult, there will be a place for him to get the supports he needs. As a parent, that continuum of care is really important. The services you provide are truly life-giving for families. Thank you!”

Add A Comment

Required Field* Your email will not be displayed or shared.


  1. Musa Koroma,

    It’s a great pleasure to be part this wonderful family.