The Sierra Staff Became Another Family Print E-mail

When Jon Laws first entered the doors of Sierra Child and Family Services in 1996, he was certain he wouldn't stay long.


"I was 14 years old, 6 feet tall, and nobody was going to tell me what to do," Jon says. But almost two years later, he graduated from Sierra Ranch School with a different attitude.


"I often find myself supporting others now. I want to give back, to help people out with their problems the way the staff at Sierra helped me."


Jon attributes the behaviors that placed him at Sierra Child and Family Services to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that is marked by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD, or approximately 2 million children in the United States. Children with this condition often find it challenging to keep up in school and to behave appropriately in social situations.


"With ADHD, there are at least six different thought patterns running through your head at any one time. It's like a computer application that's gone out of control, but you can't hit "escape" and end the task," he explains.

Jon grew up in Santa Rosa, and was sent to Sierra by Sonoma County Social Services. "At the time, we were the only agency in the state willing to take Jon," recalls Barry Harwell, SCFS director. "He was aggressive and obstinate, but we thought we could design a program to fit his needs."


Jon lived in the residential program, attended Sierra Ranch School, participated in individual and group therapy, and took part in the agency's social activities, such as sports and field trips.


"The staff at Sierra taught me how to build relationships through example," he says. "For me, they became like a family. A lot of my current values are based on my time with them."


Jon credits Barry with "helping me become a better person," and recently dropped by the school to visit with Barry and teacher Greg Thompson. "Greg is such a wonderful teacher, he should be training other teachers," Jon says. "He was straight-forward and assertive with me. He made me learn!"


Now 24, Jon lives and works in Las Vegas. He's been on his own since leaving Sierra. "I've moved around a lot and have had a lot of jobs since graduating," he says. "I want to see more of the United States, and I feel like I still have a lot more to learn."


"We're immensely proud of Jon," Barry says. "We don't always get to see the results of our work, and we're glad he stays in contact. It always brightens my day when I pick up the phone and it's Jon, calling to update me on what's new in his life".