Washburn Center revisited

The agency clarifies that of its 122 clinical staff, three are Black

Photo courtesy of Washburn Center for Children
Photo courtesy of Washburn Center for Children

From the Editors:

The July 16, 2015 issue of the MSR carried a story on Washburn Center for Children under the headlines “Leading provider of children’s mental health services has no Black clinicians: Agency relies on other sources for cultural competence.” After the story was published, the agency contacted the MSR with concerns that the story was “inaccurate and needs to be corrected.”

Their concerns include the following statements in the story:

“Leading provider of children’s mental health services has no Black clinicians” (headline)

“Though it’s the state’s oldest and longest surviving agency….they currently have no African American clinicians on their staff.”

“Washburn does not have a community-based African American clinician to work with these children.”

“With over half of their clients being children of color and their only African American therapist serving one African American family in a suburban school, Washburn clearly has far to go to achieve a clinical staff diversity that reflects the racial composition of its clientele and provides the cultural competence necessary to fully address their needs.”

After a review of our writers’ interview transcripts, the MSR believes that some misunderstanding may have come from the terminology used during the interview. To clear this up, we posed the following questions to Washburn, which their director of development and communications, Amy Pfarr Walker (APW) kindly answered promptly. The following are questions from the editors and Washburn’s unedited responses.


MSR: We feel there may have been some confusion over terminology that led to this unintentional misrepresentation. Please help us better understand the following terms that appear in the story and your response to the story: clinician, therapist, staff who are in a clinical role, social workers, case workers, staff (presumably including many who are not clinicians), interns (students, also therapists/clinicians?)

APW: For Washburn Center, we use “clinicians” broadly and it refers to any staff member who is working directly with families, offering therapeutic services. Our clinicians include therapists, case managers, social workers, psychologists, marriage & family therapists, clinical social workers, etc.

To avoid confusion, it might be more accurate to use “non-clinical staff” to refer to those staff members who are not directly serving families (such as administrative, finance and billing).

Washburn Center’s internship program trains 70-80 interns annually to help serve more families. Some of these interns are considered clinicians because they are completing a Master’s-level practicum or a pre- or post-doctoral internship. (For example, we currently have 6 pre- and post-doctoral clinical interns who have already obtained or are working on the final phase of their PsyD in Psychology.) We do not consider/count undergraduate interns as clinicians since they do not yet have a degree.

MSR: What would be most helpful to us, in addition to becoming better informed on the definition of these various terms, would be the following numbers: Of those members of Washburn’s staff/employees who are directly engaged in serving children and their families (presumably classified as therapists/clinicians), how many are people of color?

APW: Washburn has 17 people of color on our staff; nine of these are clinicians who are working directly with families, offering therapeutic services.

MSR: What is the total number of people employed in such positions?

APW: We have 122 clinicians.

MSR: Of these persons of color directly serving children and families in a professional capacity, how many are African American? Are we correct in understanding that would be three?

APW: Yes, we currently have three African American clinicians.

MSR: Are we correct in understanding that all of these are professional staff and none of them interns insofar as interns may include students or other unlicensed trainees?

APW: One of these three African Americans is a paid, pre-doctoral clinical intern who is working on obtaining her PsyD. and directly serves families.

MSR: Also, just to be sure we get it right, please confirm the percentage of Washburn’s current client population who are people of color. Our story identified that number as 55 percent — is that correct?

APW: Yes.

MSR: Your response also mentions that “our clinicians serve families through center-based, community-based and school-based programs.” Please explain briefly if you can the differences in these programs and tell us, of the African Americans you have identified as therapists/clinicians directly serving children and their families, which program or programs they serve.

APW: Center-based programs: Washburn Center has three office locations where outpatient individual and family therapy are offered: Minneapolis, Minnetonka and Brooklyn Park. We have one African American clinician (the pre-doctoral candidate mentioned above) offering outpatient therapy at our Minneapolis center. The Minneapolis location also houses our intensive therapeutic classrooms for our Day Treatment and Family Focused program.

Community-based programs: Washburn Center offers families therapeutic care at their homes or other community settings. These programs include: Case Management, Crisis Stabilization, Outreach and Intensive In-home therapy. We have one African American clinician who is a case manager that collaborates with families throughout Hennepin County.

School-based services: 22 clinicians serve schools in the Eden Prairie, Bloomington, and Minneapolis public schools. These clinicians offer children convenient access to therapy at the school and also support teachers/administrators in helping identify when a child may need mental health services. We have one African America clinician — whom [the story’s author] interviewed — offering school-based services.


Based on this information from Washburn, the MSR acknowledges having erred in stating that the agency has no Black clinicians. That error is the responsibility of the editorial staff and not of the story’s author.

We now understand that Washburn does in fact have nine clinicians of color among a total clinical staff of 122 — that’s seven percent. We also understand that Washburn does in fact have three African American clinicians, or two percent of a clinical staff serving a client population that is 55 percent children and families of color.

We understand there is one Black therapist (intern) in Washburn’s center-based programs, one Black case manager in Washburn’s community-based programs, and one Black clinician in Washburn’s school-based services.

Given this information, we would revise the July 16 story’s summary as follows: “With over half of their clients being children of color, only nine of 122 clinicians of color, and only three of these clinicians African American (one an intern), Washburn clearly has far to go to achieve a clinical staff diversity that reflects the racial composition of its clientele and provides the cultural competence necessary to fully address their needs.


MSR’s editorial staff welcome reader responses to vnash@spokesman-recorder.com.

One Comment on “Washburn Center revisited”

  1. Thank you for the article. With “Mental Health” being the new buzz word used against our African American children, I am unhappy the the location of this center is right by River Bend Elementary School, Anwatin Elementary School, Bryn Mar Elementary School and Harrison High School. 4 school recognized for having students “labelled” for behavior problems.

    I thank Spokeman-Recorder for being on top of this and hope you continue to monitor it. With the labels being attached to OUR kids, and the escalating number of IEP’s attached to OUR kids, I have some serious concerns about the number of referrals that will be made to Washburn Center For Children.

    Lisa Clemons

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