A map of Alaska with the Statewide region highlighted.
Organization: Alaska Children's Services, Inc. dba AK Child & Family
City: Anchorage
Region: Statewide
Program Area: Human Services \ Family services
Grants Received:
2016: $25,000  1999: $3,300
2013: $200,000  1998: $3,200
2011: $20,500  1997: $4,900
2010: $256,000  1992: $2,000
2008: $25,000  1985: $1,250
2005: $27,415  1984: $2,500
2004: $24,387  1983: $2,500
2003: $73,300  1978: $9,883
2002: $12,607
2000: $17,500

Desire to always "do things a little bit better" benefits kids

Mission Statement
Alaska Children's Services

Based on the spirit of Christ's love, Alaska Children's Services provides quality care and treatment for children and families who need special assistance to develop self-esteem and the ability to live in harmony with others.

Serving Alaska's children and their families since 1890, Alaska Children's Services is a psychiatric residential treatment center for children and adolescents with moderate to severe emotional and behavioral disorders. Other services include aftercare case management, recruitment of therapeutic foster homes, intensive day treatment, and activity therapy.
What's going on here? A 60-year-old Deadhead running a faith-based charity? Is this really what the religious right had in mind?

We can only hope so.

Faith and a belief in the power of love absorbed during the 1960's helps Jim Maley face the abused, addicted, victimized and violent, sick, lost and thrown-away children, taken in and treated by Alaska Children's Services.

The agency started life on the Aleutian chain in 1890 as the Jesse Lee Home, an orphanage run by the United Methodist Church largely for Alaska Native children. It moved to Seward in 1925 and to Anchorage after the 1964 earthquake destroyed the Seward facility.

In 1970, Jesse Lee merged with children's homes run by the Lutheran Church and the American Baptist Church to create Alaska Children's Services. In 1981 the Disciples of Christ joined the agency, which had evolved from an orphanage to a treatment center for kids in trouble.

In its dormitories and administrative offices, spread
across 25 sheltered acres at the wooded edge of town, ACS treats 60 residential patients. It works with another 80 children in their own homes and 40 in therapeutic foster care. Ninety percent of their kids have been physically abused, Jim said. Fifty percent have been sexually abused, and 100 percent have alcohol and drug abuse somewhere in their life.

A photo of the Alaska Children's Services Flag Day Celebration.Spacer Image ACS is the most intensive treatment program in Alaska and it's hard to imagine how state child and youth agencies would function without them.

And here, at the head of it all, is President and CEO Jim Maley who grew up on a cotton farm in Altus, Oklahoma and attended racially segregated schools to the 9th grade.

The great social issues of the 1950s and 1960s bypassed Althus, Jim says. He never noticed the Vietnam War protests and only started to figure out "what a bigoted world I inhabited" during the year he taught English at a racially volatile school.

But once the path of service opened before him, Jim embraced it, taking his first steps toward converting to Catholicism and joining the Peace Corps.

In the Dominican Republic, he trained rural teachers and discovered a talent for administration. After the Corps, he went back to a residential treatment program he had worked at during his undergraduate days.

A photo of Jim MaleySpacer Image Three years later, he was the director.

Over the next decade, Jim worked in mental health delivery programs in Colorado and Indiana. By 1982 he was burned out and thinking maybe he wanted to do something else with his life. So he opened a restaurant and catering business.

He did what?

Here's his story: While Jim was in the Peace Corps, he received a box of Corps-issued books, 150 apparently randomly chosen paperbacks, among them the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. He read it and discovered there was more to cooking than his mother's approach - "cook the hell out of everything and cover it with gravy." He became and remains a serious cook.

Caterer Jim soon learned that professional cooking is hard labor. He realized he missed kids and got back on track. He was running a locked treatment program plus six therapeutic day schools in Illinois in 1992 when a flyer advertising the ACS job came across his desk.

So where does the Grateful Dead come into this life? The Dead were part of Jim's transformation, another lifestream that fueled his mission. He hears in their lyrics a message about connecting with others, about pushing edges and operating outside established forms. "They were constantly experimenting to make the music better," he said. "I am constantly looking for ways to do things a little bit better."

To deal with the "chaos of undifferentiated weirdness," as Jerry Garcia put it.

Sheila Toomey has been a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News long enough to have won a bunch of Alaska Press Club awards. She also has a piece of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize won by the newspaper for its "People in Peril" series, about alcoholism and suicide in Alaska's Native villages.