Kentlands resident Dr. Lisa Lunghofer is an advocate for those in need ‚ÄĒ both humans and animals.
She is president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Maryland Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, a volunteer position. CASA volunteers are matched with children in foster care and advocate for their best interests. Maryland CASA seeks to support and expand local CASA programs with a goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every child under the protection of Maryland courts.
Lunghofer believes children in the foster care system deserve more than they are receiving ‚ÄĒ and that CASA volunteers can make a critical difference.
‚ÄúChildren who age out of foster care face grim prospects,‚ÄĚ she said.
She cites a study that for eight years followed 600 young adults who aged out of the child welfare systems in three Midwestern states: ‚ÄúAt ages 23 and 24, since exiting foster care, former foster youths are more likely than their peers to be: unemployed, homeless, pregnant, convicted of a crime and uneducated.‚ÄĚ
With a Ph.D. in social welfare policy, Lunghofer is a consultant with two decades of experience researching and evaluating the efficacy of programs ‚ÄĒ especially programs designed to ameliorate the damaging impact of violence on humans. Currently, she has five consulting positions and also holds numerous volunteer roles.
She is a consultant for a California farm that helps at-risk youth understand and experience an alternative, compassionate and nurturing way of interacting with animals and people.
Also a consultant to Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab, Utah, she supports the ‚ÄúCanines with Careers‚ÄĚ program, designed to assess, identify and train rescue dogs for various types of service. She is conducting a qualitative study to explore the experiences of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and whose psychiatric service dogs were adopted from shelters as opposed to having been bred specifically for service.
‚ÄúCanines with Careers could transform the service dog industry from breeding dogs to selecting dogs who would otherwise be killed in shelters by identifying those that could be trained to meet the tremendous unmet need for service and other support dogs in the [United States],‚ÄĚ said Lunghofer.
She mentioned four seemingly simple jobs she has seen dogs perform for vets with PTSD. By going through doorways before vets, dogs help them to go in and out of the house. For vets who need it, dogs can create ‚Äúsafe space‚ÄĚ around individuals ‚ÄĒ typically a perimeter of 3 feet. Dogs can turn the lights on in dark rooms, and they can be trained to remind vets to take their medicine. These simple things can mean wondrous abilities for veterans with PTSD and many others with a wide range of physical, mental, emotional and other needs.
In October, Lunghofer became director of the Gaithersburg-based AniCare and Rapid Response Program of the Animals and Society Institute. AniCare and Anicare Child are the first professionally developed psychological intervention programs for animal abusers. Rapid Response seeks to educate health, education and criminal justice professionals to recognize animal cruelty as a law enforcement issue and to advocate for the treatment of animal abusers.
Lunghofer and husband Bill MacFarland, a biomedical engineer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have both adopted and fostered dogs themselves, and she has also helped search for lost dogs. Her first search was for Jeddah, a rescue dog who escaped its crate at Dulles International Airport while traveling with a soldier to a yearlong assignment in Saudi Arabia.
Hearing that people were still searching for the dog several weeks after it disappeared, ‚ÄúI showed up,‚ÄĚ she recalled. She was part of a group of people who searched ‚ÄĒ to no avail ‚ÄĒ for the dog for a long period of time. The experience led to an epiphany for Lunghofer.
‚ÄúThe experience was a life-changing thing,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe spent many months searching for Jeddah.‚ÄĚ
Other searches followed. On one, she worked with people who utilized trained search dogs. One woman, in particular, ‚Äúgave me ideas on networking in human-animal interaction. ‚Ä¶ Suddenly, I knew what I wanted to do.‚ÄĚ
On the spot, Lunghofer widened her career path to embrace both humans and canines in need.
‚ÄúIn hundreds and hundreds of interviews, I have never ‚ÄĒ not once ‚ÄĒ heard anyone talk about ‚Äėlove‚Äô or how it helped them heal,‚ÄĚ she said of her years of researching programs designed to help people who have experienced trauma. ‚ÄúYet, in the first 14 interviews [of veterans with PTSD using service dogs through the Canines in Careers program], the word ‚Äėlove‚Äô appears 57 times. ‚Ä¶ I hope that people learn never to underestimate the profoundly healing power of the relationship between the hurting person and their dog ‚ÄĒ the power of love.‚ÄĚ
Lunghofer intends to continue to explore the bond between people and dogs.
‚ÄúI am passionate about this. I‚Äôm willing to work really hard ‚ÄĒ to seize every opportunity. ‚Ä¶ It ties back to CASA. There is a lot of work to be done,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThere are many people and many animals who are hurting, and we all have a responsibility to do something.
Lisa Lunghofer is moved to creativity and propelled to action by the pain of others. She is a champion of people and animals who have been abused. And in her work, Lunghofer will continue to uncover the miracles to be found at both ends of what she calls the ‚Äúhuman-animal bond.‚ÄĚ
For more information about Maryland CASA or the other programs mentioned in this report, contact Lunghofer at email@example.com.