Center City, Minn. (September 24, 2021) – Jerry Moe, whose widely emulated work helping young children in families facing addiction has been featured in award-winning projects by Sesame Street in Communities, Nickelodeon and PBS—and whose passion for kids and deep empathy have routinely moved audiences to tears—will retire this fall after 43 years as a child counselor and industry icon who brought hope and healing to thousands around the globe. Moe, 66, has spent the majority of his career with the Betty Ford Center and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, where he is executive director of national Children's Programs and will retire on Nov. 10. Helene Photias, one of his key mentees, has been promoted and will take over leadership of the programs after previously serving as director of operations.
"I have been incredibly blessed to work with young children who are growing up like I did—hurt and confused by a parent's substance use, often blaming themselves, taking on adult responsibilities and losing their ability to simply play and be a kid," Moe said. "Children are the first hurt by addiction and, too often, the last helped. Betty Ford knew that if we confronted that reality by working with kids, in addition to their parents, we could enhance healing for everyone, stop generational cycles of addiction and transform families.
"What an honor it has been to bring Mrs. Ford's vision to life and now be a bridge from her and the other pioneers who influenced me, to a new generation whose fresh eyes and passion are already taking the work to new levels," Moe continued. "My successor Helene Photias embodies the compassionate spirit of our Children's Program, has a fantastic team, and is prepared to take the program to greater heights under the leadership of Hazelden Betty Ford's new CEO Dr. Joe Lee, who—as a child psychiatrist and father—is supremely passionate about kids and families, with deep knowledge and experience helping them overcome the impact of addiction. I take great satisfaction in knowing the Children's Program is in such capable hands, and I am excited to support and watch it grow."
Former First Lady Betty Ford hired Moe in 1998 shortly after the Betty Ford Center, which she co-founded in 1982, had received $2 million in donations from philanthropist Joan Kroc and Ronald McDonald Children's Charities to help build the Center's fledgling program for kids ages 7-12.
Today, thanks to Mrs. Ford's vision and Moe's leadership, Hazelden Betty Ford operates Children's Program sites in California, Colorado and Minnesota; provides programming in schools; and offers a virtual program available to children throughout the world. Many consider it the gold-standard program for children of addiction, and thanks to the ongoing generosity of donors, no child is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.
"The reality is that young children don't get help unless they have adults to make it happen, and Jerry has devoted his brilliant career to being that force of hope and healing in the lives of countless kids and their families," said Joseph Lee, MD, president and CEO of Hazelden Betty Ford, the nation's largest nonprofit system of addiction treatment, mental health care, recovery resources and related prevention and education services. "Jerry has long made diversity a priority on his teams, and he was helping kids overcome adverse childhood experiences—or ACEs as they've come to be known—long before the term was even coined. As science has validated the downstream impacts of ACEs and made it a popular focus in behavioral health, he has never gotten lost in the labels, ensuring help is available to all kids and epitomizing Hazelden Betty Ford's mission of love like few others. We, too, love Jerry and will miss him, and are grateful for the program and people he developed to carry the Children's Program into its next era."
One of the foremost experts on counseling for young children in families affected by addiction, Moe has written dozens of books—most featuring a friendly, beloved character Beamer—that are used by families and other professionals throughout the world. A sought-after thought leader, he has spoken in all 50 states and trained or presented in 22 countries, including China, Ghana and Russia. He has also spoken at the White House and on Capitol Hill, and has been interviewed frequently by local, state and national media, including the TODAY show, TIME magazine, the NBC Nightly News and USA Today—just to name a few.
Since 2019, Moe has been a significant contributor to Sesame Street in Communities and its Emmy-winning initiative on parental addiction. Other major media collaborations that brought huge exposure to the needs of kids in families with addiction included the award-winning 2005 PBS documentary Lost Childhood : Growing up in an Alcoholic Family and the Emmy-winning 2010 Nickelodeon News special Under the Influence: Kids of Alcoholics.
Moe's goodwill and fierce commitment to kids has led him to freely share resources and assist many others in starting their own children's programs. He also has served on the boards of 11 organizations, including the American Society of Experiential Therapists and the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom. And, for his significant contributions to children, families and the field of addiction treatment and recovery, Moe has been recognized with more than 20 formal awards.
"When I think of Jerry Moe, I picture a child listening to a loving and kind man who is saying 'It's not your fault; it never was!' I see hundreds of people—teachers, nurses, doctors, administrators and parents—at a conference, spellbound as Jerry pulls them into a deep understanding of the confusion and fear that swarms around the daily lives of millions of children living with parental addiction," said frequent collaborator Sis Wenger, longtime president and CEO of NACoA in the U.S. "I also think of the deep appreciation I have for the nearly 40 years I have called him colleague and dear friend. I know when Jerry trains a team and builds a program—as he has at Hazelden Betty Ford—it lasts; and therefore I know that even as he moves on, the lives of thousands more children across this country and around the globe will be positively impacted for years to come."
Moe's empathy, emotional connection to kids, and unwavering hope for them, likely stems from his own experiences with a father who struggled with alcoholism, accessed help and lived his last 38 years sober. Moe is also a cancer survivor, husband and father of three children of his own. He has experienced recovery as a family in more ways than one, as did Betty Ford, whose recoveries from breast cancer and addiction inspired hope around the world.
"My mom loved Jerry Moe. They shared a bond, and he has honored her legacy by creating a remarkable one of his own that is now part of the enduring fabric and spirit of family healing that makes the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation such a special organization," said Susan Ford Bales, Betty Ford's daughter and longtime leader on the Hazelden Betty Ford Board of Trustees. "We are all proud of Jerry, grateful, and excited to see his strong team, led now by Helene Photias, expand the reach and impact of our wonderful Children's Program even further."
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Learn more at HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter.