Our History

Forest Heights Lodge (the Lodge) was founded in 1954 by Hank and Claire Swartwood, a couple who dedicated their lives to helping children. Prior to founding the Lodge, Hank and Claire had been involved in establishing a treatment facility on San Juan Island in Washington’s Puget Sound. Wanting to build upon their success and experience in Washington, the Swartwoods and seven boys moved to Colorado. They found our present site and established Forest Heights Lodge in Evergreen in the spring of 1954. The Swartwood’s belief that close interpersonal relationships are paramount to treatment and success remains the cornerstone of the Lodge’s treatment philosophy to this day. Their intuitive approach and psychodynamic perspective soon found acceptance and support in the professional community of Denver. A group of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers from the University of Colorado Medical Center consulted with the Lodge to facilitate treatment for the children.

Russ Colburn, LCSW, was asked by Hank and Claire to serve as Executive Director in 1963. Russ had worked at the Lodge while in graduate school and shared a vision and passion for the organization. Russ served as the executive director of the Lodge from 1963 to 1994. Under his leadership the Lodge increased enrollment, expanded and constructed new buildings, developed an on-grounds school and became accredited with The Joint Commission.

Vera Fahlberg, MD was the medical director of the Lodge and became an international voice for children and their treatment. She authored “A Child’s Journey Through Placement” and was the editor of the Lodge’s 1994 book “Residential Treatment – A Tapestry of Many Therapies.” Vera became a speaker and trainer throughout the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Israel and Greece. Her writings expanded the work and outreach of the Lodge and established our national and international reputation for excellence.

Linda Clefisch, LCSW, became the executive director of the Lodge in 1995. Linda had served as a student intern with the Lodge as an undergraduate and graduate student. She began her professional career working as a youth treatment counselor both at the Lodge and another program. After completing her LCSW, she became the director of outpatient services and held that position for 16 years. As clinical consultant, Linda continues to make many significant contributions to the clinical excellence and programming of the Lodge. 

The Lodge is always looking ahead for ways to improve service to the children and families we engage in our care and treatment. The staff at the Lodge has a deep appreciation for our history, a passion for our mission, and an exciting vision for our future.

Did You Know?

We have years of experience working with kids from all over the United States and world.