Nurturing Resilience: How Trauma-Informed Teaching Transforms Student Behavior and Learning

The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma on student behaviors and learning cannot be overstated. However, by adopting a trauma-informed approach, teachers can become powerful agents of positive change in their students’ lives. This approach focuses not only on understanding the effects of ACEs and trauma but also on nurturing Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) to foster resilience and facilitate learning.

Understanding the Impact of ACEs and Trauma

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) encompass a range of potentially traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, and exposure to violence. Extensive research has shown that ACEs can have far-reaching effects on a child’s emotional, psychological, and cognitive development. Students who have experienced ACEs often struggle with emotional dysregulation, difficulty concentrating, and forming secure attachments. These challenges can manifest as disruptive behaviors, disengagement, and poor academic performance in the classroom.

Trauma, whether stemming from ACEs or other traumatic events, can further exacerbate these issues. Trauma often activates the brain’s stress response system, which can lead to emotional and behavioral challenges in students. Hyperarousal, hypervigilance, and difficulty forming trusting relationships are common responses to trauma.

The Role of Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs)

The story is not entirely bleak. Positive Childhood Experiences, or PCEs, can significantly mitigate the impact of ACEs and trauma. PCEs encompass nurturing relationships, supportive environments, and opportunities for skill-building. By creating a foundation of love, care, and resilience, PCEs equip children with the tools to cope with adversity and to thrive despite challenges.

Teachers as Agents of Change

Teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the educational experience for students who have faced ACEs and trauma. By adopting a trauma-informed approach, educators can positively impact student behavior and learning in the following ways:

  • Fostering Safety: Creating a safe and supportive classroom environment is paramount. This means offering consistency, clear expectations, and a sense of physical and emotional safety.
  • Building Relationships: Nurturing positive teacher-student relationships helps students feel valued and secure. It is vital to acknowledge their unique needs and provide opportunities for trust to develop.
  • Emphasizing Emotional Regulation: Teaching emotional regulation techniques can empower students to manage their emotions effectively. These skills are essential for both behavior management and academic success.
  • Encouraging Flexibility: Understanding that students’ responses may be shaped by their past experiences, teachers can be flexible and accommodating. This flexibility allows students to regain a sense of control over their learning.
  • Promoting Mindfulness and Self-Care: Introducing mindfulness practices and self-care strategies can assist students in coping with stress and trauma-related triggers, improving their emotional well-being.
  • Collaboration and Professional Development: Schools can benefit from providing teachers with ongoing training in trauma-informed practices and creating a collaborative environment for sharing insights and best practices.

Teachers hold the keys to unlocking the potential of students who have faced ACEs and trauma. By embracing a trauma-informed approach, educators can mitigate the negative impact of adversity, promote resilience through positive childhood experiences, and transform student behavior and learning.

Recognizing the power they possess to create safe, nurturing, and responsive classrooms, teachers can become beacons of hope in the lives of students who have faced challenging experiences. In the process, they not only foster academic growth but also nurture the emotional and psychological well-being of the next generation.

For resources and learning, visit www.bekidsafe.org or our page at www.centerforchildcounseling.org/traumainformedcare. Interested in bringing training to your school or community? Simply complete the Training Request Form and we will reach out to you to customize an experience for your staff.

Coming Soon!

In a rapidly changing world, the need for resilience in our children has never been more critical. At Center for Child Counseling, we believe that every child has the right to grow up in an environment where they feel safe and nurtured, with the opportunity to thrive.

With this vision guiding us, we are excited to introduce our “A Way of Being with Children: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Building Safety and Resilience in Elementary School” manual, especially written and designed for elementary school educators.

In the manual, we focus on information, knowledge, and trauma-informed strategies to help educators improve their interactions with children through understanding behaviors using a trauma lens. Activities enhance learning and provide concrete ways to improve teacher-child relationships, safety, and resilience.

The manual also includes fun classroom activities to promote expression of feelings, self-regulation, and coping!

 

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Keeping Kids Safe at Camp

 

Camp Safety Tips

By Cherie Benjoseph, MSW, LCSW, Child Safety Expert, Director of National Outreach

If you could go back to any age what would it be? The first thing that comes to my mind is my amazing summers at sleep-away camp, starting at age 8 (yep, you read that right). Many who know me might be surprised that I am a huge supporter of sending kids to overnight camp. But yes, I am – provided that camp is properly vetted for safety. That’s where you come in.

The KidSafe philosophy is to empower children and families with skills for a lifetime, so that kids can spread their wings and fly and parents can feel confident their kids can manage whatever comes their way. This includes not missing out on the benefits of attending camp (day or overnight).

So, are you contemplating the big step of sending your child off to camp for a week, a month, even two months? Will you send them to a camp you went to as a child? To a camp you found online? To one a friend or neighbor raved about? So many questions. How to get the answers you need?

As you make these decisions, we ask that you take a step back and consider how best to choose a camp for your child. We ask that you look beyond the glossy website photos and consider whether a camp makes safety their number one priority. And not just water and recreation safety.

Often when researching a camp, we focus only on a child’s special interests, say sports, or theater, or horses, or IT, or culinary arts. Or perhaps the camp is located in a preferred part of the country or has a specific religious affiliation that feels right to you. All of these items are important – but don’t forget to ask the tough questions about safety. Questions similar to those you would ask when vetting a potential new hire. Don’t assume that the camp you are considering is doing the same level of screening you would expect or want.

As you research camps, consider the following:

Meet the camp director. Your child will be in that person’s care. Do this in person or by video. Ask direct questions, such as:

  1. How and from where is your staff recruited? What is your screening process? (Does the camp check employment histories? Seek references? Retain employees from one season to the next vs constant staff turnover? Conduct in-person or video interviews with individuals seeking employment)?
  2. Confirm that the camp does a national criminal fingerprint background check. (If a camp only provides a background check without detailed screening, that signals lack of due diligence in their hiring practice).
  3. Is each staff member screened through the National Sex Offender Registry? (This includes all counselors, admin, dining, maintenance, and anyone else on camp premises).
  4. Ask if the camp has a Child Protection Policy. This is a policy that all staff sign which includes codes of conduct, clear policy on sexual misconduct, and procedures to be followed in response to reports of abuse. It is always a good idea to request a copy of a camp’s Child Protection Policy.
  5. Ask what type of training the staff receive regarding:
    • Sexual abuse intervention, prevention, and reporting
    • Bullying intervention and response
    • Child abuse, both physical and emotional
  6. What type of supervision do you provide to the staff who are minding your campers?
  7. If camper or staff member wishes to report a concern, what are your procedures for facilitating such reports and for appropriate follow-up?
  8. Are you licensed by the state? If so, may I obtain a copy of your license?
  9. Are you accredited by the American Camp Association? If so, may I obtain a copy of ACA certification?

Having this kind of conversation with a camp director will help you determine whether a camp not only offers awesome activities and food but is also built on a solid foundation of professionalism and thoughtful camp philosophy.

Center for Child Counseling specializes in training adults working with children at camp. If you have a specific camp in mind, ask if it is CampSafe® Trained. If you would like to share information about CampSafe® training with a particular camp, you can do so by providing that camp with this link: www.centerforchildcounseling.com/campsafe.

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CFCC CEO appointed as FAIMH VP

NEWS RELEASE

March 15, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel

Renée Layman Appointed as FAIMH Vice President
Layman continues to advance infant and early childhood mental health, alongside President Dr. Harleen Hutchinson. 

Renée E. Layman, MS, LMHC, was recently appointed as Vice President of Florida Association for Infant Mental Health (FAIMH) Board of Directors. Layman joins Board President Dr. Harleen Hutchinson in leading the nonprofit with further advancing infant and early childhood mental health. 

FAIMH strives to build a community where all children in Florida will be nurtured, emotionally healthy and ready to learn, to develop, and to reach their full potential. FAIMH achieves this by supporting and strengthening the infant and early childhood mental health workforce to better serve the young children and families of Florida together with its local FAIMH Chapters.

According to Dr. Hutchinson, “This vision can only be achieved through authentic relationships and strong partnerships that have a cross-system approach. So, I am grateful to have Renée on this journey with me, because it is by partnering with systems that we are able to achieve our mission. Renée has demonstrated a solid foundation of true relationship building during her experience with the Palm Beach Chapter and with the Center for Child Counseling. She brings passion and drive to help steer FAIMH into a broader direction of innovation and development.”

Layman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with almost thirty years of experience in mental health. As President and Chief Executive Officer for Center for Child Counseling (CFCC) since 2013, she has spearheaded significant initiatives in child and family mental health–specifically related to trauma-informed care and the prevention, awareness, and healing of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Layman’s leadership extends well beyond her work at CFCC. She is the immediate past co-chair of the FAIMH Palm Beach and Martin County Chapter, continuing to serve in a mentoring role for the current chairs. She is past co-chair of the Leadership Palm Beach County Engage program (2014-2016), volunteering with the organization for more than six years and continues to play a leadership role with their Health and Human Services Committee. She is the immediate past president of the Nonprofit Chamber of Palm Beach County and continues to serve on their board to support local nonprofits. She chairs PBC’s Birth to 22 Trauma Sensitive Community Leaders Education Committee. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Florida Network for Youth and Family Services, a not-for-profit statewide organization representing over 30 agencies that serve homeless, runaway, and troubled youth ages six and older and their families. She also serves on the Professional Development Advisory Board for FAU’s College of Social Work and Criminal Justice. This work is in line with her vision to support children and families across Florida.   

As part of FAIMH’s executive leadership team, Layman states,”I hope to continue to advance infant and early childhood mental health in Palm Beach County and across Florida. The work of FAIMH directly connects with Center for Child Counseling’s; so, aligning efforts to focus on prevention and building capacity, especially in light of the youth mental health crisis, is essential.” 

In recognition of her work, Renée received the Women in Leadership Award (WILA) from Executive Women of the Palm Beaches and Leadership Palm Beach County’s President’s Award in 2021, was recognized as Palm Beach County’s Nonprofit Executive of the Year in 2017, and received Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Women of Excellence: Health & Wellness Award in 2011.

Layman has been a passionate advocate for child and family mental health, bringing innovative programs and services for some of the most pressing issues facing vulnerable children and families in Palm Beach County. Under her leadership, Center for Child Counseling has grown to fill critical gaps in children’s mental health in Palm Beach County, using a public health approach that focuses on prevention and early intervention. As an FAIMH board member, she works with leaders statewide to improve the system of care for babies and young children across Florida.

“Infant and early childhood is at the foundation of lifelong health and wellness. FAIMH is working directly with system professionals and organizations so they have effective ways to support babies and young children facing adversity and trauma. I serve to build Florida’s capacity to build healthy families and communities–for a healthier future,” commented Layman.

The FAIMH Board of Directors includes: Dr. Christine Hughes (Executive Director), Dr. Harleen Hutchinson (President), Renée Layman (Vice President), Jackie Romillo (Past President), Charmian Miller (Treasurer), Amy Blechman, Douglas Brown, Maria José Horen, Lillian Perez-Mena, Dr. Kristie Skoglund, Dr. Maite Schenker. 

About Center for Child Counseling:

Center for Child Counseling has been building the foundation for playful, healthful, and hopeful living for children and families in Palm Beach County since 1999. Its services focus on preventing and healing the effects of adverse experiences and toxic stress on children, promoting resiliency and healthy family, school, and community relationships. As of October 2022, KidSafe Foundation now operates under Center for Child Counseling as the two entities are now stronger together in their education and prevention of child sexual abuse and childhood trauma.

www.centerforchildcounseling.org Twitter: @ChildCounselPBC Facebook: @CenterforChildCounseling Instagram: @childcounselpbc

PHOTO IDs:
Renée Layman

Click here to view the news release.

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Child Trafficking is Happening in Your Community

By Cherie Benjoseph, MSW, LCSW, Child Safety Expert, Director of National Outreach

People often dismiss human trafficking as either something that occurs in other countries or as too big an issue to battle. Or they tell themselves, “This couldn’t happen in my community, and especially not in my family.” Sadly, they are wrong. Each of us needs to recognize that children of all ages, wherever they live, are vulnerable to trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, especially children who already have a history of child sexual abuse and other trauma.

Listed below are the primary risk factors that make some children more vulnerable to trafficking:

  • lack of personal safety
  • isolation
  • emotional distress
  • homelessness
  • poverty
  • family dysfunction
  • substance abuse
  • mental illness
  • learning disabilities
  • developmental delays
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • promotion of sexual exploitation by family members or peers
  • lack of social supports

How to protect our kids? Simply put, we can protect our children by becoming more knowledgeable about child sex trafficking and child sexual abuse.

What’s the difference between the two?

  • Traffickers groom children both online and in person, just like child sex offenders who target children for abuse. The difference is that a child sex offender molests the child themselves, for their own gratification, while the child trafficker sets the child up to be sexually assaulted by others, for monetary gain.
  • Horrific to comprehend – but child sex offenders abuse children as young as newborns and on up from there. It is also horrific (and important) to recognize that children can be sex trafficked by their own families, from inside their own homes, while appearing like a typical family. For children recruited by sex traffickers from outside the family the average age of entry into trafficking is 12 to 14.
  • The grooming process employed by a child sex trafficker and the grooming process used by a child sex offender have many similarities. Each works to build a “trusting” relationship with the child. When offenders and traffickers target very young children they often build a similar relationship with the child’s family. The grooming relationship might appear like a friendship, mentorship, or, for teens, it might look like a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. (Remember that 90% of the time, a child is harmed by someone they and/or their family know and trust.) For children who are trafficked, the traffickers themselves and other people who recruit for them are hiding in plain sight, and could even be another student in your child’s school.

Watch for the following signs that a child might be being groomed for sex trafficking (or for a child already being trafficked):

  • New possessions, of unexplained origin. Clothing, excess money, technology.
  • New friends. As our kids get older, we often take a step back from day to day involvement with those they hang with. This puts our children at increased risk (and vulnerability) of connecting to the wrong group of friends. If you notice new friends, ask questions. Meet them. Be vigilant.
  • New behaviors. More often late for curfew?, Missing school? These are red flags that something has changed for our children.
  • New moods and demeanor. Children and teens who are trafficked (and those being sexually abused) often show changes in mood and demeanor. Has your child become angry, withdrawn, anxious, depressed? Has he lost interest in school, activities, or family? Has her eating habits, sleep habits or hygiene habits changed in anyway? These can be signs that a child is struggling with something (including being the object of abuse and/or trafficking) and may need parental and professional intervention.
  • Unusual items. If you find your child has items such as hotel room keys, fake IDs, new tattoos, etc., those may be red flags, signs that she or he is being groomed or trafficked.

Child sex trafficking is horrific to consider, which can cause parents to shy away from looking for signs or talking with children when signs are evident. Don’t make that mistake.

If you suspect a child is being trafficked: call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip or to get help.

If you suspect a child is being sexually abused: call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.

For more info on sex trafficking visit www.A21.org and the www.polarisproject.org

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How do we talk about touch with our kids?

By Cherie Benjoseph, MSW, LCSW, Child Safety Expert, Director of National Outreach

It is much easier to talk about all sorts of touch with our kids if we have a name for it. Let’s start with Safe Touch.

Mom! Bryan hit me! Dad! Abby pushed Baby Joey down! Is an example of everyday touching. Cuddling on the couch with your child while reading a story or holding hands while going for a walk are also great examples of touching.

We don’t realize how often we touch each other throughout the day.

Some touches make us feel comfortable and safe while others do not. In our society we do not talk much about touching in general. We either say “Don’t touch your Brother” or “Use nice hands.” (From my daughter’s preschool days.) Let’s dive a little deeper as human touch is an important part of wellness and healthy development.

Many people assume because I teach sexual abuse prevention that to keep kids safe we shouldn’t be touching kids. That could not be further from the truth. Children need to be physically nurtured and held from the day they are born. This type of healthy, safe touch provides children with a strong sense of self, belonging, being valued and safe. Children, for example, who are raised in an understaffed orphanage and do not get picked up and held often have a number of long-term issues, particularly failure to thrive and attachment issues. My point is that positive touch is important. Healthy modeling of Safe Touch helps a child understand what an appropriate touch should feel like.

A  SAFE TOUCH feels: comfortable, loving, relaxed, protective, happy, warm, cozy.

Safe touch examples: A group of kids playing tag, a person while conversing with a friend reaching out and touching their arm for a moment, holding hands in the movie theater, kissing your child goodnight, cuddling on the couch, buckling a child into seat, doing someone’s hair.

Explain to your child that the difference between a safe and an unsafe touch is the way it makes you feel.

An UNSAFE TOUCH makes you feel: uncomfortable, confused, scared, embarrassed, weird, hurt, betrayed, angry.

Unsafe touches happen every day. Examples: Siblings shoving each other, a grown-up grabbing an arm of a child in frustration, a child being physically harmed by another student at school (bullying), someone touching a child’s private parts, or forcing a child to touch their private parts.

If you ask a child for examples of an unsafe touch the list will sound like: getting hit, pinched, pushed, shoved, kicked, hair pulled, by either a peer or adult.

If you have more than one child in your home, there is bound to be various ‘unsafe touches’ throughout a day. Much of this interaction, is how children learn to navigate in our society. With parents’ guidance, setting of healthy boundaries, some rough housing is good to let the kids problem solve on their own. What we suggest is to define those limits. Start labeling touch at a young age as Safe Touch or Unsafe Touch by how a touch makes them feel. Ask: “Emma, when you fell down, and Sammi came over and put her arm on your back and checked on you – was that a Safe Touch or an Unsafe Touch for you?” Ask: “How did it make you feel?” Teaching children to recognize their emotions is an important life skill. If they can recognize the positive it will impact how they treat others. If they can recognize the negative it becomes a protective factor – all part of teaching your child personal safety. We often say this is a skill for a life time –this builds resilience.

We teach safe touch and unsafe touch for many reasons – but for our purposes in this blog let’s focus on body boundaries. If a child has learned that they have private parts and that no one should be touching their private parts, and they get a confusing touch and they are not sure if it was a Safe Touch or an Unsafe touch, they can recognize the feeling and know, because they have been taught, that this is the type of touch that they should Report to a person in their Circle of Safe Adults to talk about it. It is so important at this point that the adult be an approachable caregiver. (Parent, relative, teacher, etc). Preparing yourself in advance for how you might respond to a child disclosing is a key factor in preventing and putting a stop to child sexual abuse.

ACTIVITIES TO DO TOGETHER

1. Discuss with children how various touches make them feel. Explain to them that if they receive a touch, even from someone they know and love, and it makes them feel confused, they should report it to another adult.

2. Ask your child if the following examples would be a Safe Touch or an Unsafe Touch:

  • Holding hands with a close friend
  • High fiving their coach
  • Being kissed good night by an aunt
  • Getting shoved by a schoolmate
  • Add a few more of your own examples

3. Play a game called “Safe and unsafe touches I had today”.
Ask your child to think of some examples to share with you. Examples:

  • I hugged nana when I got off the bus.
  • My friend pushed me on the playground.

These conversations will provide you with an opening for a more in-depth discussion about what may have happened during your child’s day and how particular touches made them feel.

Children who have learned that their bodies belong to them and that there are boundaries regarding their private parts understand when a line has been crossed.

Emphasize to your child that no one should be touching or looking at their private parts and they should not be touching or looking at anyone else’s private parts because everyone’s body is special and belongs to them.

Click here to learn more about our KidSafe Program, which is focused on preventing child sexual abuse, trafficking, and exploitation.

KIDSAFE TIP:

90% of the time a child is harmed by someone they know and trust. This makes it even more difficult for a child to tell – they often feel betrayed, confused, and are afraid to report. Empower children from a young age about the difference between Safe and Unsafe Touch, and when they should come to you with questions – even if they are scared.

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How do I start talking with my kids about their body boundaries and consent?

By Cherie Benjoseph, MSW, LCSW, Child Safety Expert, Director of National Outreach

Don’t Force Your Child to Hug or Kiss People

Let your child know that they have the right to decide when and whom they want to hug. This is a healthy body boundary.

Give them permission to politely say no if they don’t want to hug or kiss someone. Their decision should be accepted and respected.

This is a great opportunity to teach your child about body boundaries and consent. Forcing your child to hug or kiss someone sends the message that the wants and needs of others are more important than respecting their own feelings or body boundaries.

Of course, in the right situations, hugging and kissing are natural, loving ways for people to show affection to one another. What is “normal” in this regard differs from culture to culture and family to family, but it is never normal or right to force your child to hug or kiss someone.

If your child wants to hug close family friends or relatives, that is great, provided it is in a safe place and under your watch. Once your child knows the difference between safe and unsafe touches, their desire to hug and kiss certain people is probably a good indicator that they feel safe and happy with that person.

Many people are afraid that their child might seem rude or “standoffish” if they refuse to hug or kiss someone, especially when the person is a close family friend or relative. But that concern is not nearly as important as the powerful message you are sending to your child that their body is special and belongs to them.

Many families share that this is an issue with a particular relative. If you know this in advance, we suggest that you speak with the relative directly and let them know you are teaching your child about their personal safety. And one of the things you are teaching is that they do not have to hug and kiss anyone, even people they know and love, unless they want to. Often it is hard for relatives to not take offense or to feel that you as a parent are being insensitive or teaching your child to be disrespectful. Empowering your child at a young age with the concept that their body belongs to them is a valuable lifelong lesson.

Learning consent, and ‘practicing’ saying No, no Thank you, when you are young empowers children to be more in control of their bodies when they grow into their tweens and teens. These are lessons for a life time.

You can teach your child some easy alternatives to hugging or kissing that do not invade their body boundaries:

  • a happy wave
  • a cool hand shake
  • a fun fist bump
  • an awesome high five

Always allow your child to engage with people on their own terms.

Click here to learn more about our KidSafe Program, which is focused on preventing child sexual abuse, trafficking, and exploitation.

KIDSAFE TIP:

Tell your child that it is okay if they don’t want to hug or kiss someone. Help them learn a polite way to decline. This empowers your child and may help you feel more at ease when the situation arises. You might teach your child to say: “No, thanks. How about a high-five?” or “I don’t feel like hugging today. Maybe later.

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Tackling Child Sexual Abuse in Palm Beach County

By Caitlen Macias, student at the Columbia School of Social Work and Center for Child Counseling Intern

“We are preventing child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and child maltreatment by giving children the tools to access help from trusted adults.”- Laura Askowitz, Director of Strategic Development at Center for Child Counseling, former CEO of KidSafe Foundation.

In our community, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) impact people of all races, backgrounds, and income levels. According to the CDC, 61% of adults had at least one ACE and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs. Child sexual abuse is among one of the most common ACEs and a significant public health issue. About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse. Of those who are abused, 91% of the time a child is harmed by someone they know and trust.

We need to partner to fight, prevent, and address this problem. KidSafe, now a program of Center for Child Counseling (CFCC), is working to address and prevent child sexual abuse. The merger of the two nonprofit organizations is a strategic partnership to increase prevention education and funding streams to decrease child sexual abuse in Palm Beach County.

KidSafe has focused on providing a public health approach that maximizes impact while emphasizing health and safety. To prevent child sexual abuse, students, teachers, and families need to be knowledgeable and aware of the tactics and grooming techniques that are used to exploit and abuse children in-person and online. KidSafe provides age-appropriate lessons and skill building for children, training for educators, healthcare professionals, camp staff, and resources for families.

Through Stay KidSafe!, a teacher-led educational program, children develop an inner voice and speak out when physical and emotional boundaries are crossed. Empowering children to be confident and self-aware encourages communication with their trusted adults regarding personal safety. “Teachers spend extended periods of time with their students and know them well. We are providing teachers with the tools to be KidSafe ambassadors in the classroom to educate and inspire students”, says Cherie Benjoseph, LCSW.

The curriculum explores a variety of topics depending on the age of the children. In Kindergarten, children learn about their Inner Safety Voice, an internal voice that helps them make safe and smart choices. Children also are introduced to body safety and the Circle of Safe Adults, trusted adults that can help children access help. In 1st and 2nd grade, students continue to develop their Safety Voice while exploring digital safety and learning about boundaries, consent, and bad secrets. In 3rd and 4th grade, students do an in-depth exploration into consent and how to get help if their boundaries are violated. Children use the skills they have learned about personal safety to understand how to navigate the online world that might expose them to cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content.

By 5th grade, students study how to recognize Red Flag warning signs in interpersonal relationships. The entire program repeats important concepts and builds on the previous year’s concepts to make sure children are able to apply the lessons they learn. Stay KidSafe!, is “a kid friendly program that is chunked into digestible bites. The program allows kids to listen, think, reflect on and practice what is taught. The animations and books are engaging and discuss appropriate content”, explains Cori, an Elementary School Teacher.

KidSafe has had reverberating success in the community since 2009! Laura Askowitz recounts a recent success story from the program that changed a child’s outlook. In a 5th grade class, the guidance counselor said that David was a quiet kid who rarely spoke. After receiving the KidSafe programming, he started speaking up and interacting more with the adults and children. David was given a voice and can now speak out if his boundaries are crossed. The program is teaching kids how to identify when their personal, physical, and emotional boundaries are disrespected by anyone. This inspires kids to be their own advocates and access help when peers or adults attempt to engage in inappropriate behavior.

Looking to the future, "we are excited about this merger. It allows for us to work together to increase funding, education, and prevention around child sexual abuse. Through an array of prevention, early intervention, and treatment we aim to not only provide healing after sexual abuse but also create schools and a community equipped to keep children safe”, states Renée Layman, CEO of the Center for Child Counseling.

For more information on the KidSafe’s programming visit: https://learn.kidsafefoundation.org/

Support the KidSafe Campaign in Palm Beach County.

Resources:
https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childsexualabuse/fastfact.html
https://www.centerforchildcounseling.org/ways-to-give/kidsafecampaign/

Bridging the Healthcare Gap for Kids in Palm Beach County

By Caitlen Macias, student at the Columbia School of Social Work and Center for Child Counseling Intern

The Center for Child Counseling is paving a healthy future for children in Palm Beach County through its integrative and holistic healthcare approach. We understand that mental and physical health is vital to the well-being of the child and their life outcomes. Pediatricians are on the front lines, observing, interacting, and serving children; they are often the first to notice the impact of mental health and behavioral concerns. 75% of children are seen in primary care settings and pediatricians are the trusted experts for much of a child's life. CFCC’s innovative Pediatric Integration Program is now collaborating with Palm Beach Pediatrics to provide counseling services and care coordination support to children and families in our community.

The Need:
According to the CDC, poor mental health among children continues to be a substantial public health concern. ADHD and anxiety for all ages and depression among adolescents continue to be the most common concerns displayed by children. Locally in 2021, Palm Beach County focus groups were conducted with 299 PBC residents who mentioned that diabetes, cancer, asthma, substance use, heart disease, and poor mental health were among the top health issues with which they, their families, or their community struggle.

In Palm Beach County alone there are six mental health professional shortage areas. “The need is so great in our area, we are in dire need of more therapists. Our team is receiving overwhelming amounts of referrals from pediatricians, unfortunately, we don’t have enough therapists to satisfy the demand” says CEO Renée Layman." We provide families the resources they need while they await services, many of their needs are met through care coordination and consultations”.

The Solution:
Our model has been implemented using the recommendations of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for integrated care. The program administers care at the Level 5 benchmark, the second highest level which emphasizes close collaboration between care coordinators, pediatricians, and therapists to serve clients and families.

CFCC’s Pediatric Integration Program is intertwining and prioritizing the mental and behavioral health of children in our area by allowing pediatricians to make referrals for services to the Center for Child Counseling and other mental health providers.

Furthermore, our expert care coordinators (pictured to the left) assist families with other kinds of resources to satisfy their basic and home needs. This might include connecting families with housing, helping them apply for SNAP benefits, or coordinating child care. “Clients and families are on a spectrum of need, our team is seeking to meet the basic needs of our families to help them overcome adversity,” says Kelly Benavidez an Intake Care Coordinator for the Pediatric Integration Program.

Our Progress:
Our Pediatric Integration Program just celebrated its first birthday! October 1st of this year officially marks the start of year 2 of the program. Over the last year, we have collected data to track our progress and impact. Almost 90% of clients in the program demonstrated an improvement in overall social-emotional functioning during the last 3 months as measured by a decrease in the client’s Children's Functional Assessment Rating Scale, CFARS scores. 86.9% of clients enrolled in the program experienced a decrease in CFARS scores across the past year since the program was implemented.

Clients in the program have also reported success and improvement in their overall mental health. An 18-year-old male sought services to address symptoms of anxiety and depression and had previously planned to participate in college virtually and remain at home due to social anxiety. After learning how to cope more adaptively and communicate his feelings, he recently reported his decision to attend college in person as a part of his journey toward overcoming feelings of anxiety and depression. This client demonstrated improvement in functioning across domains as evidenced by a decrease in overall CFARS score. He has been successfully discharged from services and has been able to maintain progress made in treatment.

Improving and Expanding:
To expand the program, we have recently hired a new full-time therapist who has already begun building her caseload and improving the lives of clients. Our team continues to collaborate with Care Coordination who can facilitate a warm handoff to clinicians both inside and outside of the program. To serve families in need, our Intake Care Coordinator has continued to engage with new referrals to provide psychoeducational and community resources to clients and families who are currently awaiting services.

In a group setting, the Pediatric Integration Program has implemented a psychoeducational group for teen girls experiencing symptoms of anxiety. As a result of this prevention strategy, all group participants no longer felt that their symptoms rose to the level of requiring mental health therapy services. At the individual level, a 7-year-old client was able to participate in a psychoeducational group about anxiety in which she was able to learn adaptive coping skills, how to reframe negative thoughts, and the impact of self-talk on feelings of anxiety.

Looking ahead, “we are excited to continue to expand the program by hiring more staff and collaborating with partners to fill the growing need for mental health services in our community”, says Mackenzie Halley, Director of Pediatric Integration. In the future, we hope our model can be replicated across Florida and the United States to unite healthcare sectors and connect children and families with the support and services they need.

A special thank you to Palm Beach County Community Services Department, Quantum Foundation, and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation for providing funding to support this program.

Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, President of Palm Beach Pediatrics

How to Answer Kids’ Tough Questions

Trauma-Informed Ways to Talk to Children

Stress and loss is impacting our children's mental health and well-being. We get the calls every day from parents and caregivers, needing support to help children cope and heal.

Developed by our experts in child mental health and trauma, we are pleased to offer Ways to Talk to Children resources, at no cost, for parents, teachers, and caregivers across Florida and the nation.

It is important to talk to your child about real situations that may be impacting their mental health and well-being. The workshops, videos, and resources were created to help you have these tough conversations, in developmentally appropriate and trauma-informed ways.

We encourage you to share these resources with the parents, caregivers, and teachers in your life.

Ways to Talk to Children about Grief

Grief is the intense emotional reaction and distress in response to loss, usually associated with death but it can include separation or the ending of a close relationship.

The thought of having to explain grief to a child can leave us feeling uncertain about the best way to approach the topic to avoid causing unnecessary distress for the child, especially when we may be grieving also.

Learn more or register for our free, 80-minute workshop here. Visit our Ways to Talk to Children page for more videos, tip sheets, and free workshops.

Our passionate Education and Prevention Services team is dedicated to bringing you relevant, best practice content to support your child and family. Let us know if there are topics you'd like us to address.

This work is possible through funding from the Florida Blue Foundation, Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County, and the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County - thank you for your commitment to children and families in our community.

CFCC Featured by Education Week!

Using Play Therapy to Help Children Heal and Build Resilience

We are grateful to Education Week for the national recognition of our work. These two videos highlight our use of Play Therapy to help children heal after trauma and our partnership with The Fuller Center, where our CCSEW Program provides on-site prevention, early intervention, and mental health services for children, their caregivers, and families.

One Family's Story Using Play Therapy to Address Trauma

The Hughes’ family fostered their daughters for three years before adopting them in 2020. With their adoption came stability, but also loss, the recognition that they wouldn’t be going back to their biological family.

To help them work through their many emotions, and the trauma they’ve experienced, the girls have received services through Center for Child Counseling, where they’ve learned through play therapy how to talk about and work through difficult emotions.

Thank you Aria, Asia, and Bailey for sharing your story. To advocate for children in our community, Bailey is a member of our Board of Directors and has developed a nonprofit, The Hands and Feet, to support children and families coming into foster care.

A special thank you to Anne-Marie, Kayla, Tray, and all of our staff who are on the frontlines supporting children in our community every day. We are grateful for your passion!

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