10 Ways to Support Your Child’s Mental Health This Summer

Summer is a time for fun, relaxation, and adventure! However, it can also be a period of transition and uncertainty for children. Supporting your child's mental health during this season is crucial for their overall well-being.

Here are ten ways you can help:

1. Encourage Open Communication
Create a safe space for your child to express their feelings and thoughts. Regularly check in with them and listen without judgment. This helps build trust and shows that you value their emotions. For younger children, these feelings are often expressed through their play.

This video includes helpful tips on how to engage in child-centered play with your child.

 

2. Maintain a Routine
While summer often means a break from the usual schedule, keeping a consistent routine provides a sense of stability. As much as possible, set regular times for meals, activities, and bedtime to help your child feel safe and secure. This is particularly important for very young children, especially before the age of 5. Children thrive on structure and consistency - and it also helps parents by creating a predictable environment that helps children grow emotionally, cognitively, and socially.

3. Promote Physical Activity and PLAY!
Encourage your child to stay active through sports, dance, or even simple outdoor play. Physical activity releases endorphins, which can improve mood, and reduce anxiety. Here are 11 ways to encourage your child to be physically active.

Play is essential because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development and well-being of your child. Play also offers a great opportunity for you, as a parent or caregiver, to positively engage and interact with your child. Check out our Ways to Play page for fun ideas. We love this resource from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Brain-Building Through Play: Activities for Infants, Toddlers, and Children. The handout series provides suggestions games and play-based activities based on your child’s age.

4. Limit Screen Time
While it's tempting to rely on screens for entertainment, excessive screen time can negatively impact mental health. Set boundaries and encourage other activities like reading, games, arts and crafts, or outdoor exploration. Have a Nature Scavenger Hunt by making a list of items found in nature, such as leaves, rocks, or flowers. Or conduct simple science experiments such as baking soda and vinegar volcanoes or making a rainbow in a jar. These are fun and educational activities!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends minimizing or eliminating media exposure, other than video chatting, for children under the age of 18 months. Learn more from the AAP about how media can affect your child.

5. Foster Social Connections
Arrange playdates, group activities, or a trip to the park to help your child stay connected with friends and peers. Social interactions are vital for emotional health and can help reduce feelings of loneliness. Here are 3 ways to help your child build social connection skills.

6. Provide Healthy Nutrition
A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can positively affect mood and energy levels. Involve your child in meal planning and preparation to make healthy eating fun. We love these ideas:

  • Plant a garden with your child and watch it grow! Not only is play in the dirt fun, but your child is more likely to try foods they have grown. Tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers are a good place to start.
  • Make cooking a family activity! Talk about your family's food traditions and teach them a favorite recipe.
  • Take a field trip to a farmer's market or local farm to learn more about other types of vegetables and fruits that may not be available at your grocery store.

The AAP has a wealth of information about nutrition for parents and caregivers.

7. Encourage Mindfulness and Relaxation
Teach your child simple mindfulness exercises or relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga. These practices can help them manage stress and stay calm. Our Loving-Kindness Mindfulness video for kids is a great start!

8. Support Their Interests
Whether it's a hobby, sport, or artistic pursuit, encouraging your child to engage in activities they love can boost their self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment.

9. Be a Role Model
Children often mirror the behavior of their parents. Demonstrate healthy coping strategies, positive thinking, and emotional regulation. Showing that you take care of your own mental health sets a powerful example and sets the foundation for lifelong health!

10. Seek Professional Help if Needed
If you notice persistent changes in your child's behavior or mood, don't hesitate to seek professional support.

Supporting your child's mental health this summer doesn't have to be complicated. By incorporating simple strategies into your daily routine, you can help ensure that your child enjoys a happy and healthy summer season. We have put together a rich array of reliable resources for you

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. If you need additional resources or support, don't hesitate to reach out to us or a mental health professional. If you have questions or need additional support, please contact us.

Dr. Fox-Levine Receives Physician Hero in Medicine Award

June 3, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

Dr. Fox-Levine Receives Physician Hero in Medicine Award

Palm Beach Medical Society Services recently honored Shannon Fox-Levine, M.D., as the Physician Hero in Medicine at its 21st Annual Heroes in Medicine Awards Luncheon on May 23, 2024, at Benvenuto’s in Boynton Beach. The awards honor people throughout Palm Beach County who use their skills and resources to provide outstanding service. 

Dr. Fox-Levine serves as president of Palm Beach Pediatrics, president of Palm Beach Pediatric Society, and medical director of Center for Child Counseling. She was awarded Physician Hero for embodying the characteristics of skill, compassion, and dedication to the ideals and beliefs of the profession and for contributing in significant ways to the betterment of health care. 

“This is an amazing honor to be awarded as the Physician Hero in this county of pretty amazing physicians, so I really appreciate the recognition for the work I do in this county…when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, and that’s me,” expressed Dr. Fox-Levine in her acceptance speech.

As a strong advocate for Florida’s private pediatric healthcare providers, Dr. Fox-Levine’s tireless efforts have improved the financial landscape for pediatric practices and enhanced the quality of care for children across the state. Her decade-long service as the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatric Council Chair and her advocacy for  appropriate pay for services have earned Dr. Fox-Levine the prestigious American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter Special Achievement Award.

Dr. Fox-Levine’s appointment as the Medical Director at Center for Child Counseling (CFCC) signifies a pivotal milestone in her career. Her expertise and dedication come at a critical time when our nation’s youth are facing a mental health crisis. In this role, she plays a crucial part in addressing the shortage of professionals capable of supporting the overall well-being of children. Through her leadership, CFCC is poised to expand its impact in providing essential mental health support to vulnerable youth in Palm Beach County. 

Dr. Fox-Levine has been involved with CFCC for more than 10 years, also serving as a board member and medical consultant. CFCC’s Pediatric Integration Program was launched three years ago with Palm Beach Pediatrics to expand mental health services available to children served within the primary care setting–bridging the gap between primary care and community mental health. In her role as Medical Director, Dr. Fox-Levine works in tandem with CFCC leadership to expand support to other practices in Palm Beach County.

Dr. Fox-Levine’s involvement in various healthcare committees underscores her commitment to advancing pediatric care on multiple fronts. Locally, she has served as President of the Palm Beach Pediatric Society since 2014, working to build a collaborative network of pediatric care  providers and sub-specialists in Palm Beach County. Nationally, as a committee member on the Payer Advocacy Advisory Committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she contributes to assessing the public and private payer sector–advocating for benefits coverage for primary care pediatricians. Her participation in the Joe DiMaggio Neighborhood Partners further demonstrates her dedication to providing care to community members across South Florida. Dr. Fox-Levine’s multifaceted involvement in healthcare committees highlights her role as a strong leader in advocating for the comprehensive care of children and young adults. 

According to Renée Layman, CEO of Center for Child Counseling and the one who nominated Dr. Fox-Levine for the honor, “Shannon is a fierce, passionate advocate for children. Her tireless efforts are ensuring that all children in our community have the opportunity to grow up safe and healthy. For this, she is most deserving of being named a Hero in Medicine.” 

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

Click here to view the news release.

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Jane Robinson Receives Viola Brody Award from Florida Association for Play Therapy.

NEWS RELEASE
May 22, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

 

Founder of Local Nonprofit Honored for Her Work with Children in Play Therapy
Jane Robinson receives Viola Brody Award from Florida Association for Play Therapy.

Jane Robinson has been championing children in Palm Beach County for more than 25 years, advocating for their mental health through play therapy. Robinson was recently honored with the Viola Brody Award for being an outstanding Florida Play Therapist. 

Since 2005, the Florida Association for Play Therapy (FAPT) has honored an outstanding Florida Play Therapist at the FAPT Annual Conference with the Viola Brody Award– established in recognition and in memory of Viola Brody, Ph.D. who is considered a pioneer in play therapy for developing a theoretical approach called Developmental Play Therapy.

“Jane is an outstanding play therapist and, like Dr. Brody, has been a pioneer for her work in bringing play therapy to children and families in Palm Beach County in the 1990s. She has trained thousands of members of the community in play therapy. Jane is a source of knowledge and inspiration, and bar none, she is most deserving of this award,” stated Renée Layman, CEO and president of Center for Child Counseling

Robinson founded Palm Beach Gardens-based nonprofit Center for Child Counseling in 1999 as All ‘Bout Children. Although Robinson retired in May 2013, she continues to work as a consultant to Layman and volunteers her time training through the Center’s Institute for Clinical Training and providing support to the clinical supervisors. Robinson founded the organization with the vision of providing free mental health services to the youngest and most vulnerable children in the county. 

As a licensed mental health counselor, registered play therapist supervisor, and certified infant mental health specialist through The Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy at Florida State University, Robinson served as a strong advocate for young children in our community. In her leadership role in the area of early childhood mental health, she collaborated with the local community colleges and universities in training students, teachers, and graduate-level mental health counselor/social worker interns in play therapy for the young child (ages birth-5). She has presented to teachers, directors, and supervisors in child development centers and professional, local, and national conferences on mental health for the young child. Robinson created a manual, “Managing Feelings and Behavior in the Classroom and at Home,” which has been updated and is used by the Center as a guide and reference for teachers and parents of young children. She co-authored a chapter titled “Play Therapy Techniques with Very Young At-Risk Children in Child Care Settings” published in the book “Play Therapy with Very Young Children,” edited by Dr. Charles Shaefer. 

“I am humbled to be a recipient of the Viola Brody Award. Early in my career as a play therapist, I found a book, “Dialogue of Touch: Developmental Play Therapy,” by Viola Brody. I read it, took workshops with Viola, and sat with her for a snack at the National Association for Play Therapy Conferences around 1998-2000. Viola’s training gave me insight on how to work with the very youngest (infant to 3 years) and their caregivers in child care centers. Viola gave me the tools needed to model the importance of developmentally-appropriate touch, support, and attachment for the well-being of the very young child and those older who did not receive the care at a young age. I will be forever grateful,” said Robinson.

Criteria to receive the Viola Brody Award include: being a member of FAPT/APT for at least five years; making an outstanding contribution to the field of Play Therapy in the State of Florida, nationally, or internationally; and not being a current FAPT Board Member or a member of the FAPT Award Committee. 

Other recognition that Robinson has received includes: Volunteer of the Year for Play Therapy and Teacher Training by the YMCA of Boca Raton, FL, in 2000; the Mary Bondarin Award for Service to Children and Families by the Association of Education for the Young Child of the Palm Beaches in 2004; a “notable” (person who cares about their community) by the Palm Beach Post in 2005. She was also nominated for the 2011 “Purpose Prize,” a national award for people over 60 who combine their passion and experience for social good. 

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

Click here to view release.

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CFCC Opens New Location in West Palm Beach

NEWS RELEASE
May 13, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com
561-632-6747

Local Nonprofit Opens New Location to Serve Kids and Families on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Center for Child Counseling holds a ribbon cutting for its newest location in West Palm Beach.

Center for Child Counseling (CFCC) has expanded its prevention, education, and mental health services in the heart of West Palm Beach. A ribbon cutting and open house took place on National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Thursday, May 9, 2024, at the newest space located at the U.B. Kinsey Educational and Community Center in West Palm Beach.

This additional location will be a hub for child and family health in West Palm Beach, along with the other community organizations housed at the U.B. Kinsey facility–Children’s Home Society’s Bridges and FAU Community Health. CFCC’s placement at U.B. Kinsey is a result of FAU Community Health’s community survey which listed mental health services as the number one priority.

Dr. Eugenia Millender, current chair of CFCC’s board of directors and former head of FAU Community Health in Westgate, was part of the initial vision of the new space and shared a few words about the need for this facility in the community.

“One of the things we want to make sure we do is embed mental health services in every community, in every child center, in every community center, in every school,” stated Millender.

She discussed the importance of mental fitness as a way to deal with the hardships of life and the necessity to prepare individuals for what the world will bring–preparing “the mother, the father, the aunt, the grandparent to be able to provide better care for their child, grandchild to become wonderful, beautiful citizens.” 

This new location has allowed CFCC to create two safe spaces–a training room and a family room. The family room is designed as two-dimensional to serve both the child and caregivers. The agency will offer family support groups, infant mental health, circles of security.

“Parents can see live, right here, how to play with their child. They’ll practice together. They will build bonds and connections…we need to bring them together and create safety and connection that’s really going to promote their mental health and wellbeing,” explained CEO and President Renée Layman. 

Layman emphasized the importance of having spaces like these in schools, child care centers, and community centers for children and families as a means for creating positive childhood experiences (PCEs)–the antidote to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). 

According to Dr. Millender, “It was a beautiful vision that we started a long time ago…bringing different organizations under one roof to provide better care for the whole community.”

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. 

CFCC’s office locations include: Child and Family First Center, 5205 Greenwood Avenue, West Palm Beach; Admin and Child First Office, 8895 N. Military Trail, Palm Beach Gardens; Child First Office South, 2328 10th Avenue North, Lake Worth; and U.B. Kinsey Educational and Community Center, 720 8th Street, West Palm Beach. CFCC’s services and therapists are also integrated within schools, childcare centers, and pediatric offices throughout Palm Beach County.

For more information, visit: centerforchildcounseling.org.

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DeSantises Name Local Mother Florida Hero

NEWS RELEASE
May 2, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

DeSantises Name Local Mother Florida Hero:
Bailey Hughes Recognized for Her Selfless Dedication in Delivering Help and Hope to Foster Children and Families 

Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis honored Bailey Hughes, executive director and co-founder of local nonprofit The Hands and Feet, as a Florida Hero on Friday, April 26. The DeSantises welcomed heroes from across the state of Florida to the Governor’s Residence to recognize them for their selfless contributions and for exhibiting exceptional courage, compassion, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Hughes was one of seventy-five Florida Heroes honored at the ceremony, including first responders, doctors, veterans, law enforcement, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, parents, and innovators who have all exhibited bravery and self-sacrifice. Also honored were members of the community who have dedicated themselves to helping others overcome adversity through nonprofit efforts, adoption and foster care, careers in education, and advocacy.

“This evening it was a privilege to recognize and personally thank each Florida Hero in attendance for their selfless dedication to their communities and our state,” said Governor DeSantis. “In Florida, we want to recognize and extoll the virtues of selflessness and service, and these 75 individuals embodied those virtues through their actions and achievements.”

Hughes is a wife, mother, and former special educator for the Palm Beach County School District. She and her husband fostered 23 children and adopted 4 of those children. 

Before becoming a foster parent in 2016, Hughes was a special education elementary teacher at a Title 1 school in a self-contained Emotional Behavioral Disabilities unit. Working with some of the most vulnerable and hurting children, Hughes saw firsthand how the mental health world for children was desperately lacking. She found success in helping these children by educating herself, watching her peers, and listening to parents who found themselves in the depths of their child’s mental health struggles. She successfully was able to advocate for services, change of school or classroom placement, and assist families over her years as a teacher.

After leaving the classroom in 2018 and in the midst of fostering children, Hughes still found herself advocating on a daily basis. Whether supporting a fellow foster or adoptive family in the trenches with their child, or fighting for her own children, Hughes has seen how much just being a voice for someone in a time of need can mean. She has been a part of a child’s healing from the immense trauma that can sometimes take place in a child’s life–through play therapy, psychiatric services, and community help.

Hughes joined Center for Child Counseling’s Board of Directors in 2020 to help move forward the agency’s mission of promoting positive mental health for children and families and preventing and healing the effects of adverse childhood experiences and trauma. She continues to be an integral member of the board today, often sharing her family’s personal story, including the positive, life-changing, and healing effects the Center had on her children.

In addition to witnessing the deep trauma that children within Palm Beach County face on a daily basis, Hughes also experienced the gap in resources for foster and kinship families. For instance, Hughes knows story after story of infants and children being dropped off at foster families’ doors with nothing but a soiled diaper or dirty clothes–no formula, car seat, crib, shoes…no essentials. These repeated circumstances led Hughes and her sister, Makayla Doolin, to co-found The Hands and Feet in 2021–a nonprofit organization that provides essential items to children and families so that they can know the support of a caring, loving community. The impactful agency brings a sense of comfort to a terrifying situation.

“We strive to be the hands and feet that deliver resources to the most vulnerable children and families in our community because every person should know they are loved and supported despite their circumstances. Consider us doordash for foster care–we deliver nearly everything a child entering, or at risk of entering, foster care needs to cover the gap,” stated Hughes.

The Hands and Feet started out serving Palm Beach County. Today, it also serves the Treasure Coast and Broward County–delivering items such as: clothes, shoes, socks, undergarments, school uniforms and supplies, hygiene items, formula, diapers, wipes, car seats, baby items and gear, cribs and toddler beds, beddings, comfort items, and toys. In less than three years, The Hands and Feet has served more than 5,500 children across six counties in Florida. 

“We are proud tonight to share the goodness of Floridians,” said First Lady DeSantis. “We were glad to highlight the inspiring stories of first responders, community leaders, foster parents, veterans, doctors, and others.”

Hughes, along with the 74 other Florida Heroes, had her change-making story shared during a recognition ceremony and displayed throughout the Governor’s Residence. 

“It was a wild night to be invited to the Governor’s mansion. What an honor!” exclaimed Hughes.

About The Hands and Feet
The Hands and Feet was established in 2021 to deliver help and hope to children and families with an open child welfare case. They deliver nearly everything a child entering, or at risk of entering, foster care needs to cover the gap–from tangible goods, like clothes, shoes, and car seats, to the kind of emotional support only people who have experienced the process can offer. The Hands and Feet acts as an immediate resource for foster families, biological parents, relative caregivers, and aged-out foster youth. For more information, visit: thehandsandfeet.org. 

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

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GL Homes Helps Center for Child Counseling Honor Donors and Community Partners at Palm Beach Yacht Club

April 30, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

GL Homes Helps Center for Child Counseling Honor Donors and Community Partners at Palm Beach Yacht Club

GL Homes, a community partner of Center for Child Counseling, hosted an evening celebrating the generosity of other community partners and supporters of the Palm Beach Gardens-based nonprofit on Friday, April 12, 2024, at the Palm Beach Yacht Club. 

Since 1999, Center for Child Counseling has been providing care for children in Palm Beach County. Chief Executive Officer Renée Layman celebrated this milestone 25th anniversary year with friends, partners, and strong advocates for children and families in the county.

“The Center for Child Counseling provides an invaluable mental health service, one that isn’t duplicated. Through play therapy, the caring team of therapists allow children to feel safe, loved, and protected. GL Homes applauds the care and compassion our most vulnerable youth receive from these dedicated professionals,” stated GL Homes Vice President of Community Relations Sarah Alsofrom.

50 guests enjoyed cocktails and food and were the first to hear about the Center’s impact on children and families in 2023 with the reveal of the agency’s annual community impact report. 

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

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Pediatric Society Reconvenes for the First Time Since COVID to Discuss How to Integrate Mental Health into Primary Care

April 25, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

Pediatric Society Reconvenes for the First Time Since COVID to Discuss How to Integrate Mental Health into Primary Care

Palm Beach Pediatric Society joins Center for Child Counseling in leading the fight in children’s mental health. 

In partnership with the Palm Beach Pediatric Society, the Center for Child Counseling continued its Lead the Fight series to move forward its efforts addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and childhood trauma with the healthcare providers who are on the frontlines of seeing children and families. Part one of a three-part series, The Trauma-Informed Pediatric Practice: We Are the Boots on the Ground, took place April 17, 2024, at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach. 

Led by Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, president of the Palm Beach Pediatric Society and medical director of Center for Child Counseling, this initial part of the series focused on how pediatric medical professionals can provide pediatric mental health integration by being trauma-informed in their primary care and subspecialty offices.

“When we look at our systems–whether it’s our schools, our legal systems, our department of juvenile justice, our medical system with our pediatricians–you are often the most trusted person in a child’s life, in a family’s life,” stated Renée Layman, president and CEO of Center for Child Counseling, in her opening address to the more than 80 pediatric healthcare providers and community partners in attendance. 

Fox-Levine emphasized that as often the person a parent or family turns to when in crisis, the primary care and subspecialty pediatric providers should be armed with the tools to identify mental health risks. Since physical health and mental health cannot be separated, pediatric medical professionals are at the forefront of the youth mental health crisis. She discussed the impact of childhood trauma into adulthood: from depression, higher risk of suicide, incarceration to the risks of cancer, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases.

“We protect kids, that’s our mission, preventative care to keep them healthy, to keep them from getting those illnesses, like polio. So, we really need to think of that as we leave here tonight…setting that mission for all of us is to think of it more of those effects of trauma on children, what that looks like for that adult. And what the impact of finding those kids now through our recommended screening processes will do for those same adults in the future,” said Fox-Levine.

The presentation provided the practical strategies and toolkit of resources necessary for the healthcare providers to address children’s mental health needs–screening early and connecting children and families to the appropriate care and support offered in Palm Beach County. 

Center for Child Counseling team members–Mackenzie Halley, director of the pediatric integration program, and Jibby Ciric, senior director of strategic impact–provided an overview of adverse childhood experiences and adverse community experiences and how to create a trauma-informed community to support a child’s development and to recognize and stop childhood trauma. 

This event marked the first time in more than four years that the Palm Beach Pediatric society convened. The primary pediatric providers had the opportunity to talk to each other about the mental health crisis that all pediatricians are seeing and offer each other peer support. 

In 2015, Center for Child Counseling launched Fighting ACEs to build awareness and action to mitigate the impact of ACEs and build well-being through Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs). In conjunction with Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2017, the Center developed ‘Lead the Fight’ in 2016 to bring awareness to system leaders around fighting childhood adversity with advocacy and action. Since that time, the agency has educated tens of thousands of parents, professionals, and systems leaders. 

Partnership sponsors who are leading the fight in making these important conversations and educational series possible include: BeWellPBC, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County; Florida Association for Infant Mental Health; Hanley Foundation, Palm Beach Pediatrics, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Palm Beach County, Mead Johnson/Enfamil, and Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley

CFCC’s Fighting ACEs initiative to build trauma-informed communities is made possible with the generous support of Quantum Foundation, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, and private donors.

CFCC’s pediatric integration program is made possible thanks to the support of Quantum Foundation, The Frederick DeLuca Foundation, and Palm Beach County Community Services Department

Part 2 of the Lead the Fight 2024 series, The Superheroes Have Arrived, will take place on August 28. The event focus will be on how Palm Beach County Schools are helping students in mental health crisis with the CAPE Team and other mental health services.

Part 3, Positivity Will Give HOPE for Our Future, is scheduled for December 4, and will feature understanding the effect of Positive Childhood Experiences on countering the long-term possible effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

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

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Talking with Children About Sexual Abuse

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

By Cherie Benjoseph, LCSW and Renée Layman, LMHC

Sexual abuse can be a sensitive and difficult topic for us as caregivers to talk with our children about. For adults it can bring up our greatest fears, and in many cases trigger our own memories. But we do not have to feel powerless, we can take many steps that will help strengthen us as adults, not just our children, to lessen the risk of our children being victimized by Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Starting these steps early (although it is never too late to start!) and using developmentally appropriate language and strategies can empower and protect families.

In this blog, we'll provide some starting points on your journey to making your family KidSafe smart. We will explore appropriate ways for speaking to children about sexual abuse, focusing on key principles and strategies supported by experts in child psychology and sexual abuse prevention.

  1. Trusted Adults Need to Get Educated First: What is it exactly that I am trying to prevent? What are the chances this could happen to my child? I am a survivor, is this impacting how I parent?
  2. Start Early and Keep it Age Appropriate: Research shows that initiating discussions about personal safety from an early age can help children develop a positive understanding of body safety and boundaries. The words we choose are important. When we are speaking to children we do not use the words child sexual abuse at all. In fact, we teach all of body autonomy, consent and personal safety from a place of fun, not fear. It's essential to tailor conversations to the child's age and cognitive abilities, using language and concepts they can comprehend. For younger children, discussions may focus on basic body safety rules, while older children can engage in more detailed conversations about consent and healthy relationships.
  3. Personal safety is Part of Everyday Parenting: Just like you teach car safety, kitchen safety, pool safety, personal safety comes up in our natural parenting. Regularly reinforce important messages about body safety, boundaries, and the importance of speaking up if something feels wrong. Much of the learning opportunities occur between siblings and other family members. This is an excellent opportunity for children to practice using their voice to say “no”, or “I want to stop”, to a touch (tickling, a hug, roughhousing). Children who learn to speak up, and have the support of their grown-ups when they do, feel valued. This is how we build skills of resilience.
  4. Promote Healthy Sexuality: In addition to discussing boundaries and safety, it's important to promote healthy attitudes towards sexuality. Teach children to respect their bodies and the bodies of others, emphasizing the value of consent, empathy, and communication in relationships. By fostering a positive and open attitude towards sexuality, children are better equipped to recognize and reject harmful behavior. Many adults were raised to feel shame about our bodies, how it functions and that it is not okay to ask questions. We need to change this attitude as we raise children today. No shame.
  5. Teach Correct Names for Body Parts: This is a simple yet very powerful step to take to strengthen the safety of your child. Using anatomically correct names for body parts helps reduce confusion and empowers children to communicate clearly about their bodies. Predators are looking for kids who do not have an open and trusting relationship with their caregivers. Children who are comfortable with using the proper names for their body parts, and can comfortably go to their parent and say, I have a rash on my vulva, in the same tone as they would say I have a rash on my arm, are empowered. They are being raised with respect for their bodies, which leads to a strong sense of body autonomy. This knowledge also reinforces that certain body parts are private and should not be touched by others. If a child says, “Don’t touch my chest.” (or any other private part), it puts the offender on alert that this is an educated child and is not going to be an easy target.
  6. Establish Touching Boundaries and Privacy Rules: Help children understand that they have the right to set boundaries around physical touch and personal space. Encourage them to assertively say "no" to unwanted touch and respect others' boundaries as well. Establish clear privacy rules in the home and reinforce the importance of respecting privacy both at home and in public settings. Have fun practicing these skills in your home. Each families rules and understanding of when to establish privacy for children will be different. Listen to your children, they will often indicate when they are ready for more privacy. Respecting their boundaries is key.
  7. Address Perpetrator Tactics: Educate children about common tactics used by perpetrators to keep them silent, such as secrets, tricks, and threats. Encourage children to trust their instincts and speak up if someone makes them feel uncomfortable, especially if they've been told to keep it a secret.
  8. Educate Beyond "Stranger Danger": Teaching a child stranger danger does not teach them any safety skills. The reality is they need to learn about people’s behavior. Sometimes we refer to these people as tricky people. These are difficult concepts for children to understand. The bottom line is that we must create an environment that your children can talk to you about anything that makes them confused, worried, or afraid. And we need to be ready to listen and take appropriate steps. Research shows that approximately 90% of sexual abuse cases involve perpetrators known to the child, such as family members, friends, or caregivers. Emphasize the importance of speaking up to a trusted adult about anything that is bothering them, no matter who it is that is making them uncomfortable.
  9. Address Vulnerable Situations: Discuss potential vulnerable situations with children, including online interactions, social media, and peer pressure scenarios. Teach children how to recognize and respond to unsafe situations both online and offline, emphasizing the importance of seeking help from a trusted adult if they feel at risk. Play the What if? Game. (Does your school have the Stay KidSafe program?).
  10. Give Permission to Tell: Above all, empower children to speak up and seek help if they experience or witness someone hurting someone or inappropriate behavior. Let them know that they will not get in trouble for disclosing information and that they have the right to protect their bodies and seek support from trusted adults.

Having open and honest conversations about sexual abuse is essential for empowering children to recognize and respond to unsafe situations. By starting early, using developmentally appropriate language, and reinforcing key messages, parents and caregivers can help children develop the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe and advocate for themselves.

It's crucial to create a supportive environment where children feel comfortable asking questions, expressing concerns, and seeking help when needed. With education, communication, and support, we can work towards preventing sexual abuse and promoting the well-being of all children.

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Strengthen Families and Prevent Child Abuse

April 1, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Strengthen Families and Prevent Child Abuse

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This initiative is rooted in communities working  together to serve children and their families in meaningful, impactful ways that provide families with the support they need, especially during challenging times. 

According to the latest national data, an estimated 1,990 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in 2022. Approximately 3.1 million children across the country received  either an investigation or an alternative response by child protective services, and 558,899 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment. 

Local nonprofit Center for Child Counseling supports thousands of children each year in preventing and healing the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma. In 2023, 80% of the Center’s clients reported having at least one ACE and 34% of clients had four or more ACEs. Adults with four or more ACEs: have a 1200% increased risk of suicide; are two times more likely to smoke, develop heart disease, or cancer; are seven times more likely to abuse alcohol. Early intervention is imperative because childhood trauma is not something a child simply outgrows; it must be addressed with positive factors such as buffering relationships, resiliency building experiences, and positive community environments.

This month and throughout the year, Center for Child Counseling encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Palm Beach County a better place for children and families. Positive childhood experiences (PCEs) can significantly mitigate the impact of ACEs and childhood trauma. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote the social and emotional well-being of children and youth and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.  

Last year, 92% of the Center’s clients reported cultivating eight or more protective factors. Protective factors are the strengths and resources families draw on during difficult times to shield them from life’s stresses. Research shows that when parents possess protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted. Major protective factors include knowledge of parenting, knowledge of child  development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete supports.  

“Preventing child abuse necessitates reframing childhood adversity as a public issue, a preventable issue, and a solvable issue. It beckons us to recognize that we all have a stake in the well-being of our children–that their future is our collective responsibility. To make it a public issue is to underscore that child abuse knows no boundaries, affecting families from all walks of life. It demands that we advocate for policies that foster family well-being–policies that ensure access to good jobs, safe neighborhoods, consistent healthcare, and quality education for every family,” stated Renée Layman, CEO of Center for Child Counseling.

The Center provides a safe space for children and families to receive counseling and support for mental health concerns. The organization also has six clinical programs, developed to fill critical gaps in Palm Beach County’s system of care, and is recognized as South Florida’s premier organization tackling the impact of ACEs and childhood trauma. Using a public health framework, the Center mitigates mental health concerns through prevention and early intervention–including providing education around the state, nation, and world about ACEs.

For more information about child abuse prevention programs and resources, visit centerforchildcounseling.org.

Interview availability:
Renée Layman, LMHC, Chief Executive Officer of Center for Child Counseling

Resources:

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

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Mix & Mingle Drives Change for Kids

March 26, 2024
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

Mix & Mingle Drives Change for Kids
Community members gather to learn how Center for Child Counseling is using data to drive action for kids’ mental health and safety.

Founding members of Center for Child Counseling (CFCC)’s Circle of Giving, Jeff and Jodie Petrone, hosted a mix and mingle event at their Jupiter home on Thursday, March 14, 2024. 

Around 40 attendees, community members and founding members of the Circle of Giving, gathered to hear about the innovative ways CFCC is meeting the needs of children’s mental health and safety in Palm Beach County.

Mr. Petrone, treasurer and secretary of the board of directors and a founding member of the Circle, and Renée Layman, president and CEO of CFCC, spoke about the public health approach that the Palm Beach Gardens-nonprofit is taking to fighting adverse childhood experiences and explained the agency’s vision for the near future of how to better serve children.

Attendees heard about the change-making data dashboard that CFCC has recently built. Populated with data from the 7,000 children served every year by the agency, the system shows exactly where children are located within the county with the various issues they are facing. This geo mapping is driving their vision to: create a mobile unit–built with an education center and therapy center–to take directly to the areas in the community where children are most affected by trauma and need services; and develop an emergency fund to ensure all children receive the help they need.

“If we can save people when they’re young, we can build resilience in their brains…It’s amazing to see how brains look who have been subjected to trauma versus those who have had resilience and positive influences in their life, and it literally changes the chemistry inside the brain. It’s phenomenal and that’s how we heal,” stated Petrone.

Layman explained that CFCC’s public health approach is a framework of prevention, early intervention, and treatment. Typically the mental health model is one of treatment which includes an assessment, diagnosis, and then treatment plan.

“But we know that you don’t have to diagnose a child with a mental health disorder before you do something,” Layman passionately stated. 

Thanks to the support of the founding members of the Circle of Giving, CFCC took their vision of the data dashboard to encompass their public health approach and tackle the issue. Through data mapping, they can now look at what the presenting issues are, look at where the need is, and can design services to target the need. 

“Being able to design services based on the need rather than guessing what the need may be is so powerful,” added Layman.

Prior to implementing this public health approach with the data dashboard, Center for Child Counseling had 865 kids on the waitlist. Within two weeks, the waitlist dropped dramatically to 350 kids. 

Using this data-to-action framework, they are looking at data in real time and immediately triaging kids to care based on what each child needs. Layman gave the example of being able to reach out to parents via email or text and say, “we see your six year old along with 35 other six year olds in your zip code are presenting this issue. We’ve designed this service for you. Are you interested in engaging in it?”

To ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive, she also shared her vision for an emergency fund: “No funder will ever tell us ‘no’ and that because of these guidelines you can not treat a child. We want an emergency fund so that we are never told no.”

And with respect to the mobile unit, Layman added, “We want to be integrated in the communities we serve. When parents can’t come to us, we want to be able to go to them. We want to build communities’ capacity.” 

Jodie Petrone finished the presentation by sharing their personal story as adoptive and foster parents and how Center for Child Counseling and its services has carried their family through the challenges. She called on attendees to join her and her husband in making an impact in the lives of children by joining the Circle of Giving. 

CFCC launched its Circle of Giving, chaired by Melissa Haley, in November 2023 to drive action and change. The goal is to make lasting change in the lives of children, families, and communities impacted by adverse childhood experiences and trauma.  It aims to take action and drive advocacy toward a brighter future by forming a circle of love, protection, and healing around our community’s children. 

The founding members of the Circle of Giving include: The Abby and Matt Baker Family, Laura Bessinger-Morse, Nancy Feiwel, Melissa Haley, Bailey Hughes, Sharika Kellogg, Lisa LaFrance, Sam and Karry Meshberg, Ann Polya, Jeff and Jodie Petrone, Vicki Price, Lisa Russo, Jacquie Stephens, Karen Young.

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

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