Gratitude Gathering Honors Individuals Profoundly Impacting Children in Palm Beach County

December 6, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

Gratitude Gathering Honors Individuals Profoundly Impacting Children in Palm Beach County
Center for Child Counseling celebrates local individuals mitigating ACEs and trauma.

Center for Child Counseling hosted its Gratitude Gathering 2023 on Thursday, November 30 at the Mollie Wilmot Center in West Palm Beach. The event was an opportunity to honor distinguished individuals who are making a profound impact on the lives of children through their passion and tireless dedication to advancing understanding and action to mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma.

At this year’s Gratitude Gathering, the Center celebrated with the community its shared commitment of fostering resilience in children. Three local Palm Beach County individuals were recognized: Kathy Leone with the Jane Robinson Child Advocacy Award, Murray Levin with the Child Protector Award, and Judge Kathleen Kroll with The Judge Ron Alvarez Resiliency Award.

The Jane Robinson Child Advocacy award is named after the founder of Center for Child Counseling who passionately dedicated her professional career to promoting infant and early childhood mental health. The award recognizes a passionate advocate who works to promote child resilience, safety, and mental health. Leone was honored for her significant contribution to fighting ACEs in Palm Beach County. She has been a passionate advocate for children in the foster system for many years. 

“Through her work with the Center, other nonprofits, and business leaders in Palm Beach County, Kathy is making a meaningful difference for the most vulnerable children in our community,” said Renée Layman, CEO of Center for Child Counseling.

The Child Protector Award recognizes an individual or business that has been a significant champion for children’s safety and mental health. Since 2008, the Saul and Theresa Esman Foundation has been supporting the community of South Florida. Levin, president and chair of the foundation, received the award for his visionary support of keeping kids safe, including providing support to launch KidSafe Español.

Levin shared why he is driven to help children: “They deserve care, they deserve love, and they should get all they need as our most important human beings.”

The Judge Ron Alvarez Resiliency Award is named in honor of the pioneering legal mind who worked for children’s rights long before the impact of ACEs on society was fully understood. The award recognizes a trailblazing person in the legal profession who advocates for a fuller understanding of the science of adversity in the context of the law. The recipient works tirelessly to promote a trauma-informed approach to legal practice–making our legal system more compassionate and equitable for vulnerable children and families. In 2019, the award was given to Judge Alvarez to honor his trauma-informed and compassionate approach within the juvenile court system. Judge Alvarez, a beloved member of the Palm Beach County community, died earlier this year. With his wife Elaine’s permission, this award will continue his legacy. At the gathering, Elaine reflected on their fifty-four years of marriage, sharing personal stories of their time together.

Eddie Stephens, the Center’s board vice chair and partner at Stephens & Stevens, presented the Judge Ron Alvarez Resiliency Award to Judge Kathleen Kroll for her work from the bench to create a trauma-informed child welfare system in Palm Beach County. Judge Kroll has served as a Judge in Palm Beach County for more than 30 years and sits on the board of the Children’s Services Council, chairs the delinquency re-entry subcommittee of the Criminal Justice Commission, and leads the dually involved youth work group of the Supreme Court Committee on Families and Children. 

Kelsee, a former drug court participant who struggled with addiction for ten years starting at age 13, shared her sentiments of the impact Judge Kroll has had on her life: “Without her, I wouldn’t be an active role model and parent in my children’s lives today. I wouldn’t be sober experiencing how beautiful life truly is…[Judge Kroll] wrapped her hands around me and pushed me. She always let me know that I wasn’t alone–that she had faith in me. She never gave up on me although many times I have disappointed her. She fought for me when I couldn’t even fight for myself–she made me want to be better.” 

Layman also spoke of Judge Kroll’s compassion, dedication, and profound impact on the children in Palm Beach County: “We are deeply grateful to have Judge Kroll in our community. Her positive influence fosters a sense of trust in the legal system and promotes a belief that the Court can be a  system that improves the lives of the families that come before it. Like Judge Alvarez, her impact will truly be felt for generations to come.”

The inspiring evening of recognizing individuals making a lasting impact on children and families was made possible thanks to the support of Stephens & Stevens.

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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Circle of Giving Forms Love, Protection, Healing for Children

December 14, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

Circle of Giving Forms Love, Protection, Healing for Children
Center for Child Counseling celebrates local individuals mitigating ACEs and trauma.

Child advocate Melissa Haley recently hosted a gathering on November 16, 2023, in Boynton Beach to kickoff the Center for Child Counseling’s Circle of Giving

Haley’s vision, aligned with the Center’s work, is to make lasting change in the lives of children, families, and communities impacted by adverse childhood experiences and trauma. Her aim is simple–to take action and drive advocacy toward a brighter future. As Board Director and Chair of the Circle of Giving, Haley is helping the nonprofit form a circle of love, protection, and healing around our community’s children. 

40 community members, including 15 new members of the Circle of Giving, attended the gathering to learn more about how to lead community engagement to advance children’s mental health and safety in the following critical categories: training to create ACEs-aware and trauma-informed communities; investing in early childhood development from a public health approach; engaging philanthropy to increase mission impact; and empowering awareness into action with policy. 

The founding members of the Circle of Giving include: The Abby and Matt Baker Family, Melissa Haley, Karry and Sam Meshberg, Jodie and Jeff Petrone, Lisa Russo, Karen Young. Additional members who joined at the kickoff gathering include: Nancy Feiwel, Bailey Hughes, Sharika Kellogg, Laura Morse, Lisa LaFrance, Ann Polya, and Jacqueline Stephens. 

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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Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine Appointed as Medical Director

November 6, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine Appointed as Medical Director of Center for Child Counseling

 

Center for Child Counseling announces the appointment of  Shannon Fox-Levine, M.D., as Medical Director. Dr. Fox-Levine joins the Palm Beach County-based nonprofit at a critical time as our nation’s youth face a mental health crisis and there is a shortage of professionals who can support their overall well-being. 

The current snapshot of Palm Beach County’s youth mental health is alarming. In 2021, 41.5% of Palm Beach County high school students reported that they felt hopeless, and 20.7% of total high school students seriously contemplated suicide (PBC Youth Behavioral Health Survey). Today, one in four children suffer a mental health or behavioral concern. 

In 2022, the entire state of Florida had a total of 493 children and adolescent psychiatrists with 43 practicing in Palm Beach County–one psychiatrist per 6,553 children under the age of 18 in the county (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry). 

According to Renée Layman, CEO of the Center, “We are thrilled to enhance our collaboration with Dr. Fox-Levine and further tackle system issues, advocate for children, and create action to improve the mental health and access to quality care for the children in our community.” 

The creation of the Medical Director position is a continuation of the partnership the Center has been building with Dr. Fox-Levine and her pediatric office, Palm Beach Pediatrics, for more than a decade. In addition to Center for Child Counseling integrating its services within Palm Beach Pediatrics to deliver an array of prevention, early intervention, and mental health services within the primary care setting, Dr. Fox-Levine will now expand early intervention and prevention methods within the community and advocate for change within the systems.

“One of my long-term goals has been to bridge the gap in the continuity of care of children with mental health issues between therapists and the county’s pediatricians. With this new role, I am excited to turn this dream into a reality and improve the mental health care for all children in Palm Beach County,” stated Dr. Fox-Levine.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Pediatric clinicians are on the front lines of caring for children and adolescents and, thus, have the greatest potential for early identification of and response to childhood trauma. Data indicate that, although pediatric providers intuitively understand the negative effects of trauma, they report a lack of knowledge, time, and resources as major barriers to providing trauma-informed care. Yet, experts believe that the complete assessment of child and adolescent behavioral, developmental, emotional, and physical health requires consideration of trauma as part of the differential diagnosis to improve diagnostic accuracy and appropriateness of care.

As Medical Director, Dr. Fox-Levine’s scope of services will include: developing a collaborative model of care between primary pediatrics and mental health in the community; developing and presenting trainings and workshops on psychopharmacology, pediatric medical conditions, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma, and other topics to enhance professional knowledge; mental health diagnoses consultation and follow-up care coordination; and providing oversight of medical students to develop a formal internship experience within the Center. 

Layman and Dr. Fox-Levine agree there is no lack of resources available to children and families in Palm Beach County; the lack of communication about the resources is where the barrier exists.

“When conversations happen in the community, pediatricians are often overlooked when they are the ones who have been seeing kids and their families since the day they were born. There’s a gap between what pediatricians do and what community organizations and schools do. So, we are thrilled to have Dr. Fox-Levine to help further our work within our community by advocating for the continuity of care. She will be the voice on behalf of pediatricians and connect pediatric offices to the community resources available to their patients and families,” said Layman.

About Shannon Fox-Levine, M.D.: Dr. Fox-Levine is a pediatrician and the sole owner of Palm Beach Pediatrics, where she has worked for 20 years. She completed medical school at University of Maryland at Baltimore and trained in pediatrics at Bellevue/NYU Hospital. Her goal as a pediatrician is to give the best comprehensive medical care to children while also being an advocate for them in the community. Integrating mental health care for children into primary care is her special interest. She has worked with Center for Child Counseling for ten years promoting trauma-informed care and developed educational tools for other primary care doctors to evaluate, manage, and treat common mental health disorders in children and adolescents. She is on a school-based committee to address the increase in Baker Acts during the pandemic. She also has an interest in the business of medicine and enjoys managing the practice. She has been an advocate for pediatricians to improve payment for services in Florida as the past chair of the Florida Pediatric council, most notably negotiating a grant from a major health plan to subsidize consultation hours for Patient Centered Medical Home recognition for independently owned pediatric practices.  She currently serves on the AAP Payer Advocacy and Advisory Committee to improve payment to pediatricians to decrease the financial barrier to access to high quality care for all children. She was the President of the Palm Beach Pediatric Society for ten years, organizing CME for peers in the community. One of her most proud achievements is advocating for child safety by being one of six named pediatricians in the “Docs vs. Glocks” lawsuit against the State of Florida which found in the doctors’ favor in Federal Appellate Court.  With COVID-19, she was an active participant in the state chapter and local school board discussions about returning children to school safely.  She has been married for 22 years with two sons, 21 and 18.  In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and exercising. 

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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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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Texas Approves Training to Protect Campers and Staff from Child Sexual Abuse

NEWS RELEASE

October 17, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

Texas Approves Training to Protect Campers and Staff from Child Sexual Abuse
Center for Child Counseling’s CampSafe® training approved by Texas Department of State Health Services

Every year, about 26 million children attend roughly 15,000 day and overnight summer camps across the United States. In the past 25 years, more than 575 cases of child sexual abuse have been reported at camps in North America. Unfortunately, given 86% of abused victims never disclose sexual assault at all, that number is likely much higher. Earlier this month, the Texas Department of State Health Services approved Center for Child Counseling’s CampSafe® training which is designed to provide camp leadership and staff with the awareness and knowledge needed to prevent child sexual abuse. 

Every nine minutes, a child is a victim of sexual abuse and assault (rainn.org). Of those children who are sexually abused, 90% are abused by someone they know and trust. Center for Child Counseling (CFCC), a Florida-based nonprofit, wants to ensure every child, including all who attend day and overnight camps, is protected and safe from abuse. 

“We applaud the State of Texas for mandating instruction within schools and camps on child sexual abuse awareness and prevention and now for putting its stamp of approval on our CampSafe® training in order to provide more options of protection for children with increased prevention and awareness in the summer months,” said CEO of CFCC Renée Layman.

For summer 2023, more than 7,000 camp staff–across 75 camps in 27 states and Canada– participated in the CampSafe® training program, protecting more than 37,000 campers from child sexual abuse. The goal is for all staff–including counselors, administrators, supervisors, dining and health personnel– volunteers, and board members to arrive at camp with the same strong foundational knowledge of child sexual abuse prevention and awarenss. 

“Our philosophy is to empower caregivers in all settings with a level of confidence around this topic, therefore better protecting all staff and campers. Training staff and volunteers helps break the cycle of child sexual abuse and shines an important light on this often-taboo topic,” said Cherie Benjoseph, LCSW, director of national outreach and education for CFCC and creator of the CampSafe® training.

The program was created with both young adults, ages 18-26, and more seasoned staff in mind to take the topic seriously but not instill fear and reinforce the message of how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The training promotes compassion toward campers as staff become fluent in the language of safety while providing comfort, aide, and access to supervisory staff for guidance.

According to Nathaniel Miller, a director with New Life Camp, North Carolina, “CampSafe provided an easy yet effective resource to train our summer and seasonal staff in the important understanding of protecting children placed in our care. It handles the serious matter of child abuse in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat the problem but also makes it digestible for high school and college-aged staff. The online course also provided great discussion points when we did our in-person training.” 

From setting healthy boundaries to ensuring the entire camp team has a consistent safety protocol, CampSafe® training provides scenarios, interactive learning, and clear safety language for staff. Director training modules include: interviewing and background check protocol; child protection policy and procedures; supervising around the issues of child sexual abuse prevention; in-person followup training to provide during pre-camp week; links to state resources; establishing healthy boundaries ice breakers for counselors and campers; sexual harassment; letters to parents and staff; and post-testing for certification. 

“Training before staff arrive at camp, focused squarely on sexual abuse prevention, sends a message that your camp has ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual abuse. This helps weed out potential staff who may have other motives,” added Benjoseph. 

The CampSafe® program was developed by professionals with expertise in sexual abuse prevention and training. The Center for Child Counseling team partnered with experts in learning and development, using the most up-to-date elearn method. The training is designed to empower all camp personnel, gently but thoroughly, before camp begins.

In addition to the State of Texas approving CampSafe® for both Youth Camp and Campus Programs for Minors, the American Camp Association also endorses the program. CampSafe® can be provided to all camp staff for a nominal fee, ranging from $250-$650 depending on the number of staff members being trained. 

For camp associations, camp directors, parks and recreation departments, and school districts interested in learning more about how to be proactive in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse at your day or overnight camp, visit centerforchildcounseling.org/campsafe or email bekidsafe@centerforchildcounseling.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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Center for Child Counseling Receives ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award

October 2, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

Center for Child Counseling Receives ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award

Center for Child Counseling is honored to announce its prestigious selection as the ATHENA Organization Leadership Award recipient for 2023. The Center received this recognition at the 32nd Annual ATHENA Awards Luncheon, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches on September 28. 

An ATHENA Organizational Award nominee is a business or organization that creates an organizational culture that encourages women employees to achieve their full leadership potential and gives back to the larger community of women and girls by providing and/or supporting leadership development opportunities and initiatives. 

Brimming with pride and gratitude, CEO Renée Layman stated in her acceptance speech, “Thank you to the Chamber for awarding us with this prestigious honor. It’s such a privilege to be honored for something we love to do. I stand here as CEO representing a whole team of women…In 1999, Jane Robinson had this idea for supporting women and young children in Palm Beach County when nobody was doing it. And I came on in 2013 as CEO to continue her vision of supporting some of the most vulnerable children in the county. Our mission would remain but a dream without the incredible women who surround me…It has been a community effort to make a better Palm Beach County for women, children, families. We’re deeply grateful. We will take this and continue to fight for kids, continue to fight for the mental health of our children at a time when we are in crisis. Our need to act has never been greater. We will take this to spread awareness about what we need to do and we will continue to engage incredible women to support our mission.” 

Martha Mayhood Mertz founded ATHENA International in 1982 to honor women leaders and bring balance to leadership voices worldwide, a community of current and future leaders who have the power to change the world. Its vision of developing diverse, transformative leaders worldwide is rooted in celebrating the change-makers and trailblazers who open doors of leadership and opportunity and for women in communities across the globe.

Since its inception, Center for Child Counseling has been a woman-led and woman-driven organization. Since 2013, Layman has expanded the organization’s impact and sustainability, growing from four staff to 80–79 of them women–in just 10 years. From the top down, the women (and one man!) support each other: nurturing a culture that promotes learning constantly, living authentically, building relationships, and advocating fiercely for mental health and safety of girls and women. The Center embodies and embraces the very tenets that make up ATHENA International.

The Center was nominated by GL Homes Vice President of Community Relations Sarah Alsofrom for the ATHENA award and then selected as a 2023 Organizational Leadership finalist, along with Junior League of The Palm Beaches and Wellington Regional Medical Center. Other ATHENA award recipients included: Young Professional Award–Sarah Criser Elwell, CEO of the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches; Leadership Award–Dorritt MIller, Assistant County Administrator for Palm Beach County.

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

PHOTO IDs:
Center for Child Counseling staff and board members present at the 32nd Annual ATHENA Awards luncheon.

Click here to view the news release.

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Child First Staff from Center for Child Counseling and Families First Honored with Compassion Awards

October 2, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

Local Child First Members Receive National Recognition for Supporting Life-Changing Outcomes for Families
Three staff members from Center for Child Counseling and Families First of Palm Beach County honored with Compassion Awards. 

 

2023 NSO Child First Compassion Award WinnersThe National Service Office (NSO) for Child First recently announced two local therapists and one care coordinator as the recipients of the 2023 Compassion Awards. Outstanding Child First team members– Prosline Chery-Jean and Clarissa DeWitt of Center for Child Counseling and Celine Julien of Families First of Palm Beach County–were recognized on September 12 at the National Symposium, the National Service Office’s annual education summit, in Seattle, WA.

Child First is an evidence-based, intensive, early childhood model offered through the NSO that works with the most challenged young children and their families, helping them heal from the damaging effects of stress and trauma. Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County funds staff members from Center for Child Counseling and Families First of Palm Beach County to serve as local affiliate partners in delivering the Child First program–home-based interventions and supports to families with young children who have complex challenges, such as serious emotional issues, development and learning problems, and child abuse and neglect. 

This year, the NSO presented the inaugural Compassion Awards which recognize outstanding members of the Child First community in three categories: Clinician, Care Coordinator, and Clinical Supervisor. Local members were recognized as award winners for all three categories.

“As the funder of Child First in Palm Beach County, the Children’s Services Council is thrilled that all three national award recipients are from our county. We salute both Center for Child Counseling and Families First for displaying exceptional commitment and performance in delivering the Child First program and supporting life-changing outcomes for families here in Palm Beach County,” stated Dr. Lisa Williams-Taylor, CEO of the Children’s Services Council of PBC

Prosline Chery-Jean of Center for Child Counseling received the Compassion Award for Clinician which recognizes a professional in the Child First community who centers relationship-based and reflective practice within their work and has achieved outstanding performance in delivering the model. Chery-Jean is a therapist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a double master’s degree in mental health and family counseling. She is devoted to creating nurturing environments for families, breaking intergenerational trauma, and fostering a healthy society. Chery-Jean has provided Child First services for more than five years and supports the Haitian/Creole population using her native language. She brings a unique perspective and passion for supporting the Haitian community in Palm Beach County.

Celine Julien of Families First is the recipient of the Compassion Award for Care Coordinator which recognizes an outstanding professional in the Child First community who authentically partners with families and always centers on relationship-based and reflective practices. Julien has been a Care Coordinator with the Child First program for three years and provides services to families in both English and Creole.  She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree  in Elementary Education and is certified as a Behavioral Health Case Manager.  Julien most enjoys facilitating joyful, reciprocal and developmentally enriching activities through the Abecedarian approach to learning. As her team would share, Julien is a true partner to families and goes above and beyond to build relationships in her community and connect families with the resources they need. 

Clarissa DeWitt, also from Center for Child Counseling, received the Compassion Award for Clinical Supervisor which recognizes an outstanding Child First leader who goes above and beyond to support their team’s practice, wellbeing and professional development, and who engages their community to enhance Child First’s impact. DeWitt is a licensed mental health counselor who has worked at the Center for 10 years and in the community for almost 20 years, specializing in maternal and early childhood. She is a rostered provider of Child-Parent Psychotherapy along with holding a stellar reputation as an expert and leader in infant mental health. DeWitt served in the first leadership cohort under the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health that is bringing endorsement to the state. She lives out Child First’s principles every day and serves as an example to each member of her team celebrating their uniqueness, strengths, and professional growth.

Child First National Clinical Director Rebecca Parilla stated, “It was thrilling to offer the inaugural Compassion Awards at this year’s symposium. To recognize the hard work of such outstanding members of the Child First community was humbling and inspiring.”

For more information on the Child First program in Palm Beach County, visit www.centerforchildcounseling.org/child-first-program.

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

About Families First of PBC
For over three decades, Families First has been a beacon of hope for families in need. They provide a helping hand, empowering families to regain self-sufficiency and create safe, loving homes for their children. Their comprehensive services focus on family strengthening, health, behavioral health, and housing, ensuring that families receive the support they need to thrive.  Since 1990, Families First has served over 51,000 children and family members through their prevention, early intervention, and programs.www.familiesfirstpbc.org Twitter: @FamiliesFirstPB Facebook: www.facebook.com/FamiliesFirstPalmBeachCounty Instagram: familiesfirstofpbc

PHOTO ID:
2023 Compassion Award recipients (L-R): Clarissa DeWitt of Center for Child Counseling for Clinical Supervisor; Prosline Chery-Jean of Center for Child Counseling for Clinician; Celine Julien of Families First for Care Coordinator.

Click here to view the news release.

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beKidSafe.org Teaches Teachers How to Keep Kids Safe

September 28, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com 

beKidSafe.org Teaches Teachers How to Keep Kids Safe
Center for Child Counseling launches an online platform to ensure children grow up safe from abuse.

28 states, including Florida, and D.C. have passed legislation mandating instruction within schools on child sexual abuse awareness and prevention, as of January 2023. Unfortunately, 14 states have no laws in place. Center for Child Counseling (CFCC) wants to ensure every student throughout Florida, and across the United States, is protected and safe from abuse. To attain this goal, the Palm Beach Gardens-based agency recently launched beKidSafe.org–an online platform with prevention education for all adults who work with children. 

Every nine minutes, a child is a victim of sexual abuse and assault (rainn.org). Florida ranks third in the nation in calls to the National Human Trafficking hotline. It is reported far too often—teachers, coaches, pastors, priests, family members, friends, neighbors, political and business leaders charged with sexual assault. One in four girls and one in thirteen boys will report they were sexually abused by the age of 18. 70 to 90 percent of commercially exploited youth have a history of child sexual abuse. Awareness of these offenders and those victims being grotesquely violated and trafficked is not enough: the abuse needs to be stopped before it happens!

beKidSafe.org is a platform for educators, camp staff, and other child-facing professionals to easily access online training programs, like Stay KidSafe!™ and CampSafe®, and workshops to learn how to keep children safe through effective strategies that prevent abuse, build safety and communication skills, promote positive relationships and resilience, and identify risk early.

Stay KidSafe!™ is an online training designed to provide educators and students with the awareness and knowledge needed to prevent child sexual abuse. Since 2009, the Stay KidSafe!™ program has empowered more than 60,000 children with personal safety education and has taught more than 50,000 parents, guardians, teachers, and child-serving professionals how to keep kids safe. In addition to protecting children from sexual abuse, KidSafe teaches children safety tools and skills that help them make safe and smart choices in all areas as they become healthy, powerful adults.

CampSafe®  ultimately serves the same purpose as Stay KidSafe!™ but is training for camp leadership and staff. For summer 2023, more than 7,000 camp staff across 75 camps participated in the CampSafe® training program, protecting more than 37,000 campers from child sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse and human trafficking can have long-lasting physical and emotional effects, including: depression, eating disorders, self-blame, self-destructive behaviors, intergenerational cyclical abuse, learning disabilities, drug abuse. 

“As devastating as this public health crisis is, sexual abuse and these long-term effects can be prevented through education. We created beKidSafe.org to make it easy for ALL adults to become trauma-aware and recognize and stop childhood trauma and abuse in its tracks.” stated Renée Layman, CEO for Center for Child Counseling.

The training programs and workshops offered on beKidSafe.org were developed by professionals with expertise in sexual abuse prevention and training. Center for Child Counseling partnered with experts in learning and development, using the most up-to-date elearn method utilizes engaging, child-friendly content, including professionally animated videos and age-appropriate safety skills and lessons. 

Stay KidSafe!™ is available at no cost to child-serving organizations and schools in Palm Beach County, FL, and reduced cost to other schools and districts throughout the state and country thanks to financial support from partner organizations, such as: Impact the Palm Beaches, the Morgridge Family Foundation, Boca Regional Hospital, Boca West Children’s Foundation, The Batchelor Foundation, First Horizon Foundation, Florida Blue Foundation, and Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. 

For teachers, schools, districts, and parents interested in learning more about how to be proactive in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, visit bekidsafe.org or email info@centerforchildcounseling.org to learn more. 

Layman emphasized, “Education is the key to prevention–we must empower our schools, homes, and communities with the tools to teach children and adults how to keep kids safe. It’s time we move beyond awareness and take action to stop sexual abuse before it happens so kids can grow up to be healthy, powerful adults!”

Click here to view the news release.

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Senator Harrell and Rep. Roth Present $300,000 in State Funding to Center for Child Counseling

NEWS RELEASE
September 11, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

Senator Harrell and Rep. Roth Present $300,000 in State Funding to Center for Child Counseling
Meeting the mental health crisis and staffing frontline responders. 

The data is alarming: In 2021, 41.5% of Palm Beach County high school students reported that they felt hopeless, and 20.7% of total high school students seriously contemplated suicide (PBC Youth Behavioral Health Survey). Florida Senator Gayle Harrell (District 31) and Florida Representative Rick Roth (District 94) presented a check for $300,000 to the Center for Child Counseling (CFCC) on Friday, September 8, 2023, in response to the children’s mental health crisis.

In conjunction with the check presentation, there was a discussion related to how the appropriations will be used to mitigate the crisis. The Center serves around 7,000 children and families each year in Palm Beach County, and there is still a waitlist. The funding will directly address the extreme backlog of 800 children on average waiting for services from the Center. The project will build a department of frontline responders–mental health and program specialists–to immediately support children and adolescents waiting for care right now. The approach also focuses on building caregiver and community capacity to support children’s mental health. 

According to the Center’s CEO Renée Layman, “No child in crisis belongs on a waitlist when a parent or caregiver has reached out for help.

With this funding, mental health and program specialists will provide immediate triage and care for the children and families waiting for services from Center for Child Counseling. 

In Senator Harrell’s address to the more than twenty mental health specialists and staff in the room, she emphasized the work the State of Florida is doing with respect to the resources allocated to our schools but recognized that the need of addressing children’s mental health extends beyond the schools. 

“I think early intervention is absolutely the key, and the way to go…We need more mental health counselors. We need more therapists who are really frontline…We need therapists to do treatment and that is essential,” stated Senator Harrell.

One in four children in Florida is experiencing a mental health or behavioral concern: “It is crucial that we address this crisis, for the immediate and long-term well-being and resilience of Florida’s children and families,” added Layman.

The Center has transformed the approach to mental health care–using a public health framework of prevention, early intervention, and treatment to address the current crisis and build capacity for the future. It includes tiered implementation of services that prevent adverse childhood experiences, provide early intervention to mitigate mental health concerns and trauma, and support children and families in crisis. Services are provided where children, adolescents, and families need them most–in-person (office, school, home, and community based) and virtual activities, including: mental health support groups and education; 1:1 mental health consultation for parents and adult caregivers; and a campaign to educate the wider community on how to support children’s mental health and resilience. Prevention services include community and statewide education for parents and adult caregivers on specific mental health topics to build the ability of all adults to support children’s mental health and well-being. 

Layman expressed her gratitude to both Senator Harrell and Rep. Roth, “We are so proud of this and so grateful to you for making this happen. This is a big dream that you’re making a reality; so, thank you. For the kids that we’re serving, it means everything.” 

Senator Harrell is the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services, and Rep. Roth is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. 

About Center for Child Counseling
Since 1999, Center for Child Counseling has been building the foundation for playful, healthful, and hopeful living for children and families in Palm Beach County. 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. For more information visit, centerforchildcounseling.org.
Twitter: @ChildCounselPBC Facebook: @CenterforChildCounseling Instagram: @childcounselpbc

PHOTO ID:

Photo credit: Tracey Benson Photography

(L-R) Florida Representative Rick Roth, Florida Senator Gayle Harrell, CEO of Center for Child Counseling Renée Layman, and lobbyist Matt Spritz stand with $300,000 check presented to the Center to help with the children’s mental health crisis.

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Morgridge Family Safeguards Children with Support to Center for Child Counseling

NEWS RELEASE

July 3, 2023
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Center for Child Counseling Public Relations Counsel
cara@yourmissionmarketing.com

Morgridge Family Safeguards Children with Support to Center for Child Counseling $39,000 grant expands Stay KidSafe!™ program to prevent child sexual abuse.

[Palm Beach Gardens, FL]–The Center for Child Counseling has been awarded a generous grant of $39,600 from the Morgridge Family Foundation. This significant contribution will empower the Center to expand its Stay KidSafe!™ program, aimed at preventing child sexual abuse and trafficking by providing robust education and awareness.

The Center for Child Counseling specializes in offering expert care and support to children who have experienced unspeakable and heartbreaking trauma, such as sexual abuse, violence, human trafficking, and exploitation. Tragically, many of these incidents could be prevented with increased awareness and understanding of the warning signs. Stay KidSafe!™ seeks to address this critical need through online training designed to provide students and educators with the awareness and knowledge needed to prevent child sexual abuse. The curriculum, developed by a team of sexual abuse prevention experts with decades of experience, utilizes engaging, child-friendly content, including professionally animated videos and age-appropriate safety skills and lessons.

Recently, Impact the Palm Beaches awarded a grant for the Center to provide Palm Beach County schools and childcare centers with Stay KidSafe–impacting more than 7,000 children and more than 4,000 adults in the county. The Morgridge Family Foundation’s grant supports the implementation of this curriculum with toolkits for schools, caregivers, and child-serving organizations. The branded toolkits include books, posters, visual aids, and awareness materials that empower adults to become active participants in preventing and stopping sexual predators and human traffickers.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every child is safe and protected. The Center for Child Counseling’s impactful Stay KidSafe!™ program plays a critical role in safeguarding the most vulnerable children,” said Carrie Morgridge, co-founder of the Morgridge Family Foundation. “We are proud to provide additional resources to further strengthen the Center’s programs and expand its impact. Together, we will pave the way for a brighter, safer future.”

The outreach initiative and educational materials aim to create a culture of safety and awareness for families and schools, protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation. This grant support, coupled with the Center’s strong community partnerships, further amplifies the impact of the Stay KidSafe!™ program, ensuring that the education and resources are readily available to all child serving organizations and schools at no cost.

“We are immensely grateful for the Morgridge Family Foundation’s generous grant,” said Renée Layman, CEO of the Center for Child Counseling. “This funding will allow us to enhance the efficacy and reach of Stay KidSafe!™, making a significant impact in ensuring every child grows up feeling safe. Together, we are working to create a society where every child is protected from harm and can thrive.”

For more information about the Center for Child Counseling and their programs, please visit www.centerforchildcounseling.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

 

About Morgridge Family Foundation:

The Morgridge Family Foundation (MFF) invests in leaders and organizations that are reimagining solutions to some of today’s biggest challenges. The problems of the 21st century can’t be compartmentalized. Neither can MFF’s work. By bringing different sectors to the table, the foundation creates meaningful connections that foster innovation as a vehicle for systematic change. MFF offers vision, community, and resources to support a network of partners achieving their profound impact. Morgridgefamilyfoundation.org

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