Posted on: 11.4.2018 at 11:00 a.m.
By Diana Matthews
Boys and Girls Homes can now offer trauma-focused counseling free of charge to Columbus County children adversely affected by crime and to their families, thanks to a federal grant.
The counseling program, called CREATE Hope, takes its first name from the initials of the words “collaboration, resiliency, education, advocacy, therapy and empowerment,” said program director Chanté Clark.
“There is not another program like it” locally, said Donna Yalch, BGH director of community-based services.
The tax-funded grant provides age-appropriate psychological support in underserved rural areas, Yalch said. “We’re excited that we’re going to be able to provide this care.”
Effects of trauma
Children do not need to be residents of BGH to take part in CREATE Hope. They may come from intact families, broken families or foster families in the community, Yalch said.
Children who have themselves been victims of crime or who have witnessed violence in the home or community are at increased risk of many painful long-term consequences, ranging from academic struggles to chronic illnesses and even self-destructive behavior, researchers say.
Clark hopes to reduce those long-term effects by using evidence-based treatment methods especially designed for children affected by trauma.
“I’ve always loved working with children and their families,” said Clark, who has a master’s degree in social work. She worked for Columbus County’s Department of Social Services and provided school-based mental health services in Bladen County before joining the BGH staff.
Yalch applied for the grant through the Governor’s Crime Commission in February and received word Oct. 15 that BGH was among the successful applicants.
“The grant covers two years,” Yalch said. After that time, BGH can apply to receive continued support.
With the grant money, the community based services department will be able to dedicate additional staff to work in Columbus, Bladen and Pender counties. Advocate-counselor Katie Alford previously worked in the BGH therapeutic foster care program. Alford said that her advocacy for families in CREATE Hope would include attending school-related meetings and court proceedings.
Physical or sexual abuse, drug abuse, homicide, assault, domestic violence and bullying affect the community as a whole and leave children with unresolved traumatic grief, Clark and Alford said.
It takes special training to deal with the often subtle signs of that grief and support each family according to its specific needs, the counselors said.
Medical professionals, social workers, teachers and law enforcement personnel can refer children ages 5 to 18 for CREATE Hope beginning immediately. Parents or caregivers may also refer children directly.
Individuals of all income levels are eligible for the free help. The main requirement is that the child’s non-offending caregivers must take part in the program. “We want to treat the whole family,” Yalch said.
Yalch predicts that the program will be underway by Nov. 15. The BGH phone number is 646-3083, ext. 212.